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Moving Beyond Encouragement

I was a cheerleader in high school. We all know the purpose of cheerleaders. It is to provide encouragement and support for the team and to get the crowd engaged in doing the same. By doing so, cheerleaders and crowds are often called the twelfth player in football or soccer or the sixth player in basketball, or the tenth player on the baseball or softball team. You get the idea. Although all the cheering, encouragement, and support helps the team win the game, the team members have to have the skills and abilities to play the game.

One of my first jobs out of college was as an athletic counselor, aka a coach, at a private camp on the East Coast. I later went on to coach several other teams. As a college faculty member, I later became a coach of a different sort. I had a lot of different types of players on my teams. The players who usually did well were the players who put in the effort. They spent time learning drills, learning the skills of the game, studying, and honing their abilities. They also had personality traits that enhanced their success. Those traits are what I consider my personal three pillars for success. They are drive, desire, and determination. 

Picture by AnnRos on

I had some players who would show up to practice with all kinds of emotional support and encouragement. Some parents had their elementary-age children convinced they were going to be professional athletes. Those players had the best shoes, their parents were always at the games, they were always cheered on. They were regularly told, "Good job!" or told how great they would be. However, if those same players didn't put in the effort to learn the skills of the game or to improve their abilities, then all of that encouragement and support was for nothing. If you don't know how to play the game, you aren't going to win...aka succeed. There were players who would come to practice and say their parents played soccer in college or were semi-pro players, so they didn't need to practice. The game was in their genes. Sometimes, they didn't show up for practice at all. Or, they would give credit for their success in games and matches to parents and friends cheering them on and not to their own abilities and skills they had learned. They didn't give credit to their coaches or the people who taught them how to be good players. Eventually, those players leveled off and so did their success. 

In contrast to this, I had players on my team that put 110% into every practice. They had encouragement and support, but maybe not as much. These players practiced drills before practice, and they would ask me to stay after practice to help them. They ran on their own at home. They studied the game. They may not have had the best equipment or the most support, but a little bit of support for them went a long way. People need the basics to feel good about themselves and have a sense of self-worth. These team members played with a lot of heart and passion...not only for the game but for themselves. They didn't take a win as meaning they had reached the height of their success. Instead, they learned more and kept improving, knowing that one win only means short-term success and long-term success means continued training and development. They practiced their hearts out. They knew that they would always need to practice to become better and better. 

One of the trends I love, and I believe I have mentioned this before, is professional athletes, performers, and even business people talk openly now about all the work they have to put in to be successful. They don't wake up one day and go play professional football, or pack a stadium for a concert, or make a million dollars or more a year. They put in a lot of time, talent, energy, money, and effort. I'm sure they were encouraged and supported, but that only took them so far. Maybe it will get someone off the ground at first, but only relying on encouragement and support won't give them long-term growth and success.