The T-Ballification of America’s Youth

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Mike Stidham Speaks Out

I can directly link the sense of entitlement and lack of motivation our youth expresses today to the day we stopped teaching them to hit a baseball that was actually thrown at them. Instead we set the ball on a Tee and gave them as many swings as they need to hit the ball. On top of that, regardless of how many more runs one team scores than the other, no winners or losers are declared.

The T-Ballification of America was the beginning of the end. No longer did youngsters have the drive to be better than the competition. They didn’t need to. Regardless of his or her performance, they were going to receive the same trophy as the other guy.

Participation ribbons were one thing. I get that each kid deserves a little smack on the ass for at least trying, but not declaring a winner or a loser just taught our children not to try.

Recently a ‘martial artist’ visited my gym. She was very talented, and had pretty decent technique. It was the beginning of Summer and the gym was somewhat hot. She quit ½ through class, complaining about the heat. She said she just couldn’t continue.

I contend that regardless of her seemingly good technique, she was no martial artist. If she learned her martial arts in an air-conditioned room with matted floors, and was unable to execute her martial arts in conditions that were less favorable… she had no business calling herself a martial artist.

Learning to defend yourself in the heat of battle means you are accustomed to adverse conditions, and you are mentally and physically prepared to endure them. You prepared to persevere and rise to the occasion. Her martial arts instructor did her a disservice. All this time, she thought she had learned a skill that in reality she had not. Her kicks were pretty, but what good are they if you are unable to throw them in adverse conditions?

I have seen a paradigm shift in our society regarding those who underachieve. When I was a child, I was scared to death to have my teacher call my mother to tell her I had acted up in class. Nowadays, teachers are scared to death to make that call, for fear of how the parent will respond. Undoubtedly, Mom or Dad would blame the teacher for creating an environment that would allow their son or daughter to act out.

At first blush, the sense of entitlement and the lack of drive are two completely separate issues, but I submit they are connected.

I am a huge MMA fan. I have enjoyed watching the sport evolve and how the athletes have become more and more talented. This would debunk my theory about kids having no drive, because they could not reach such great heights without it. But, more often than not, I find myself reading stories about athletes that have committed a bone-head crime, or fallen out with their trainer or management team, or tested dirty for a banned substance. There is a lack of accountability that is created when you stop keeping score. There is a lack of responsibility if your teammates are not depending upon you when you step up to the plate.

Compound that issue with the powers that be taking all the emotion out of the game for fear you may hurt each other’s feelings. The NFL disallowed celebrating a good play. You are now considered taunting if you show any emotion for succeeding. When did we get so sensitive that we cannot handle seeing our opponent jump up and down? That should do nothing but fuel your fire to work harder and do what is necessary to not let that happen again.

Bring back the pitcher. Make him stand out on the mound, and throw the ball over the strike zone. Make his opponent stare him in the eye and try to make contact with that ball. Make the outcome of the game depend upon who gets the best of whom. Teach a kid how to win a game, and how to come up on the short end of the stick. Make him look his teammates in the eye when he fails, and let him be carried on their shoulders when he succeeds.

I teach martial arts, not baseball, but the analogy crosses over. While a healthy and safe environment is always strived for, Little Johnny just might get punched in his face. And as much as it hurts us as parents to see that happen, it might not be the worst thing that could happen to him. He might just realize that if he keeps his hands up like his instructor taught him, or used the footwork that we have been working on in class, he just might not suffer the same result in the future.

If we as parents teach our children accountability at a young age, as well as the importance to strive to be the best they can be, rather than coddling them, and trying to protect them from the evils of the world, they will have a much greater chance at success as they grow older.

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