The Modern Athlete: #4 The “Me”

There is no better way to end this “The Modern Athlete” series of articles than talking about one of the biggest concerns of our modern society: the need for individualization. While feeling the need to be ourselves and prioritizing our own lives isn’t necessarily something bad, human beings evolved and created a globalized society based on singular and selfish values. We are constantly battling with internal battles, with what other might think of us, how we look to the outside world and feel the need to stay active in our social circles (and social media) to feel valued by others. Human beings are less comfortable in social settings, while we see more and more people being uncomfortable with being alone. Our modern athletes not only go through all these feelings and emotions, but they were born into this technological and imploding world.

When we talked about the need for understanding and the need for realness, we can almost immediately connect these previous topics with this main one: our modern athletes need to feel valued and heard, and they need to feel that their time isn’t being wasted or ignored by coaches, teachers or even their peers. As a society we are less patient, we need to see immediate results and struggle to focus on the long term. Athletes are the same, and while in my opinion coaches can’t just change everything based on questionable modern values and needs, there is a need for adaptation in our job that, as we have talked in the past, must be flexible.

I grew up always hearing from teachers, family, and older people that in our jobs or life encounters “we should always treat everyone the same way, otherwise it wouldn’t be a fair attitude from people in power” (bosses, coaches, teachers, parents). While at the time being polite, fair, and treating everyone the same all seemed connected to me, today I can’t disagree more with it. I like to say that when I coach, I will apply the same rules to everyone, but in fact I will treat all my athletes differently so I can respect and value each one of them the right way. Rules are made to be fair, to create justice in our society and to set standards about our culture and values. They are (most of the time) something objective and inflexible that I will follow religiously “no matter what”. Human interactions are very different from rules, and that’s why I can’t treat everyone the same way. I know that if I talk to Johnny in front of the entire team pointing out something negative, he did, he will understand it and will look to improve it, but the same treatment doesn’t work with Jesse, and she will probably be shy and afraid of trying another time and I will impact her development.

These examples of Jesse and Johnny can be applied literally in every stage of coaching: practices, games, creating personal relationships, joking with players, correcting players, developing them and the way they learn, all of them are different for each person, so why would I treat them all the same? This is also one of the reasons I love VO Stats in my analysis process and individual player development: I can adapt the way I interact with players about their performances. Individual notes, individual highlight clips, individual stats, everything is personalized, and players feel valued because of the way we value our communication and understand each other’s’ needs the best.