We’ve all had times in our lives when we have been very frustrated by a situation or a person. None of us are immune to frustration, but we undoubtedly respond differently to the situations that frustrate us. There is nothing wrong with being frustrated, but there can be something wrong with how you respond to your frustration. I’ve heard numerous excuses for why people respond negatively to a situation and one of the most often used excuses is, “It was the heat of the moment.” The phrase, “in the heat of the moment” typically refers to making a decision while temporarily angry and without stopping for thought. There is very rarely any good that comes out of making a decision out of anger and/or without stopping for thought.
You should never make temporary decisions out of anger than can cause permanent life altering consequences. Yes, I know it’s difficult to think about the long-term effects of your potential decisions when you’re angry; that’s all the more reason why you should not make decisions when you’re angry. Over the years I’ve learned that when emotion is high, reason is low. You cannot make a well-informed productive decision when your reason is low. It’s imperative that we teach our young athletes’ the importance of not making decisions when their emotion is high. It becomes increasingly difficult to control your response to a frustrating circumstance when you’re actively involved in a violent, high stress activity such as football.
This past weekend, Patriots All Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski got frustrated during his game against the Buffalo Bills and struck Buffalo Bills Tre’Davious White in the head after the play was over. Gronkowski was penalized, but was not ejected. White was later diagnosed with a concussion and is currently in the concussion protocol. During the postgame interview, Gronkowski apologized for his actions and stated that he acted out of “frustration” for the lack of penalties the officials were calling. White was lying defenseless on his stomach when Gronkowski intentionally ran and jumped towards the ground hitting White in the back of the head with his forearm. While White might have a concussion, he is fortunate that his neck was broken and he doesn’t have serious brain damage. Gronkowski has never been considered a “dirty” player and his teammates, coaches and competitors are a bit surprised by his behavior. He doesn’t have a history of “cheap shots” and perhaps that played a major factor in him not getting ejected from the game Sunday and some speculate he might not even get suspended from any future games.
I wonder however, does it take a history of bad behavior to set a precedent for what will not be allowed? The college targeting rule prohibits “forcible contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent . . . with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist . . .” and the player will be ejected from the game if he engages in targeting. Gronkowski, without a doubt engaged in targeting. I am not lobbying for Gronkowski to get suspended. I do however what to highlight the need to teach our young athletes’ and professional athletes’ how to respond the right way when they find themselves frustrated or highly stressed. Yes, you can apologize after the fact, but you can’t reverse whatever damage was caused.
Kids start playing sports at a young age for various reasons. Some kids start playing sports because their parents’ make them and some kids start playing because they really like the sport. Still, there are some kids that play because their friends are playing. Nevertheless, the kids that continue to play for a long period of time or typically the ones that truly love the sport they are playing. For some however, there comes a time when they realize that they’re really good at their sport and they have the potential to play in college and possibly at the professional level.
Unfortunately parents’ often lose sight of the purpose of sports when they and the community begin to realize the athlete as collegiate and possibly professional level talent. The focus changes from having fun, getting into shape and developing character to obtaining scholarships and becoming a professional athlete. I am in no way saying there’s anything wrong with wanting to obtain an athletic scholarship or wanting to play professional sports. I am however suggesting that it’s very important to maintain a healthy balance between chasing scholarships and professional contracts and playing for the love of the sport. It’s important to love what you do and it’s easier to love what you do when you believe it’s part of your purpose in life. It’s getting increasingly more difficult to find athletes’ that value their love for the game more than they value the amount of money than can receive for playing the game.
Michigan State University Forward Miles Bridges is one of the few athletes’ that values his love for the game more than he values the amount of money he can receive for playing the game. Bridges was one of the top ranked college basketball players in the nation last year and was projected to get picked high in the NBA draft, but he chose to return to MSU for his sophomore season. His decision not only shocked the nation, but was a surprise to Coach Tom Izzo and Bridges’ mother. Coach Izzo pressed Bridges for a reason why he wanted to return to Michigan State. Bridges gave many answers including wanting to win a National Championship, wanting to be a national player of the year and wanting to win a Wooden Award. Still Izo and others tried to talk Bridges into declaring for the NBA Draft. Bridges was steadfast with his decision to return to Michigan State University for his sophomore season. Perhaps one of the main reasons he decided to return to college is because of the bond he shares with his teammates and his search for purpose. Bridges regularly attends a bible study with his teammates and Tum Tum Nairn leads the bible study. Bridges is very close to Tum Tum and Josh Langford as well as the rest of his teammates. They have been discussing the importance of discovering their purpose and perhaps Bridges has come to the realization that his purpose is greater than basketball. It’s greater than making money to play a game that he obviously loves. Basketball is his platform from which he will use his purpose to change the lives of those he comes in contact with. He may or may not have found his purpose yet, but he knows he was born to do more than get paid to put a basketball in the hoop.
