Generation of quitters

The news began trickling out this week, about all the athletes that are leaving Division I programs right now. It’s clear that this will be another year like last year in which a staggering number of young people give up their scholarships.

It disturbs me deeply. I’ve been thinking for a few days how to write about it, and then this interview with Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard was posted. The Cyclones have lost all four of their women’s basketball recruits from last year, despite reaching the Elite Eight and Sweet 16 in 2009 and 2010. Their male hoopers are leaving too. It’s a problem that effects both the men’s and women’s sides in every conference.

Here are Pollard’s very candid remarks:

My peers and I continually discuss the epidemic around the country in the sport of basketball. In the past two years over 500 men’s basketball players have transferred from a Division I team to another program. That number is absolutely amazing. Unfortunately if a kid’s world is not absolutely perfect (in their mind), they run from the problem rather than deal with it. Makes you wonder if it is the first signs of our society’s change in our early education program (no longer give kids grades – everybody passes; can’t keep score, everybody has to win; if you do not like something, have mom or dad complain on your behalf). Personally I wonder how that generation is going to survive in the real world when mom or dad or AAU coach are not there for them during their first job interview or first job evaluation. The bottom line is life is not a video game, you can’t just hit reset if you do not like your initial score.

Education isn’t necessarily to blame, as not all elementary schools use the same grading system. High schools use the A-B-C-D-F sytem, and no kid can escape NCAA GPA requirements getting out of high school.

Often times the “using parents as a cop-out” issue does apply, but there are just as many cases where a kid is left on her own and/or not supported much of the time and still quits. I’ve seen plenty of those cases in the schools where I’ve been employed.

I work with athletes. I also teach high school students daily – most of whom aren’t athletes – and I have my own theory about all the transfers: this generation gives up too easily. They don’t seem to have any concept of perseverance and what it takes to reach a goal, the amount of work involved in achievement, and the number of times they’ll need to just suck it up to get there.

Examples…..I have had both athletes and students quit after a couple of laps. Kids will say they’re going to hit the weight room and never get there. They’ll start on something and won’t finish it. They’re worse than their parents – many of whom begin a workout program and then quit. These kids never really get started in the first place. They get tired after less than five minutes and then they give up.

A mixture of several factors contribute to these circumstances, in my opinion. For one, we live in an instant gratification culture where people expect things to happen fastfastfast. Young people have no patience today because of that, which is another part of the problem. If it doesn’t happen right now, they say forget it.

Another factor is that kids don’t believe in adults the way they used to when I was younger. Grownups used to be thought of as wise people, and sometimes kids were even afraid of them. A little fear is a good thing sometimes, but today’s youth aren’t afraid of anything or anyone. They also don’t necessarily respect adults; older people have to “earn” their respect (in their eyes). They think they know more than coaches, and sometimes their parents do too.

Pollard is right on the money with the “reset” theory. Kids today think everything can be negotiated or changed if they don’t like it. They didn’t go to the old school that my father tended – the “tough sh*t” school. That’s unfortunate, because it made me and my peers very resilient. This generation has no resilience, for the most part. It’s scary.

A lot of times female ballers leave a program because they’re homesick. Well, tough beans. If it were my daughter and she tried to levy that excuse, I’d tell her it’s only four years, and she can use this as a lesson in putting up with circumstances that don’t agree with her, because it will be far from the last time that happens. I’d tell her to suck it up.

What will happen to this next generation, I’m not sure. But it makes me uneasy. Given the massive numbers that would rather stay overweight than begin regular exercise, and the hundreds that are now giving up college scholarships, it’s a good thing I plan on working past my retirement age. These quitters are going to need us.