If we were to ask a kid to come up a list of their heroes from the pro sports leagues, they might say something similar to the following: NHL – Sydney Crosby; NFL – Peyton Manning; NBA – Lebron James; MLB – Mike Trout. Why are each of these players considered heroes to the kids? The reality is that 99% of kids will never get to meet any of these players and if they do, it will be an autograph and a photo to remember their meeting. Is that really what a hero represents though?
If we were to google the definition of the word hero, we’d come up with the following:
A person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
Note: In this post I’m using the word hero but I’m using it to refer to both men and women rather than constantly saying hero/heroin.
It’s easy to say that all of the players mentioned above have outstanding achievements – after all they are the best of the best in their respective sports. However, are they courageous and do they have noble qualities? That’s hard to say. Their interviews and player profiles and teams will probably tell us that they are and that they do. But professional sports is a business and their goal is to put butts in seats and make money. So if we were to go beyond the “untouchables” which are essentially pro athletes, who are we left with who could be a hero to a kid? The answer is simple but most people don’t know it. Why is that and what is the answer?
Because I answer that, let me ask you this. In your local leagues, there are probably a handful of players who are much better than everyone else. They are those players who will frequently travel with club teams from other cities, try out for and sometimes make the national team, travel to the world championships and other far off and prestigious tournaments all while keeping a low profile. They don’t have a million dollar salary attached to their name or a company who has a vested interest in their success. In the ultimate community, these are the players who we should be putting forward as the “heroes” for the local leagues – kids and adults alike.
These players are not “the untouchables”. These players do what they do because they love the sport. They are humble and shy about sharing their achievements with other people. They don’t have a huge following on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. They have a full time day job and ultimate is their passionate hobby.
We need to create our own heroes. We need to be the champions for these players because if we don’t, they’re not going to. It’s not their role. It’s our role as leagues to recognize their achievements, put them in front of the kids and beginning adult players and use them as an example of what you can achieve with hard work and a dream.
In my experience playing sports as a kid and teaching/coaching kids, respect can be earned in several ways (which I believe is paramount in having your players listen to you and learn from you). First, if you command respect, then kids will listen to you. Secondly, if you are more skilled than the players, they will respect you. Thirdly, if you have success in the sport, they will respect you.
On the flip side, if the opposite of the three points I mentioned above happens, then it will be tough for the players to respect you.