Don’t let your young athletes forget the reason why they started playing their sport in the first place. It’s important that they understand that their purpose in life is bigger than sports. Sports can be their platform to affect change, but sports are not the end-all.
Passion has long been considered a prerequisite for elite athletes. Most coaches will tell you that passion is the key characteristic that separates a great athlete from an elite athlete. An athlete can be great base solely upon the natural athletic ability, but the presence of an intense drive to succeed is what can make an athlete elite. Passion can even make an average athlete a good athlete. I’m an athlete that was fortunate enough to play Division 1 football and even sign a couple of professional football contracts. I wouldn’t however say that I was an elite or even great athlete. I had slightly above average athletic ability and it was my passion that made me a very good athlete. It is important however to know the definition of passion. Passion as defined by Wikipedia is “strong and barely controllable emotion.” A close look at the definition of passion suggests that passion can work for you or against you. Uncontrolled passion can lead to disaster.
I didn’t get a chance to watch the game, but I saw highlights of Antonio Brown of the Pittsburg Steelers getting very upset on the sideline of this past Sunday’s game. He was shown throwing a water cooler and later on aggressively pulling away from one of the Pittsburgh Steelers coaches. Brown was reportedly upset over not being thrown the football when he was obviously wide open. When questioned about his outburst, Brown said, “I’m passionate about the game . . .” I’m not disputing that Brown is passionate, but at what point does your passion work against you and your team? Was Brown showing passion or was he having a temper tantrum? Temper tantrum as defined by Wikipedia is “an emotional outburst and a resistance to attempts at pacification and in some cases, hitting and other physically violent behavior.” I am in no way trying to accuse Antonio Brown of having a temper tantrum, but I want to point out how the characteristics of passion and temper tantrums closely resemble each other. A high school or collegiate athlete displaying that type of passion would probably face some type disciplinary action. It is therefore very important that we help our young athletes’ learn to control their passion and understand the difference between passion and a temper tantrum. It is okay and often times good to have great emotion for the game you play, but uncontrolled emotion has proved to be very detrimental to everyone involved. When emotion is high, reason is low. The inability to reason at a high level has never lead to good decisions.
We are at a day in age where many of our athletes’ continually get into trouble for off the field issues. Many of the mistakes they make are due to their inability to put their emotions aside and make reasonable decisions. It’s time we stop focusing so much on creating a passionate athlete and focus on creating a balanced athlete. A balanced athlete never allows his passion to cause him to make a decision that jeopardizes his purpose.
You can never be responsible for someone else’s behavior. There are however sports teams, company’s and even family’s that have behavioral expectations that they want everyone to abide by. These expectations are often called morals and they are put in place because each individual represents the entire whole. The team, company and/or family have a set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes them. Everyone that joins the group is supposed to adhere to this culture that has already been established. There is however times when the culture of a group takes a turn for the worse and can debilitate the entire group if it isn’t addressed appropriately.
The Dallas Cowboys football team has long been referred to as “America’s Team” and they have the winning history to back it up. They also have a history of employing players who get in trouble with the NFL and sometimes law enforcement. I can’t attest as to whether or not their players get into more trouble than players on other teams, but I do know that the Dallas Cowboy players get a lot of media attention when they do get into trouble. The Cowboys were one of my favorite teams last year. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are two of my favorite players in the NFL and I’m looking forward to seeing the Cowboys do great things this year. You can imagine the frustration I had when I heard about Elliott still being under investigation for an incident that happened before he joined the NFL and then hearing that he got into another altercation this summer. Elliott is not the only Cowboy rumored to be under investigation for unacceptable behavior. This is supposed to be the Cowboy’s championship year, but it’s looking more like a culture of chaos.
It’s imperative that youth coaches teach their athletes’ what a championship culture is and how to embody that culture in and out of competition season. Most athletes’ tend to stay out of trouble during competition season because they are so focused and busy with day to day task. It’s typically during the offseason that most professional athletes get into trouble. Youth athletes don’t typically have an offseason, because they are playing numerous sports throughout the year. It is still important that the attitudes, values, goals, and practices of a championship culture are instilled in them at a very young age. It’s never a good idea to wait for an athlete to get into trouble to try and instill championship behavior. Championship behavior must be taught, practiced and demanded from the beginning no matter the athlete’s athletic ability.
