“Moral virtues, like crafts, are acquired by practice and habituation.” -Aristotle
Should the goal of parenting, coaching or being an athlete, or teaching life lessons through sport be about helping them (kids, parents, coaches, youth, athletes) or ourselves learn how to fulfill potential through virtuous practice?
“Virtue is moral excellence. A virtue is a trait or quality that is deemed to be morally good and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being. Personal virtues are characteristics valued as promoting collective and individual greatness.” — Wikipedia
I heard a story about Kevin Durant, as a teenager, waking up before school to shoot with Alan Stein. Alan said an old woman walked by him at the empty YMCA and said, “Good morning, young man,” but KD didn’t hear her because of his headphones.
She spoke a little louder, “Excuse me, young man, I said, ‘good morning.’”
KD, not skipping a beat, took his headphones out and said, “Hello, mam, good morning to you.”
If there are types of virtuous athletes in the NBA, should we promote this type of behavior show them the true hidden meaning sport teaches us:
Respect. Sacrifice. Teamwork. Self-development. Interpersonal communication. Taking the hard path within a craft or passion.
After a game, varsity and high athletes shouldn’t be on their phones when they come out of the gym. They should be thanking the people that drove them to their sports events most of their life, to the people that watched and supported them, to fans and strangers alike.
“Jimmy, great game today.”
“Hello. Thank you.”
“Hey, Wendy tough loss yesterday?”
“Yes. We have to get back to work today and stick with the process. Thanks for coming to support us.”
You want kids that interact the right way, the kid that says hello to the random grandma after the game, or to the lonely kid that gets bullied in school. Not to get into ethics too deep, or moral standards too high, I want to say that as a pro basketball player, I’ve been around every type of athlete. The egomaniacs. The selfless givers. The team players. The greedy shot takers.
The best teammates (and subsequently teams) I’ve ever played on are high-character type people — they are the ones that care about you and act a certain way.
I’m grateful for my sports experiences, both good and bad.
The bad experiences taught me to deal with suffering with gratitude.
The good experiences taught me there is more to life than winning — it is the journey to that winning that tastes so sweet.
In my experience, I can say without a doubt, the players and athletes that learn to deal with their ego and play, practice, and live with virtue and practice being high character people within their personal or professional lives, are happier in the long run.
Athletes that transfer sports lessons into life lessons — whether it be personal or professional — will learn how to create joy, reach goals, and bring ideas to life in their lives later.
For the parents, coaches, or athletes that believe happiness is only success or achievement or status is missing the point of sport.
This precious (and rather short) sports journey can teach us how to fulfill our virtuous potential through practice if we allow it. Our self-awareness of strength and weakness, can also show us the power of sacrifice, for ourselves or the greater good of the team.
Bahh, whatever Trevor. You think like a hippie.
Okay, well, let’s be practical and real, for a second.
I’ll dump my own despise of virtuous behavior in doing cardio (running, biking, spinning, swimming) into the mix. I hate doing it (like puke, oh my God). But I know a dedicated athlete would do the cardio work because they need it to have the energy for a game.
I used to do the work for my athletics.
For me to be happy and healthy, it’s essential for my human body to move.
But I’m not a pro athlete anymore. I’m a coach, I tell myself.
Why work out? Why do fitness now?
Well, for starters, doing the cardio work helps me think straight. It helps me live less anxious, focus better, and more often than not, it transforms joy into other areas of my life.
Like meditation, or therapy, or personal coaching, you reveal or shine light on the parts of who you don’t have to be through doing the work.
No doubt, cardio is a huge pain in the ass.
But to reap the rewards of a healthy body and mind, I have to do the work —or as Ryan Holiday says, the obstacle is the way — and believe me when I say, happiness, a thriving mind, more health, and less anxiety is good for my life.
Live with virtue, Trevor. Do the thing you need to do.
But kids don’t always connect these internal dots — just like parents don’t. ESPN (and or society) teaches us to want hype. To be the star. To talk trash and be individualistic. Yet, this hyper-individualism isn’t going to work when they get to their first job or join a high-level college or pro team.
There is sacrifice. Their is unity. Their is ego jostling. I want little Tommy to empathize with custodian to the president one day, not push people down to rise himself up.
“Hey, Tommy, your role is to prepare the meeting room tomorrow morning. Thanks. See you at eight.”
“Hey, screw off John, I’m a damn star. I’m a Goddamn star. I’m not doing that lowly work.”
ESPN wants this. Media wants this. Ego wants this.
Don’t give it to them.
Our sports journey can represent the world out there — from the Atlantic ocean to the Pacific, from Asia to South America, from Chicago to LA to Paris — the diverse, different, and varieties of athletes, people, and co-workers, whether it be different skin colors, ethnicities, or beliefs.
The self-aware coach, athlete, and parent must help the student connect to something bigger or deeper inside; they must try to help them understand and learn what unites us to the rest of the world, or their team, or to the near-infinite amount of humans they will come across in their lifetime.
This is the magic of sport — not the money, or fame, or touchdown pass you threw in the high school district finals (or interception for that matter).