THE SLG ADVISOR
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The Secret Sauce of Confidence
This month, my daughter begins what will be her final season as an athlete on an organized and competitive sports team. Jessie will captain her high school varsity lacrosse team as she did her school’s soccer team earlier in the year. She has no intentions of playing in college, choosing instead to focus on what will no doubt be a rigorous academic journey into biomedical engineering. I’m super proud of her! But both she and my son Jake have played competitive sports their entire lives, so it’s strange to think neither of them will be on a field next year. But as I reflect on this transitional phase of their lives, I can see how much value they gained from their sports careers, especially in terms of personal confidence. And confidence, I believe, is essential for a fulfilling life. First, I want to set the record straight about confidence, because a lot of people have the wrong idea about what confidence is, often mistaking it for cockiness or arrogance. There’s a big difference between confidence and arrogance. Confidence is a state you earn through hard work and personal growth. It doesn’t come quickly or without great effort. It’s by working hard to achieve something that we learn to be confident in ourselves and recognize our self-worth. As a parent, I always wanted my kids to be confident in themselves, and sports played a huge part in helping them develop it. I have a theory that if you can help young kids find something they are passionate about and help them to acquire the skills they need to be good at their passion, personal confidence will be the natural byproduct. Here’s the thing about earned confidence, since they have earned it through toil and persistence, it’s usually not fleeting. It doesn’t go away after one bad game on the field or one bad grade on a test in the classroom. It persists and helps move them past temporary obstacles that life will no doubt throw their way. My kids found their confidence in sports, but this isn’t the only area a kid can develop such confidence. Imagine a young child developing a passion for art, theater, music, or academic discipline. They love what they are doing so they are willing to work hard to develop the skills their passion requires. They get better and better until they are truly good at something. Boom! They are now confident in that arena. They now understand the correlation between busting your butt on something you love and succeeding. That understanding and the confidence it brings is life altering and transferable to all areas of their life. When they’re 13 or 14 Setting Kids Up for a Lifetime of Success
Imagine how much easier these rough years would be for a kid who has that kind of internal confidence.
and start wondering if they’re “good enough,” their earned confidence in one area is going to make the challenging and confusing teen years so much easier. Maybe they had a bad day at school, but they know they’re still a good artist or a talented athlete. Imagine how much easier these rough years would be for a kid who has that kind of internal confidence. This kind of confidence can shape their whole lives. My son played baseball for most of his life, including the first two years of college and he was a very good player. Then, at the start of his junior year in college, he decided he didn’t want to play anymore. He was ready to focus on other things like his studies and his career path. Throughout his life, Jake gave up a lot to play baseball as he was fully committed to getting to the next level. When he told me he wasn’t going to play in college anymore, I asked him if the sacrifices he made were all worth it in retrospect. He gave me an incredulous look and stated, “Are you kidding me!? Baseball has made me who I am today. It taught me hard work and dedication. If I had to go back, I’d do it all again.” What a great answer! It was a proud Dad moment for sure. Although both of my kids have now decided that organized sports will no longer be a part of their lives, I know they have benefited greatly from a wonderful lesson that sports teach; success requires hard work. And they now have the confidence in themselves to go forward to pursue other things. My wife Liz and I got our kids into sports at a young age to keep them active and healthy. What we didn’t expect was the level of confidence each would develop as a result and how important that confidence has been in their overall development. What parent doesn’t want that for their kids? -Len Spada
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