Of all of the skills, qualities and character traits we have the opportunity to teach our young athletes, or children in general, is there one that is the most important? Would it be speed, quickness, agility, strength, determination, perseverance, discipline, commitment, passion, respect for others, teamwork, or a love of the game or of learning? These traits can help produce top athletes, or top performers in any field. But the greatest character quality we can teach our kids is adaptability. It is critical for our survival at a minimum and a prerequisite for success. It is essential, yet rarely taught.
Americans are obsessed with reality TV. From Survivor, to The Amazing Race, The Apprentice, The Bachelor, to Road Rules, to Fear Factor, to the World Poker Tour, we love to watch others be challenged. From the boardroom to athletic fields we respect, revere and reward those who can think on their feet, roll with the punches, look on the bright side, perform under pressure, respond in the face of adversity and make lemonade out of lemons. Donald Trump looks for it in his apprentices and coaches look for it in their star athletes.
Many coaches will tout that leadership is one of the major outcomes of youth sports. While it can be for some, it is not the case for everyone. So, it is not just participating in youth sports that leads to leadership. But a trait that can be taught, cultivated and developed.
The essence of leadership is adaptability. The ability to change your course of action based on the situation or circumstances. In business, it could be creating new products, adjusting a sales strategy to make up for a previous quarters shortcomings, a flexible work schedule, getting the project done, and on time, in spite of losing a team member due to an illness, or a adjusting to yet another new boss, with yet another idea of “the way things should be.”
In your personal life, adaptability could be adjusting to life after “the accident,” a downsized work situation, the death of a loved one, the betrayal of a close friend, a divorce, a fire, a cancer diagnosis, dealing with the addiction of a family member, or the loss of a pet. The essence of success in life is adaptability. The ability to rise above the difficulties and disappointments, to not get stuck playing the victim card, to move on and to actually flourish.
In sports, adaptability can be calling an audible, making half-time locker room adjustments, shooting off-balance, playing injured, making substitutions due to injuries, making the best of a busted play or inclement weather, rebounding after a blowout, or being down by two with three minutes left in the game. The most successful athletes are those who can adapt to their current situation and make the best of it.
In sports, and in life, it is not the best plan that is the most successful, but the athletes, coaches or people, who make the best adjustments that become the most successful.
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