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Why some see today’s young people as “soft”

There are generally two lines of thinking around the issue of increased college athlete transfers:

1. Coaches need to stop being so mean to players and develop relationships with them. Coaching is not a dictatorship, after all.

2. Today’s athletes are soft and wimpy.

As usual, I can see both sides.

Coaches would indeed do well to foster good business relationships with their athletes, and personal relationships too, if possible (it is not necessary, however).

And after 15 years of working with young people, I fully understand the perception that they are not equipped for life. Many don’t seem to be even close.

I am a Gen-Xer. I grew up in the era of latch key kids and playing outside all day long in the summer time, unattended. We were an independent bunch, and we couldn’t wait to leave home at 18 for college or other pursuits. But inexplicably, many of my peers turned around and parented their children in a completely different way than they were raised.

Three years ago I had a student who fell apart if told “no.” She would keep pressing and pressing a question, and got increasingly upset with each “no” that I gave, until tears came to her eyes. I told her, as I explain to every kid who uses this approach with me, “I can tell that by continuing on, you usually get your way eventually. That works at home for you, but it doesn’t work here with me, in this school setting.”

One day she asked to go to the library just as I began having students run laps. I told her no. She whipped out her phone and called her mother. I’ve had several students call their mothers when I get on them about things. I’ve never been abusive; just firm. But they can’t seem to handle it. And for those like myself, who were yelled at plenty by parents and teachers alike, and had to follow the rules regardless, we don’t understand why today’s youngsters can’t seem to take that.

Former Georgia coach Andy Landers told me that his parents cautioned him about calling home too much when they sent him to college. He marveled that today’s youth often talk to parents one or more times per day. It is definitely a generation gap.

I didn’t talk to my parents much while I was in college, either. I was too busy handling my life and my studies. Contrast that with former UCLA star Lonzo Ball, whose father LaVar is still so involved with his day-to-day existence that prospective NBA teams are weighing how they will deal with him. Personally, I find that situation surreal.

With every LaVar Ball story, I continue to wonder: how did my generation mess this one up so badly? Where did they get the idea that not allowing kids to be properly challenged in order to gain strength was a benefit? Why did co-dependent and/or vicarious living parenting become a good idea to them?

Landers made a good point that teaching young people that they can almost always get their way is unrealistic.

“You can’t transfer out of a job,” he said.

Indeed. It’s not always possible to change jobs or careers. Even in pro sports, it’s possible to be stuck on a team you hate in a city you can’t stand. Stuff happens.

Many of my fellow Gen-Xers messed up in the parenting department. I wonder what the landscape will look like in a few more years, when their kids are in their 30’s. Will they still be living at home with their parents?

We will see.