Greatness – Part I

Greatness – Part I: The Early Bloomer

Greatness is defined as “a concept of a state of superiority.” Therefore, in today’s society, most equate greatness with superiority. Consequently, their path to greatness is simple: be superior over another. The hallmark of this path is the athletic carcasses of those who were defeated and failed. This sets the foundation for the contemporary view of competition: a world that only celebrates “winners” and disregards “losers.” Our youth sports are therefore forced into two camps – “if you’re not first you’re last” or “everyone deserves a trophy.” This zero sum environment in youth sports creates several unintended consequences: it rewards kids who have simply matured earlier; it forces parents to keep their children on small fields or against weaker competition so they can parade their physical advantages; and most unfortunately, it manifests false idealizations of grandeur which impedes long term development.

Generally, in athletic venues, the child that physically develops at an earlier age will be better than the late bloomer. Because of size, athleticism, and many times age – as athletic and school “cutoffs” cause inherent age and physical differences – the early developer has a significant advantage. As the bigger/older kids utilize their physical advantages, they tend to experience a lot of success during these early years. Based on this and our biases to chart growth linearly, everyone projects athletic greatness in his/her future. If the player is that much better now, imagine how great they’ll be in x years?

However, many times this early “greatness” does not translate into long term success – as development is NOT linear and early failure is a vital component to long term growth. Because these kids achieved nothing but success at an early age, they are filled with a false sense of value. This success makes parents, coaches, and teammates hesitant to provide any form of instruction or criticism; after all, the player dominates his peers – why fix what isn’t broken? Consequently, these kids who have experienced unmatched success at an early age, may never actually learn proper fundamentals. Because of the easy accumulation of trophies, many times these kids do not develop the understanding and appreciation of the work ethic and sacrifice necessary to achieve long term success.

Unfortunately for these young superstars, the late bloomers start to develop. Kids who have never known failure begin to struggle. Cognitive dissonance sets in and many times these kids “burn out.” Everyone wonders why – how could it happen to this kid who was so much better than his/her peers. But when viewed at objectively – it’s simple. Their athletic dominance over their peers is what defined them. Unfortunately, this dominance was founded on the fact that they were simply bigger and older. As they progressed, instruction to them was limited as coaches, parents, and the players themselves were fed false signals of “greatness.” These athletes who won trophies so easily now struggle with the fact that others are surpassing them. Parents who – implicitly or explicitly – believed in their child’s greatness (and predicted him to be “the next Derek Jeter”) become disenfranchised. Accountability becomes blurred, fingers get pointed, and kids never reach their true potential.

Our program at the Compete Academy is founded on the notion that this worldview of competition and child success is fractured. Competition is NOT zero sum and greatness is NOT defined by the superiority over another. We do not measure ourselves by wins, trophies, parental social media posts. Yes, our athletes win tournaments; yes, our athletes can be the best on their teams; yes, our athletes are recruited and play at the highest levels in college. However, those byproducts are not the goals we set for our athletes and do not define “greatness.” Here, at the Compete Academy, we believe competition helps all participants grow. And the path to greatness isn’t measured by trophies; it’s measured by individual growth. We define it simply: the choice to do things better than you’ve done before.

Everything else is simply the positive byproduct of competing to be a better you.

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