by Ryan Krzykowski

This morning I arrived at my high school teaching job and found a student I taught last year shivering outside.  On this chilly, rainy morning he’d walked about a mile to school in the dark.  I encouraged him to step inside the building and warm up, and he joked that while he did not enjoy the walk, at least someday he’d get to tell children that he used to have to walk to school in the rain, cold, dark and all during a global pandemic.  I couldn’t argue with that.  He was the picture of a resilient young man.

Over the years, as we’ve helped coaches throughout all levels of sports create their Coaching Purpose Statements, some common themes have emerged.  Coaches often write about teaching young people about teamwork, work ethic or serving others — certainly all worthy goals in coaching.  But maybe more than any other idea, coaches are out to teach their athletes to endure, to persevere, to be resilient in the face of adversity.

I’ve been paying attention to sports in a different way this year.  It’s kind of hard not to.  Plans change quickly.  Schedules are tentative.  We wake up on Sunday morning wondering which NFL games might be in jeopardy due to the virus.  No matter how you feel about decisions being made by those in charge — decisions about attendance, schedules, masks, or whatever else, here’s something I think we can all agree on.  This pandemic provides an opportunity to help us develop a generation of tough, resilient young athletes.

When I watched these kids work their tails off all summer, not knowing for sure whether they’d get to play a season…that’s resilient.

When they find out their team has to spend two weeks in quarantine before emerging to resume their season and they can handle it…that’s resilient.

When they find out their opponent went into quarantine and they’ll be playing a different team this week, so all their prep work starts over…that’s resilient.

When they put on masks to play volleyball or football without complaint because they know it’s either wear the thing or don’t play…that’s resilient.

Imagine the dividends that type of resilience and toughness will pay down the road.  We’ll have millions out there who have pushed through something incredibly challenging.  When life gets hard, when a marriage gets rocky, when parenting is heartbreaking or exhausting, any of these scenarios and so many more…these kids will remember back to 2020, how they stood firm in the face of adversity.  And we coaches can help them see just how valuable this whole experience can be.

Let’s Coach With Purpose…