Contrary to popular belief, it is not what you do that matters most or even how you do it. The most important part of what you do is why you choose to do it. Consider your young athletes. To excel at something, it is far more important that there be a strong and personal reason for them to do it than that they simply know what the action is and its mechanics. Swinging a bat is about more than force and torque: it’s about hitting home runs. This rather magic reversal of our understanding happens simply by asking one question and applying it to everything that we do: What is your Why?
What Is Your Why?
Think for a moment about what you do. You might have thoughts of your life as a mother or father, a businessperson, etc. Now, once you’ve got that image in mind, consider how you perform that role. As a mother or father, you take care of your children and feed them and get to school or practice on time. As a professional, you might work on a computer or with coworkers.
Finally, consider why you do what you do. You are a mother or a father, a business owner or something else. You work on machines or with others. But why do you do that? There is no right or wrong answer. There is only the answer that is true for you, the motivation that gets you out of bed and into the right gear each day.
Students and athletes also typically have a pretty solid understanding of what they do (homework, practice, etc.). They also get how the parts work together (reading and writing, conditioning and training, etc.). But they don’t always have a great grasp of their ultimate reason for the schoolwork and athletic practice they spend so much time on.
Using this line of reasoning, you can communicate so much better with your young athlete. If you can probe a bit, you will be able to help them uncover their Why for themselves. They might answer at first with a What or How answer. They might eventually arrive at a “results” answer (getting better grades, winning games, etc.). However, the real foundation for their actions comes from something much deeper.
Why the Why Helps to Guide Young Athletes
There is a very good reason for the power behind pinning down the Why. The brain has several parts, each of which is responsible for different activities. The neocortex is the most recently evolved part, which controls rational thought and even language. The limbic system, however, governs our feelings and our connections to motivation; interestingly enough, it has no ability to communicate with words.
The limbic system is an older and “deeper” system in our brains. It is where “gut feelings” come from and why we sometimes can’t articulate our ideas about important beliefs as they relate to our motivations. As young adults grow up and mature, their brains continue to develop. They can practice getting in touch with the reasoning behind their actions in order to form strong and meaningful connections.
If you can help your athlete to figure out their Why, they will be guided by it as they pursue their own passions. Whether they’re athletic or academic in nature, your students can become empowered to do the things they love, and know exactly why they’re doing it. To put it another way: state championships only last for a little while, but personal pride and
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