Thursday, September 24, 2009

Learning from Sports

It's almost embarrassing to say that I enjoyed one of my biggest "ah-ha's"  from a golf book.   In the book, With Winning in Mind,  Lanny Basham offered a graphic to explain his idea that no matter what a person's potential, they could achieve no greater than the limits of their self-image.  Wisdom is wisdom, and I suspect it transcends our parochial interests.  Today I'd like to make mention of another concept that I've run into frequently in the literature of sport:  process.

Golf writers repeatedly intone that great golfers (think athletes and high-achievers in other areas, as well), must build a great routine, a process, and stick to it, regardless of the momentary results.  One can see baseball players going through seemingly silly routines while batting.  Basket ball players fidget before their free throws.  The behaviors have a point, they keep the athlete in "flow," repeating behaviors which are associated with a successful conclusion to the activity.  Although they may not seem so, the behaviors have become associated with the activity and are habitual and instinctive parts of successfully completing the activity.

Adults working with children don't have the luxury of having a limited set of situations in which to act.  In a single day, they may be called to perform in a hundred varied interactions with children.  So what is the process there?  I suggest that the "process" is that of helping to produce a capable adult.  The adult has to build a repertoire of behaviors which lead children toward wisdom and responsibility:  the ability to function successfully in the adult world by the time the child reaches adulthood.  How an adult builds this repertoire is, perhaps, a topic for another day.

For now, suffice it to say that it seems wise for parents to have a clear picture of the child as adult and be committed to shaping the child as opportunities present themselves.  It means that immediate unpleasantness, for example in the form of an unhappy child, is acceptable if parent or teacher is focusing current decisions on the long-term welfare of the child.

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