A very successful and popular basketball training program recently put out a tweet that said:
“Be in consistent pursuit of being the coach that players will one day reflect on as a hero”
I grimaced when I read that, because I knew that many coaches would read it, consider the source, and treat it as the gospel truth.
It also stuck me because that is how I used to approach coaching, and it was very ineffective, and borderline harmful to me and my players.
It’s dangerous to approach anything with the idea of being a hero, because it gets in the way of what really matters.
If my son or daughter was in great danger, and for some reason I couldn’t go to them, I would never want to hear the guy next to me say, “Bro, watch me be a hero right here”. I use the word bro, not because I hang out with people who say bro, but because I feel like it’s the kind of thing a bro would say.
All I want someone focused on in that moment, is saving my child. Not saving my child, getting on the news, and having me and my family be grateful for them for the rest of their lives. Those things might happen as a byproduct of him doing the right thing (saving my child), but that shouldn’t be his focus.
Even as heartfelt and touching as it may sound to say “I’m going to be your hero”, when your child is born, it’s not the right approach. Again, that may indeed happen, but imagine if all of our decisions as parents were focused on being our kid’s hero. I feel like I’ve seen parents who may have adopted this philosophy, and it doesn’t usually look like its’ going all that well.
We should be focused on loving our children, teaching them to work hard, to be honest, to have empathy, to be kind, helping them develop positive self-esteem and self awareness, and a number of other traits that you may value. Focusing on being their hero, whether we realize it or not, greatly inhibits our ability to be a good parent.
And I don’t know about you, but I have enough challenges in being a good parent, I don’t need to create anymore by trying to be Superman for my kids.
I’m no superhero expert, but it seems to me that most superheroes only had one or two flaws. Superman had kryptonite. I guess Batman’s was the fact that he was human, and struggled to balance being a Batman and Bruce Wayne. Spiderman, depending on which remake you watch, either struggled with his ego, or with being a hero while also trying to figure out how to be Mary Jane’s boyfriend.
I’ve got way more flaws than one or two and if I spend the rest of my children’s lives trying to hide them, it’s going to be exhausting, inauthentic, and not very helpful for my children. They need to see me make mistakes, and know that it’s okay. They need to hear me apologize, and ask them for forgiveness, and be uncertain about life.
Heroes don’t discipline. Heroes don’t take the long view, they try and be a hero in the here and now. Heroes focus on what it looks like from the outside, not what they are trying to build on the inside.
Children don’t generally need a hero to save them. They need a good example. They need a mom. They need a dad.
Players don’t need you to be a hero. They need someone to hold them accountable. They need someone to love them. They need to be pushed and challenged. They need a coach.
Whether we are coaching, parenting, or saving people from burning buildings, when we focus on being a hero, we put the focus on ourselves, and take it off of the person that we are supposed to be serving. When we try to be a hero, we make our decisions from the perspective of saving the day, being remembered, or being glorified. This perspective does little to help us make sound decisions that are best for our kids or players and can in fact be detrimental.
Focus first on the people you are loving and serving. Be diligent in doing right things well. And don’t try so hard to be a hero.