In looking at the title for this post, you might be thinking, come on man, you’re a coach, let’s not get into medical stuff here. Well, you’re right, I am a coach, and I don’t profess to know the first thing about the actual physical affects of Covid-19. I can’t tell you all the psychological ones either. I can, however, give you my two cents on how I have seen Covid-19 affecting the world around me, and especially as far as kids are concerned.
As the months have worn on during this pandemic I have seen people go through a lot of phases. Depression and hopelessness has touched every one of us at some point, even if we have chosen not to admit it or have been too naive to see it. Anyone who knows me knows that I am an upbeat, positive person. My athletes for decades now can attest to the fact that I strive to find ways to help them to build a calm confidence in their game to allow them to be successful. Over the past year that has genuinely been a struggle and I am scared that the long term affects of this hopelessness that people have felt for such an extended period of time will leave a lasting imprint on children.
Let me explain. I think that all of us will agree that the easiest way to get out of a funk is to understand that tomorrow will be a better day. As adults we know that to be true because we have tested that theory over and over throughout life. Stretches of life were difficult, but we always made it through to a brighter day. As adults we also all know that feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. That feeling of, ok, so I had a lot of bad, then some good, but when is the bad coming back? We use a lot of different coping mechanisms to deal with it, but ultimately our experience has taught us that eventually we will find a way through the fog. As kids many of us were never truly confronted with a time that was so hard that it never felt like it was going to end. Our parents were able to shield us from a lot of the things we might have otherwise felt, so that we could grow up as happy children. This pandemic has changed that feeling for a generation.
Sports canceled, school canceled, school opens up only to close down again. Uncertainty of what each day holds brings hope, then no hope again.
I have seen first hand the fight and resilience in kids waining. I have seen the excuses coming, the bickering happening, and the blame game become strong. I have witnessed kids giving up on themselves and parents at wits end who have no idea how to help them. In schools across the country nearly 40% of students failed at least one class last semester. That number is staggering! As a teacher I make multiple phone calls each day trying to figure out ways to team up with parents to help their students to find the motivation to continue learning. I stand in front of my class each and every day and begin the class by telling my students, “I will not give up on you, and I won’t allow you to give up on yourself.”
Like so many of you, I have truly always just wanted what is best for kids. I have tried hard in my career to do what I though was in their best interest and to help to teach them to be strong leaders. I have tried to teach them character and resilience, and to lead them through kindness and compassion. This year I have found myself time and again finding some progress only to hear the sound of that other shoe hitting the floor. Just as I can feel some momentum being built with the kids that I work with, something comes along to stop it again. Just as I think I am gaining a little progress in helping kids to believe in themselves again and to start to refocus on chasing their dreams, the outside noise creeps in and that progress is taken.
This week, I got text messages from three different players that I used to coach that have gone off and played in college. These messages hit me at a time when I was truly pondering weather or not I was actually making a difference with kids in the middle of all of this. The screen shots are below.
The first one was totally out of the blue.
The next message also came out of the blue.
The next conversation was with a young lady who plays at one of the top schools in the country, but whose role had changed on her team this year.
The next series was with a young lady who has always been in the lineup for her school and is a senior this year.
It hit me like a ton of bricks. While i take great pride in being able to teach young people the game of beach volleyball, or helping them to find a passion for playing or for speaking a foreign language, I will never receive a better compliment as a coach and a teacher than hearing that I helped a child to find their confidence as a person.
Right now kids need us as adults. Kids need us to stop getting INVOLVED in the drama and protect them from the drama. The need the example of walking away from situations and guiding them toward new ones. Kids need us to be their shield from the hatred of the world right now. They need us to rise above all of the bickering, the petty, demeaning comments, and the blame game AND LEAD THEM. They need to see us choosing our battles. Kids need us to be the examples. They need to see guiding them toward the positive things going on in their lives rather than perpetuating the negative ones. They need to see us leading them toward that little bit of light and helping it to grow. They need to see us chasing OUR dreams so that they don’t have fear of chasing theirs. A whole generation of kids is waiting on US to show them the way. They are waiting on US to change the narrative in their lives. They are waiting on US to be the leaders that we want them to some day grow into. The constant negativity they are bombarded with on social media and in the news is more than they can handle already! They don’t need those same things creeping into the things that they love to do and the places they love to be because adults are perpetuating it. They don’t need the one thing they look forward to in their day to be tainted by the constant pursuit of adults to find the negative in things right now. They need us to help them to find their positive, their confidence and to help that confidence to grow.
If you are an adult reading this and you are being completely honest with yourself, you can picture exactly the situations I am talking about. Weather it is the fight over social media about masks, or the vaccine, or some political issue. Weather it is the complaining we do because life is hard right now, or the negative attitude we show our kids toward something they might otherwise enjoy. We have to do better.
I have spoken to so many moms and dads and grandparents this year who were in absolute tears about their children and grandchildren. The constant conversation with a child about how much that child is struggling with something is only a reminder that he or she is struggling. While yes, these issues have to be addressed so that kids know we recognize what is going on, we need to help them to find the positive things in their lives again. Help them to find the hope that things are going to get better. Help the little bit of light that is there to grow.
Right now it isn’t about their grades. It isn’t about making the team. It isn’t about the tournament wins or getting recruited. Right now it’s about being proud of them for just continuing to show up. It’s about showing them that some days showing up is truly the most difficult thing they can do and showing them we are proud of their resilience to still show up. It’s about showing them the one step at a time they need to find themselves, to grow and to become the people we know they can be. It’s about guiding them toward all of the beautiful and positive things in their lives that are out there waiting for them. The Covid Effect has been immense. The struggle through it is something that none of us were prepared for. I can promise you this though. When you leave your child with me, this is the approach I will be taking with your child. I will fight for your child and continue to do my best every day to try to help them to find that little light, that little piece of confidence and help it to grow. I may not do everything right, I may not have all the answers or be the best coach or teacher out there, but I will ALWAYS fight to lead your child toward positivity, character, and resilience and I so genuinely appreciate those of you who join me along the way. As a team, we can get through all of this and find a way to help all of these kids to become the confident young people we all know they can be.