The Erosion Of Self Accomplishment In Children

In all of my years of coaching lacrosse (9 years and counting), I have experienced milder variations of what I just experienced a couple of days ago, but never anything like this.  Profound new insights or experiences that are good or bad are what drive a blogger to write, and I knew that I was compelled to write about this incident.  It just took me a couple of days to 1.) cool down and 2.) put it in the proper perspective to create awareness about a negative that will hopefully lead to a positive impact.

The elite high school team that I head coach has two tournaments under our belt this summer season, with one more to close the season this weekend at the Florida Cup.  We had a great showing in the last tournament having gone 4-1 and making it to the semi-final round, finishing third overall.  The team is feeling great heading into our last action this season and morale is high.

After the conclusion of practice this past weekend, the parent of one of my players approached me after practice and asked me if his son would see more playing time in the upcoming tournament.  My answer was that it would depend on the circumstances of each game we were in (his son is a a nice kid, but relatively less experienced and at this time is a second string player).  Without any further discussion, the player’s father erupted into a profanity laden tirade and accused me of being a fraud and conning him out of the money he paid to register his son for the travel team; that I should be ashamed of myself for accepting registration fees when his son was not going to play (mind you, I am a volunteer coach, the club is a not for profit organization, and I cover my own travel expenses in addition to donating my time without even having a son playing on this team).

Despite this father’s inappropriate and very public tirade, I calmly pointed out that his son had in fact played at least 25% of the time even in tight games, and in games where we had comfortable leads or were out of reach for us, our second lines, his son included, got the lion’s share of the playing time to get them as much experience as possible.  He called it garbage time, told me his family was done with us, informed his son that his season was over, and bounded off the field.

Let us put aside how absolutely out of line this person was for treating a volunteer coach in that manner and look at the even great picture here.  Despite that fact that I have repeatedly reiterated to parents and players that making the roster of my elite team is a remarkable accomplishment, but their commitment, attitude, and execution on the field will determine their playing time, that there are no guarantees of playing time; this father just taught his son that because he wrote a check, that he was entitled to more playing time than he was getting.  And in light of this, rather than encourage his son to continue to improve to earn more minutes, he forced him to quit.

I want to be clear that I take issue with the father’s behavior in this matter.  At no time did I ever note any frustration or sense of entitlement from my player.  In fact, he dutifully showed up to practice every day, was very coachable, and had indeed improved a great deal this season because of his experience playing this level of ball, being taught by a coaching staff of positional specialists committed to giving each player one on one instruction to grow their game.  I felt terrible for the young man who’s father embarrassed him in front of his teammates and other parents in our lacrosse community.  I feel terrible for the fact that he had to quit because I know that had it been his choice, he would not have even considered that option.

As if the behavior of the father of this story was not bad enough, I had the pleasure of receiving a colorful e-mail from the player’s mother, thankfully not laden with profanity, but with plenty of words in all capitals and runs of punctuation.  There was also a demand for a full refund of her son’s registration fee, and a threat of sicking the family attorneys on me if I did not immediately comply (this despite her son having already played in two tournaments, was issued a uniform with shooter shirt, participated in clinics put on by professional lacrosse players at the club’s expense, and made use of club equipment for 8 weeks of a 9 week summer travel season).

The millennial generation of today possess some great qualities, compassion and the embracing of social causes, choosing purpose and fulfillment in their chosen careers over monetary reward, to name a couple.  As we are all keenly aware, however, there is a disproportionate percentage of millennials in comparison to previous generations, that live with an undeserved sense of entitlement, that live the victim mentality, that when they do not succeed, it is not due to their own failures but due to their mistreatment at the hands of others….that in short, lack accountability.

Adults can complain all we want about this segment of millennials, but we must stop blaming the kids and instead hold the parents accountable for the way many out.  When parents demand participation trophies because it hurts the feelings of their child that did not earned one through accomplishment, what does that teach their child?  What does it teach the children that are exceptional in their accomplishment but are given the same award as everyone else?  When a game is on the line on a competitive team, what message do I send the 20 other players I am responsible for if I were to not have my best personnel on the field that put us int he best position to win; because back up player’s feelings may get hurt or a parent may get upset with me?

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.