Appeals for character education are soaring higher and higher these days. And right in front of our noses, every day, is one of the solutions: school and youth sports.
It’s not that coaches and teachers fail to teach character, it’s that character building isn’t an automatic “A.” If you don’t have it, it’s not easy to learn. A lousy attitude, heaven forbid, may make learning inconvenient for those who need a character change the most.
So, you ask, what is a character education curriculum? It doesn’t take a committee study, political intervention grant or the reform of education sports. To find out, ask. Just ask the athletic administrator and/or coach. Reading the athletic code is also a good source.
You will discover a curriculum in the team code. Character lessons are usually listed in self-achievable objectives (sometimes rules) that are easily measured.
Real winners look adversity in the eye and use their ability and courage to succeed. That takes character. Turnovers, bad serves, third-and-22, muddy tracks, second- or last-place finishes all test the level of character to work harder and accomplish even more.
Adversity in sports is an opportunity to build a whole lot more than “sports” character.
And we all admire the character it takes for a big comeback.
Excluding about 50 extraneous daily pressures faced while “maturing,” a young athlete has at least five tests that can immediately destroy or build character:
(1) Let “good enough be good enough” … or practice to correct and prevent mistakes, every day.
(2) Avoid, quit, walk away … or treat adversity as the test it is.
(3) Put “it” off and hope it goes away … or face it immediately.
(4) Be afraid to fail … or accept failure as a natural consequence of trying.
(5) Feel sorry for yourself, blame others … or decide that “failing is when failure is accepted”.
Yes, there are more than 50 growing-up character-builders. Some are huge challenges and some are easy fixes. Character is built now, and help is needed now. All athletes eventually determine when and how they accept success or failure.
Steve Largent has an acronym wall-hanger for young athletes (embellished by a few Gilliesisms borrowed from coaches I admire):
F: Forget your failures. Don’t dwell on past mistakes.
A: Anticipate setbacks. Realize we all make mistakes.
I: Intensity in everything you do. Never be a failure for lack of effort.
L: Learn from mistakes. Don’t repeat previous errors.
U: Understand why you failed. Practice and plan success.
R: Respond with positive action. Seize the opportunity to be better.
E: Elevate your self-concept. Treat yourself to become better.
At the risk of criticism, here’s my view of the causes of concerns regarding character education:
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