I met a professional woman who coached a basketball team of 12 year old girls. That wasn’t her primary job, of course, but it was clearly a labor of love. A self-confessed jock and the first girl to infiltrate her little league syndicate as a young female who could pitch a ferocious fastball, this woman has a lot to offer the twelve year olds and their parents.
She was frustrated by her coaching experience. The young girls weren’t the problem, the parents were. Several parents e-mailed this “volunteer coach” who gave 15 hours a week to the effort, “that their kids weren’t getting enough playing time and everybody should play an equal amount of time.” And she said the tone of the e-mails was generally toxic.
Well, here’s a surprise: in life everybody is not of equal talent and the better players deserve more playing time if the team is going to win! That’s a valuable lesson about the real world, in my view. What became clear during our conversation was that parents would serve their children better by being their fans and not advocates.
My parents never advocated for me. They taught me how to stand up for what I believed in and advocate for myself. The ethic during the 1950s was self-sufficiency and independence. When I whined, as all kids do, my dad used to take his belt off, wrap it around his thick neck and say, “If you want something to cry about I’ll give you something to cry about.”
His message was clear and I internalized it as “Take responsibility for your own behavior and don’t complain. Get to work and solve the problem.”
When I didn’t make the little league “majors” at age 10, my dad said work harder, practice harder, and try again next year and I’m sure you’ll make the majors. His encouragement and confidence in me were important. The following year I did make the majors and by the time I was twelve, I was the starting pitcher on opening day for my team. At that point in time, it was the most important moment of my life and “I owned it!” I also owned my failure to stay on the mound for more than three innings, but I survived and learned from that painful experience.
In retrospect, that early message was critical to my success at bootstrapping my business over 37 years ago.
© 2014 Steven M. Stroum