This past Wednesday was Earth Day. It was the forty-fifth anniversary of the event. In speaking about some factual differences between 1970 and 2015, I heard a journalist on CBC Radio comment that in that time the population has doubled and the number of species of plants and animals has dropped by half. But what really caught my attention was his story ending statement, something akin to the following:
“It’s not a matter of whether the planet will go on. It will. The question is how long will plants and animals be able to survive.”
A bit dramatic? Maybe. Maybe not.
This immediately made me think about the way I deliver the two high performance girls’ soccer programs I’ve been hired to coach. As silly as it may sound, I feel that my coaching duties tie completely into our future as it pertains to the mission of Earth Day. That statement from the journalist haunts me. It reminds me of why I contemplated ever having kids (even though now I do have one and another soon to arrive). Prior to becoming a father, and even still now, all I could think about is the legacy I’d be leaving my child. “Here you go son, enjoy the plight I’ve left for you!” I never thought it fair to bring another person into this world only to have him or her deal with all the crap that was created by the rest of us.
“The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious.” – John Scully
So over the years I’ve done what I can to teach the kids I coach to take an active role in their learning. To become critical thinkers. To develop the skills necessary to become adaptable and flexible. To go beyond the simple X’s and O’s of being good soccer players.
Often times though that might look a lot less traditional than the typical youth soccer environment that kids and their parents are used to. I feel this only proves my point. We’re not very adaptable to change and we’re passing that lack of flexibility on to our children.
How do I know that the parents of the players I work with have a problem with what I’m doing? I don’t really but I’m pretty certain they exist. Some are very supportive and they let me know that. However, those that aren’t never seem to speak directly to me about their concerns. Instead, the technical director of the club that I work for seems to get fairly regular calls from some of these people asking why it is I’m doing things the way I do them.
I think it’s pretty obvious why I do what I do.
Do we not yet see that it’s about far more than learning soccer? With all the melodrama of a great blog post, our very future is at stake here and kids growing up today in the 21st century need a set of skills that growing up I (and probably my parents and their parents…) did not get, but could have certainly benefitted from. If we did, we’d probably have a healthier planet than we currently do.
21st century kids need to be able to show the following:
- Resilience – able to handle and bounce back from failure
- Resourcefulness – able to adapt and to have a Plan B (C, D, E or Z) if Plan A goes out the window
- Reflection – able to self-analyze and to understand how who they were can help them become a better future version of themselves
- Relationships – able to see that the group is far smarter than any one individual within the group and therefore committed to the group
Sure, I can take a traditional approach to coaching and just teach these kids how to play soccer. Or I can do my part to help them learn a set of skills (which manifest themselves in the form of the 4 R’s, for example) that will not only help them become better soccer players but also autonomous and responsible 21st century citizens. Adults capable of solving the serious problems that we’ve put in their laps.
Why do I choose to be a heretic? Well, I don’t think I can change the world but I can help prepare today’s kids (including my own) with the skills necessary to do their best to change it. I don’t believe that education is the sole responsibility of schools and teachers. I am far more than just a “soccer coach.” So I will do my part in the best way I know how to try and reverse the mess that we’ve so unceremoniously left for the current, and the coming, generations.
Next post Sunday, April 26th.
And here are 11 more great Earth Day talks.