I have never really been interested in golf. I’ve tried to watch it on T.V. a few times, but the slow pace caused me to lose interest pretty quickly. There was however one point in my life when a good friend of mine took it upon himself to teach me the game of golf. I wasn’t really interested in learning how to golf, but I enjoyed spending time with my good friend. He first took me to an open field and began teaching me how to drive the ball. Of course I started off swinging at it like I was trying to hit a home run. He immediately stopped me and showed me that it’s more about technique than power. I can’t say I ever really perfected the technique, but after going out with him a few times I looked less like Happy Gilmore. He eventually took me to a golf course and things started well, but went downhill pretty fast. I already had a decent putt game from playing putt-putt when I was younger. My drive game however struggled immensely. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t hit the ball far enough and in the direction I wanted to. As I got more and more frustrated I started to miss the ball every time I swung at it. It eventually got to the point where there were golfers lined up behind us waiting for me to just hit the ball somewhere. I started to lose patience with my play and I assumed the golfers behind me were losing patience as well. At a couple of holes, I just picked the ball up and walked to the next one. Eventually I just stopped putting my ball on the tee and watched my friend play. I started the game, but I didn’t have what it took to close the game.
This past weekend Jordan Spieth was competing in The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale and Matt Kuchar had a one-shot lead with five holes to play. Up one-shot with five holes to play isn’t a guaranteed victory, but it’s a good lead. Kuchar was up one-shot because Spieth had an ugly front-nine and also had a near-disaster on Hole 13. Spieth’s tee shot on 13 went way right and everyone knew he was in trouble. The entire golf world wondered how Spieth would react to his near disaster on the 13th hole because he’s shown in the past that he can get frustrated and fall apart mentally. Spieth however did not self-destruct. On the very next hole, he nearly aced it. Spieth went on to win by three shots thanks to playing the last five in 5-under. In the face of near disaster, Spieth closed the deal.
We all face near disaster moments in our life and it’s important that we don’t have a mental breakdown. We have to maintain our calm and remain patient throughout the entire process. Continue to do what has worked for you in the past. At first it might seem like an insurmountable obstacle, but it’s really not. It is however going to take a “Closer Mindset.” A “Closer Mindset” is a mindset that says, “I’m going to finish what I started better than I started.” Don’t just strive to get better every day; strive to get better during the game.
This past weekend I had the distinct opportunity to speak at the 1st Annual “Caught Up” Fundraiser. It was a well put together event that was attended by School Principals, Community Leaders, Church Leaders, family and friends. I was very impressed by the amount of support there was in the room. It was a very elegant atmosphere and the youth that attended were well dressed and respectable.
The “Caught Up” Program is a mentor program that focuses on reaching teenage boys in the Detroit, MI area who are caught up in the wrong type of situations. The program focuses on helping the young men get caught up morally, academically and intellectually. Toson Knight is the President of the program and he exposes the youth to new environments and a new way of thinking. He also uses his resources to expose the youth to peer to peer mentoring in addition to introducing them to a Christian lifestyle. I heard numerous testimonies from the parents of these youth whom indicated that their son’s life has changed dramatically since becoming part of the “Caught Up” Program. There were even a few youth who stated they never thought they would graduate from High School and now they’re going to college in the fall. It is important that we recognize that our youth are going to get “Caught Up” in something and it’s our responsibility to make sure they get “Caught Up” in the right things.
All of the youth in the audience were not athletes’ but many of them were. I couldn’t help but pause and think about how many times I’ve turned on Sports Center and heard a reporter talk about another athlete getting “caught up” with the wrong crowd and/or in the wrong situation. The media goes into frenzy and everyone starts asking, “What’s wrong with our athletes’’?” The problem is we wait until after they get into trouble to starting looking for positive things to get them involved in. We wait for something to go wrong to decide to focus on developing the athletes’ character. It’s time to be proactive and not reactive. That’s one thing that I love about the “Caught Up” Program. There were however young men there who had already been in trouble and the “Caught Up” Program helped them turn their life around.
I was very fortunate to have an award named after me and I had the special opportunity to present the “T.J. Tyus Turnaround Award” to two individuals that had a rough start, but were able to turn their life around with the help of the “Caught Up” Program. A person may be loss, but they are never a loss cause. Every day that we wake-up is an opportunity for us to get better and to help someone get better. It’s about time that we help are youth get “Caught Up” in the right things before they get “Caught Up” in the wrong things.
