By Randy Traeger
Head Football Coach Oregon
As a coach, you are on the front lines, so it’s probably no news to you that today’s kids act more “entitled” than they used to. Isn’t it nice when scientific study backs up what’s happening in real life. A new study by San Diego State professor Jean Twenge (author of: The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement) finds that self centeredness and narcissism in our youth has steadily increased over the last decade. It seems as though all that time that our educational system spent with our kids teaching them “I’m okay…your okay” and constantly building up their precious little “relative” egos, with no character foundation underneath that ego, has backfired.
Many of today’s youth feel entitled. Society owes them, a good grade, a starting position on your team, a car, a college education, a good job, a nice home,…you get the picture. They think what they see on MTV is how they should live. Problem is, they lack the discipline to put in the work necessary to obtain these nice things, or they flat out lack the talent to deserve them.
Do you have a Little Prince on your team who feels entitled to position and privilege? If so, you are not alone. Most coaches feel that they are coaching kids that are selfish. Kids that only care about me. Generation Me. They want things their way, they put their needs ahead of others, and they don’t care about other peoples feelings. They want you to believe that their needs are more important than the needs of others.
Our program conducts a multi faceted attack on this “Team Killing Disease”, by coaching the virtues of charity, selflessness, generosity, empathy, kindness, and service. Here are few specific examples of activities that will squelch those selfish attitudes in your program.
- What’s our job? To love us. What’s your job? To love each other. We ask our team this every day.
- Speak in the “third person”. We never use the words I, me, or my.
- Openly talk with each player and their parents about their role on the team. Go to great lengths to openly and honestly talk about the player’s abilities, goals, and personal contribution to the team. Everyone on the team can have an important role. “I am the best PAT left guard in the league.” “I get water out to our players during a time out faster than anyone else in the league.” Get parents on the same page.
- Zero tolerance of selfish attitudes by the coaching staff and players.
- Educate the team about “empathy”. Talk about it, practice it, live it.
- Zero tolerance for “temper tantrums” on the field. Stop kidding yourself, as head coach, you see these behaviors at practice and on the playing field, but you choose to overlook them because the kid is one of your best players and you might lose the game if you pull him. You aren’t doing anyone a favor by leaving the kid out there. In fact, you are doing the kid a tremendous disservice by not correcting the behavior. That 12 year old “jerk” is going to grow into a 24 year old “jerk” if somebody doesn’t correct them. How about you?
- Share all successes with the entire team. Okay, Johnny scored 4 touchdowns, but he didn’t do it alone. Put all the praise on the team. Johnny will be okay.
- Make a big deal out of selfless acts by team members. Put them and their deeds on a pedestal.
- Actively engage your team in community service projects. Serve others.
- Elevate team members who generally play support roles. Praise the scout team. Buy them special t-shirts. Call the linemen the “Omnipotent Ones”, and let them always eat first. Make everyone on the team personally thank the water-boy. Build up the servant roles to super star status.
- Coaches should set a “servant” role example. Head coach, take care of the water. Assistant coaches, help pick up the gear after practice, help pick up the towels after the game. Serve. Set an example.
Your actions will speak so loud, you won’t need to say any words.
Its not easy killing that “Narcissistic Beast”, but you will be doing the kids and your team a big favor, and I promise you, it will pay off, both on the scoreboard and in the adult lives of those you serve. The players.