2020 Kids These Days
Several years ago, I wrote a blog called, “Kids These Days”. Link: Kids These Days (coachrickjones.com) With all of the issues we faced in 2020, it seemed like a good time to see where our kids are today. We will look at two important qualities of athletes, toughness and work ethic. Beware…..these are generalities. We can always find exceptions to the rule.
This generation of young people work harder to attain their goals in the athletic arena. If you want to get me fired up, tell me our kids have a poor work ethic. When we first started coaching, in 1978, our football summer program consisted of 6 weeks of opening the weight room for a couple hours a day, three days a week. Today, our kids are training year round. They play travel ball, 7 on 7, have specialized paid trainers, have an athletic period at school or come in early before school or stay late after school to train. Most good programs run very demanding summer programs from 4 to 9 weeks during the summer. These “summer pride” programs are very tough and demanding. Over the years, we have ended these workouts with forty to fifty 40’s. At Greenwood, we ended our summer program with 56 sprints between 5 and 50 yards.
Kids these days will run through a wall for us; however, they won't do it blindly. In the past, if a coach said, “run through that wall”, players would line up and start running towards the wall. They did it because the coach told them to do it and their parents agreed. “If the coach thinks Johnny needs to run through the wall, he’s the coach, he must know what he’s doing.” Today, our kids want to know the answer to some basic questions before they start running.
1. WHY? What good does it do me or the team? If you can articulate the “why” in a way that makes sense to them, they will do their best to make it happen.
2. HOW? How long will this take? How thick is the wall? How fast do I need to run? Kids want to know the cost up front. Just because “I said so”, isn’t good enough anymore.
3. WHAT? What’s in it for me? In the past, coaches could just say, “this is best for the team”, “do it for the Bulldogs” and expect compliance. GENERALLY speaking today, we have to teach teamwork and team goals.
As coaches, we have to be a great model and example of unselfishness and a team first mentality. They will bust their tails for us if we teach them the why, the how, and the what. I didn’t say we could get them to pick up their clothes and make their beds. That’s another blog…………
My grandfather, Homer Jones, along with his 10 brothers and sisters, made their way to southern Oklahoma from Boone County, Arkansas (Harrison area) in two covered wagons pulled by mules. This happened around 1910. He got drafted and served in the Army during World War I. His outfit suffered some of the highest death rates in the U.S. Army, even though they never went to Europe, because of a cholera outbreak at their base in San Antonio, Texas. During the Great Depression, he worked for a dollar a day in the Civilian Conservation Corp. He didn’t have indoor plumbing until he was 70, and bush hogged his 176 acres until he was 82 years old. Homer was tough.
Our players today are not even close to being as tough as Homer Jones; however, they are awesomely tough in a completely different way. As stated before and with the statistics to back it up, this is the most praised generation in history. They are also the most scrutinized generation in history. They have never lived in a world without the smartphone. This generation has instant access to basically all the information in the world. If my grandfather, Homer, was the fastest kid in the Jones’ family, he might think he was the fastest human on the face of the earth. This generation is under no such illusion. The opportunity of comparison is there, 24/7/365. Yet, a large percentage of these kids still compete, battle, and fight to be the best they can be. When one of our corners gets beaten on a fade route on national television, with scathing commentary on the broadcast and on the web, he has to strap his helmet back on and go out there again, in front of the world, and risk it happening all over again. That is toughness!
Today, our players know the risk. In dealing with the pandemic, the huge majority of our players decided to play the game. This generation of players are all aware of the risks involved in playing a contact sport. While some would say that the protocols for injuries and illnesses have made our players soft, I would say the exact opposite. It has shown them to be tremendously tough. It has been said that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the ability to go forward in the presence of fear.
We all hope/expect this generation will never face the challenges faced by my grandfather, but I do respect this group of young men and women for how they have handled themselves during these trying times. They work hard and the motivation is different. They are tough!