I can still remember my first year of college football. It was a very exciting time and yet also very uncomfortable. I was excited because playing college football brought me a step closer to realizing my dream of playing in the NFL. However, I was uncomfortable because I didn’t realize the level of physical strain college football would put on my body. I was sore almost every single day. There were days when I had no idea how I was going to practice, but I somehow found a way to get through it. The only thing worse than the physical training, was training early in the morning. I was never the type of child who slept all day when I was in High School, but I also wasn’t use to getting up and working out at 4am or 5am in the morning. It took me quite a while to adjust to it, but eventually working out early in the morning became a habit.
I’ve had my 17yr old cousin with me for the last two weeks as I’m helping prepare him for college football. He’ll be going to Tiffin University in August to play safety. My 14yr old son will be starting High School football this August and they both wanted me to prepare them for their next level of competition. I decided to train them both at 5am in the morning during the week. I knew that there was a good chance that my 17yr old cousin would have practice early in the morning when he arrived at Tiffin University. My son however probably won’t have too many 5am workouts in High School. I still decided to have my son train early in the morning because I’ve come to the realization that it’s better to develop a good habit early.
The first week that I woke them up was a little difficult. I had to wake them up a couple of times before they actually got out of bed and started to get dressed. Then we would arrive at the gym and they literally looked like zombies walking around the gym. Don’t get me wrong, they did work hard, but it took them a while to get going. Today marked the start of the second full week and they got out of the bed a lot quicker and they had a lot more energy in their workouts. I asked them how they felt when we arrived home and they told me that it feels like it’s getting easier.
I’m not saying that it will always get easier, but it’s better to prepare your athlete for what might come than for them to be surprised and unprepared. My 14yr old son told me a long time ago that he wants to play Division 1 sports. After he told me that, I looked him in the eyes and asked him if he was sure. He said, “Yes Dad.” I then told him that from that point forward I would train him like a Division 1 athlete. You have to develop elite habits before you can become an elite performer.
Tomorrow is the 4th of July and many of us love to go out and watch the fireworks with our family. It is a very fun time of year that our children truly enjoy. The 4th is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, picnics, concerts, baseball games and family reunions. Sometimes, however the festivities overshadow the true meaning of the 4th of July. Many children don’t even realize that the 4th of July is the celebration of Independence Day. It’s important that we explain to them the meaning and history of Independence Day. It is equally important that we know when and how to allow our children to begin exercising their independence.
I like many of you have children since the very beginning. Sometimes I coached the team they were playing on and sometimes I coached from the sideline as a very involved parent. I totally support parent involvement and I believe that it plays a pivotal role in the development of our children as athletes’ and people. There does come a time however when a child’s parent needs to begin stepping back. Your child will always be your child, but they will not always be a child. Part of becoming an adult is learning to make decisions for yourself. Of course your children will try to declare their independence much earlier than you want them to and you’ll need to explain to them that they’re not ready yet. You will however need to know when it’s time to slowly start giving them their independence. It can destroy them if you give it to them too soon and you enable them if you give it to them too late. You don’t want an overly dependent adult child because they will never fulfill their full potential.
Giving your child their independence at the right time sets them up for success in their future. They will be able to maximize their full potential and will light up the world much like fireworks light up the sky on Independence Day. There isn’t a specific day you give your child their full independence. It is a slow and gradual process. Don’t rush the process; enjoy the process.
My oldest son turned 14yrs old this year and will be starting High School in the fall. I can’t believe how fast he’s grown up. He’s very mature and typically makes great decisions. I have been very hard on him for the majority of his life and I know that I need to begin to slowly step back and allow him to make his own decisions based upon what I’ve taught him for the last 14yrs. It started with sports and it’s now carrying over to life in general. I still give him pointers and tell him where he can improve as an athlete and as a person. However, I no longer begin coaching him immediately following his sporting event. I just tell him good game and wait for him to ask me how he did. I realize it’s important to be a dad first and a coach second. Sports will end one day, but I will always be his father. There will come a day when he’s a father and/or a husband and he will need to know how to thrive in his independence.
Belonging to something has been a part of your life since the day you were born. You belonged to your parents’ when you were born and you belonged to the hospital you were born in. You may not have been raised by your biological parents, but you belonged to them when you were born. As you got older you started to want to belong to a family and some people didn’t have a family to belong to and looked outside the household. I truly believe that the desire to belong to something that makes one feel important is the reason why most teens and pre-teens join gangs.
