While You Were Waiting
Nobody likes to wait. Especially in this age of convenience and immediacy, waiting is harder than ever. I hate to admit some of the things I’ve thought about people who’ve made me wait– the guy in the drive-thru line who’s paying with all nickels and dimes. The lady at the grocery check-out who’s convinced she has one more coupon somewhere down in the bottom of her purse. The car in front of me at the ATM who’s working through his third consecutive transaction. It’s not hard to feel frustrated, agitated, or impatient…even ready to bolt, to find someplace else to do my business.
Unfortunately, for most of the players on a team – any team, from the pros, through college and high school, and even down to the youth level – waiting is a part of the experience. Almost everyone’s waiting for something they want. Waiting to get more playing time. Waiting to become a starter. Waiting to showcase their skill. Waiting to be the go-to guy. Waiting isn’t the player’s choice, and that can be tough. If you’re the parent of a player who has to wait, you’re probably living the struggle alongside your son. As the season goes on, you might be feeling more and more frustrated, agitated, or impatient…maybe, at some point, even ready to bolt, to find someplace else for your son to do his business.
Waiting isn’t easy because it’s not what either you or your son has chosen. Maybe it’s not what you think he deserves. Plus, because this challenge exists outside your control, you may feel powerless to change it.
But today, I want to encourage you to take back your power – to focus on controlling the controllables. This is one of the fundamental qualities of a champion athlete, and I’d argue likely a fundamental quality of a champion athlete’s parent, too. Waiting to get what we want is a challenge that exists throughout life for any of us – from the time we are a young athlete all the way through adulthood.
Dwelling on what’s outside our control is the easy thing for any of us to do. Everyone wants success for their kid. It’s not hard to feel a sense of unfairness if your son has to wait – and that sense may even be justified. The problem is, dwelling on what’s uncontrollable can lead us swiftly into a victim mentality. This mindset robs us of our power and our purpose. In the process, it also takes our focus off what’s most important – those things we can control. I’d argue that the best of the best in any area, from a superstar athlete to that athlete’s superstar parent, have developed this understanding of the truth.
So then, the most important question isn’t, “Will your son have to wait?” (The answer? Probably, yes.) And it’s not, “How long will he have to wait?” (The answer? Probably longer than you want.) The most important question simply is this: What will your son do while he waits?
The most important question isn’t, “Will your son have to wait?”
And it’s not, “How long will he have to wait?” The most important question is simply this:
What will your son do while he waits?
He can do what many athletes do while they wait – he can become a victim. He can feel sorry for himself and work hard to justify the unfairness of his situation. He can find someone to blame – his coach, his teammates, someone. He can hope those playing ahead of him fail, or that the team fails without him, so he can justify his own injustice. He can pout, or sulk, or quit because he believes he’s entitled to something better.
Or, of course, he can respond to this challenge another way – the champion’s way. How does a champion respond when he has to wait? He focuses on the controllables. There are actually a number of important things he can control, and he’s focused on identifying those and getting to work. Paramount among them: just keep getting better. A champion understands that at some point, his opportunity will come. Some people take what seems to be the quick, short, easy road to success. But for most, they’ll have to embrace the journey. It will be a longer, and slower, and sometimes more painful road to get where they want, but they can get there. If. If and only if, they are willing to embrace the process, persevere through the challenges, and just keep getting better while they wait. Plenty of others will bail - they’ll get frustrated, agitated, impatient – and end up looking for someplace else to do their business.
Whatever it is your son decides to do while he waits, it’s likely he’ll take his cue from you. As always, what you emphasize is what your son will learn to value. If your focus is on justifying the unfairness of his situation, finding someone to blame, or rooting against those who have what he’s waiting to get, then you’ll demonstrate for your boy what it looks like to play the role of the victim – and you’ll encourage him to become a victim, too. Don’t underestimate the power of your example.
The alternative, of course, is that you help him focus on controlling the controllables. Encourage him to just keep getting better – to develop his skills, so that when his opportunity comes, he’ll be as ready as he can be. Help him build the toughness it takes to overcome this adversity; that will benefit him greatly moving forward. Maintain a high expectation for his effort – not getting what you want right now is no excuse for not giving your best in a smaller role. And demand that he support those who do have what he’s waiting to get. He can do all these things right now, in spite of the wait. If he does keep his focus on the controllables, he’ll prove that he can be trusted with the role that he’s got, which will probably help him move into a bigger and better role sooner instead of later. I think you’ll find that by focusing on the process, you’ll both end up appreciating who he becomes, regardless of what he gets or how long it takes to get it.
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