Recently a young player asked me how I thought she did in a tough game when both her team and the referees weren’t doing so well. I told her what I thought was good about her game. Then she volunteered an answer for herself: “I never gave up,” she said. It was a profound statement from someone who’s given up in games before, and it underscored a point.
High school coaches teach defense, offense, and everything that’s a part of the game. But do they teach perseverance? They should.
You don’t see much giving up at the pro level, and you see some in college ball, depending upon the identity of the coach. But at the high school level, giving up can be epidemic. Young people aren’t always taught how to persevere through difficult circumstances and how to keep foraging ahead when the terrain looks rough. As a result, you see both individual and team meltdowns that don’t need to happen. This is where a coach needs to step in.
It’s as simple as telling a kid not to give up. If she sits down hard on the bench, sighs, grunts in frustration, rolls her eyes or the like, then it’s time to tell her that she’s got to keep on going, no matter what. My line is always, “if you give up, you have no chance of winning, but if you keep going, it’s at least 50-50.”
High school coaches need to be pro-active in these instances, and not assume a kid has the coping skills to overcome frustration. For some athletes, it’s a skill that must be taught, and the sooner the better if they’re to continue evolving as players.
I hope to hear more young athletes say “I never gave up,” whether they win or lose.