I have been blessed to grow up in an environment where I feel like I belong. I grew up with two parents in the household and a healthy environment that included a twin brother and a sister who is five years older than me. I also grew up with a group of 17 other young men that I played sports with and engaged in after school activities. Sports have also played a major role in my development as a man and my confidence as a person. I began playing sports at the age of 6 and loved the feeling of belonging to a team. Belonging to a team encouraged me to get better and do things that could help my teammates.
Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi also found purpose in belonging to something. At one point in time when he was a teenager his parents feared that he would die from obesity. Ogunjobi was 350 pounds at his peak unhealthiness. He was so unhealthy that he struggled with apnea-like symptoms and had trouble breathing at night His parents tried to get him trainers to no avail. Ogunjobi was depressed and it didn’t seem like anything could motivate him. He would sit on the couch, eat and play video games every day. One day in the middle of a park everything changed.
Ogunjobi’s father was sitting in a park watching his son and daughter play when he was approached by a man who offered to help get his Ogunjobi in shape. The man was a trainer and stated that he would train Ogunjobi and he also wanted him to try out for the football team. When Ogunjobi first stepped on the football field the other kids laughed at him because he was so out of shape and couldn’t get in a three-point stance. For a while, Ogunjobi came home crying ever day after football practice and didn’t want to keep playing. His parents made him keep playing and over time Ogunjobi’s body and mind began to change. He started to lose weight and his mood improved. He no longer seemed depressed. Ogunjobi started getting more friends and at the end of season football banquet he won the award for Most Improved Player. From that point forward, Ogunjobi’s life was never the same. He said, “It seems like a small award, but it was the first time in my life where it felt like I won something I earned.” That very night after winning the award, Ogunjobi returned home and immediately started running around the neighborhood and then started doing pushups before every meal with his feet elevated on the same couch he use to sit on every day. He went on to earn to play college football and now plays in the NFL. He was the first in his family to go to college and the first to play in the NFL. Things didn’t start off great for Ogunjobi, but everything turned around when he began to feel like he belonged to something. It wasn’t just belonging to a sports team that helped turn his life around; it was his faith also. He was also the first in his family to read the bible cover to cover. He was 16 years old when he read the bible cover to cover and has done it seven times since then.
It’s important that we get our children involved in extracurricular activities so they can feel a sense of belonging. It doesn’t always have to be sports, but it should be something that motivates and encourages them to work to better themselves. Everybody won’t play professional sports, but everybody can become greater than they were yesterday. Improvement is an internal job and sometimes you need external motivation.
Every single one of us had a hero or two growing up. Some people had comic book heroes and some of us had sports heroes. We looked up to them because they did seemingly impossible things with such ease. Many of us would sit and watch them on T.V. for hours and just dream about what it would be like to meet our hero face to face. Although, we dreamed about . . . we knew the likelihood of meeting them face to face was slim. Over time we grew to accept that they were just our distant heroes. We watched them, cheered for them, dressed like them and sometimes even acted like them. There was however some of us who had our own up close and personal heroes and didn’t even realize it.
I for one had a sports hero and a comic book hero. My sports hero was Ray Lewis and my comic book hero was Wolverine. I knew I’d never meet Wolverine because he’s fictional and I accepted the fact that it was a small likelihood that I’d ever meet Ray Lewis because he’s a celebrity. Those two were my distant heroes. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I realized I had my own personal hero in my father. My father has always been there from the beginning making things work for our family when everything seemed impossible. He has always been there to teach life lessons and to show me how I can take the impossible and make it possible. Ray Lewis and Wolverine were never within reach, but my father has always been there. He’s never been a celebrity or comic book hero, but he’s always been an unsung hero. Our celebrity and comic book heroes may make us feel good, but often times it’s our parents’ or caregivers who make the most substantive yet unrecognized contributions to our lives.
Four-time Olympian Cross-Country Skier Kikkan Randall also looked to her father as a personal hero. She stated that her father taught her how to fight through her frustration whenever she was trying to learn something new. Randall said, “My dad would help me break the problem into smaller pieces until I could see my way through. The little successes would build my confidence.” It was Randall’s father and not sports heroes or comic book heroes who taught her the little steps it takes to become successful. Sports heroes, celebrities and comic book heroes have their place. However, they can never replace the value of having a personal hero you can talk to and lean on throughout your life.