March 3, 2017 • Athletic AdministrationCoaching

Appreciate talent, but praise effort

Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

We overemphasize talent. We want to believe our superstars are superheroes, but they’re not. The reason we think that way is because it helps justify why we can’t do something or why we shouldn’t try. We say it’s because we don’t have the talent.

Not only are our superstars not superheroes, they became superstars because they had a relentless work ethic. That’s even more impressive than the idea that they were born with some magical gift. Was Jordan gifted? Of course, and you would be foolish to believe otherwise. But how many gifted people do you know who never make it? It’s more romantic to think Jordan just stepped on the court, winning games with ease. But do you know how many shots he took to make it look that easy? Do you know how many 6 a.m. workouts he used to improve his game? Do you know how many times Jordan was the first player to practice and the last player to leave? It took an incredible amount of effort for Jordan to make it look “easy.”

The last thing we need to do is praise talent. As coaches, teachers and parents, we are only creating a mindset where players feel “destined,” and a belief that things should be easy and effortless. And when it isn’t easy and effortless, they will not have established the work ethic to get back in the gym, on the field or in the weight room to make the necessary changes. They will not put in the effort.

We need to constantly praise effort. We need to praise risk taking and failure. You become destined by working harder than everyone else. By doing 10-percent more than those around you, and by understanding that failure means growth.

Let’s stop telling our kids that they’re talented. Instead, let’s praise them for their effort. And when they work hard and fail, let’s make sure we explain that the road to success passes through many obstacles and letdowns. Only then will we create the mindset of a champion.

Vito Chiaravalloti is a former Division I college All-American and professional baseball player who is now a high school coach and athletic director. In eight years as a swimming coach, his teams have won seven consecutive NJSIAA state championships and he was named an NFHS Coach of the Year in 2011. Find him on Twitter at @ColtsAD and on Instagram at @CoachVito44.

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