Larry Banman – Grab a different plate for each salad bar trip
Grand County, Colorado
“Don’t breath on the food, don’t sneeze on the food and grab a new plate for each trip to the salad bar.”
Those were the instructions the coach gave to his young male charges at a Pizza Hut in Steamboat Springs last Friday night. It was apparent the boys were on an overnight stay for some athletic venture and had stopped for dinner to eat the universally accepted top choice of food for young people.
I’m sure the boys had heard the same speech numerous times from their parents. This, however, was different. They were now in a position of being trusted by another adult, a mentor, somebody who wasn’t afraid to send them home if they misbehaved. I have been on both sides of the parent/coach dynamic. Parents are often surprised and even amazed when they hear how attentively their children listened and how responsibly they acted. For some parents, they have stopped hearing anything but grunts and groans for months and even years. They find it amazing that intelligent life actually exists behind that facade of teenage indifference.
I like to remind myself and other parents that kids never stop listening, even when they have stopped acknowledging that they are listening. If you don’t believe me, try this experiment. Drop into you conversation a word that is “edgy.” A week later, when your child uses that same word, ask him or her to stop and then prepare yourself for a diatribe about being a hypocrite.
As I sat in that Pizza Hut enjoying my pizza and the sight of a dozen young men navigating their way around a salad bar (bacon bits were definitely a hit) I reflected on the role of coaches, teachers and mentors in the lives of our children. I believe they play an invaluable role in the development of the young men and women whom we want to lead our society in the future.
In an ideal world, those role models build on the lessons and values instilled at home (this also assumes that lessons and values are being taught at home). I realize some parents are threatened by the presence of outside influences in the lives of their children. My belief is that the best time for a child to encounter those influences is when a parent is available to help sort through what is encountered. Certain things need to be discarded, other things need to be embraced and some others just need to be observed with bemusement. You can’t pretend certain things don’t exist. I always wanted to be in a position to offer some guidance, perspective and advice when those types of things cropped up in the lives of my own children.
I was reminded of the responsibility that is borne by those individuals who serve as mentors in the lives of our children. In the role they serve, they are in a position to be a positive influence. They are also in a position, unfortunately, to be a negative influence. Adults in those positions define what it means to be in a position of trust. That trust is almost inherent in the role in which they serve. Those who abuse that trust connection should never be tolerated.
Parents should always exercise wisdom in helping their children make choices. I believe they should be observant enough to know about the people who are influencing the lives of their offspring. Too often, however, I believe we focus on the end result, the wins and losses, the successes, the scholarships. We define a coach primarily by his or her winning percentage or a teacher by the number of valedictorians he or she has taught. We don’t value the lessons learned about how to relate to people and how to adapt to difficult situations.
Certainly, the purpose of every game is to score more points than the opposition. We compete every single day of our lives. What I never want to forget, however, is that the journey is sometimes just as important as the destination. I know I have spent a lot more time at a salad bar than I have spent hoisting a championship trophy. I’m glad somebody along the way told me to grab a new plate for each trip.
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