It’s obvious that Kobe Bryant was more than a basketball player for many. Kobe was the man. Kobe was the defensive Doberman. Kobe was the Black Mamba. Kobe was an icon.
Kobe was a legend that many aspired to be like.
But aspirations weren’t simply because of Kobe’s basketball talents.
People aspired to be like Kobe for his insane, incomparable, work ethic.
Kobe showed the world that being the best athlete in the world is not God given; it’s only earned through astronomical like work-ethic.
That astronomical like work-ethic is was what we now call the “Mamba Mentality.”
Everyone aspired to develop the Mamba Mentality, but very few would ever achieve the level of mental toughness that Kobe had.
As many of you probably know by now, Kobe, and others, were on his personal helicopter that went down earlier this week, and the man that we all knew to be invincible is now gone.
While many people have different ways to mourn the loss of such a great father (in Kobe’s words, “girl-dad,” husband, and legend, I decided to write this blog as an acknowledgement, a celebration of life, and a simple THANK YOU for Kobe Bryant’s impact that he’s made on many people of this world over his 41 young years.
No matter what cloth you were cut from, every person in the world felt the loss of not only a basketball superstar but a man that set the tone for greatness in all aspects of life.
What our Youth Can Learn from Kobe
If I could choose only one lesson from Kobe Bryant to teach our youth of today, I would undoubtedly choose the importance and the value of the PROCESS, not the outcome.
What is probably my favorite quote from Kobe Bryant comes during his number retiring ceremony:
“Those times when you get up early and you work hard. Those times you stay up late and you work hard. Those times when you don’t feel like working. You’re too tired. You don’t want to push yourself, but you do it anyway. That is actually the dream.” – Kobe Bryant
Oftentimes, our youth are fixated on the outcome and less on the process.
You see it everywhere today, in schools, in sports organizations, and at home.
Students are doing work for a letter grade, not for learning.
Young athletes are playing sports for trophies and championships, not for fun or development.
Young athletes play numerous games but practice infrequently.
It seems that in every avenue of life, we’re praising the importance of the outcome and failing to emphasize the importance of the process.
The School System…
In modern schools, students are disciplined with poor letter grades for not answering questions with 100% accuracy.
Students are not encouraged to fail; rather, they are labeled by a letter, which indicates their current level of success.
Alternatively, education should emphasize the process of learning. Our system should be complex and full of learning.
It should be filled with teachable moments that encourage learning through failure.
Instead, our educational system uses an outcome driven, five-letter grading system, that is simple and typically demoralizing for students.
In the most simplistic picture, good grades seem to reward those with natural knowledge (natural talents), and stigmatize/discourage those who have to work a bit harder to comprehend a subject in order to be “successful,” according to our current five-letter grading system.
All of which, subconsciously, may be teaching our students to focus less on the process and more on the outcome.
Youth Sports Organizations
Our youth sports organizations have been corrupted by the “Must Win” mentality by parents and coaches. They have made the “Must Win” mentality the primary, and only, indicator for success, pushing us further away from the importance of having a process driven mindset.
Why is this an issue?
Well, when an athlete’s travel ball team doesn’t win a championship, or when an athlete doesn’t receive the playing time that they think they deserve, they then jump ship to another team because the other team was “unfair” to them.
But what lesson is that teaching our youth?
It’s teaching them that when life gets hard, or when life doesn’t give you exactly what you desire, you give up and move somewhere else that does, and everything will be okay.
Doesn’t that sound like quite the opposite of being focused on the process?
This is why our youth are now being labeled “entitled.”
And reality check: it’s NOT their fault.
It’s the fault of the parents and coaches that allow it.
Naturally Gifted Vs Developing Athletes
Our “naturally gifted” athletes are proclaimed by parents and coaches as the “next big thing” or being “league bound” at the youngest of ages.
These athletes are not praised because of their work ethic; they are not being praised on the process that brought them to their current skill level; rather, they’ve been praised for their natural abilities.
Dr. Xing conducted a study in 2018 which was published in the journal “Frontier Psychology.” Xing’s research explored the differential effects of ability and effort praise in an attempt to account for the etiology of self-serving attribution and self-handicapping behaviors.
The results showed that ability praise led children to use self-serving failure attribution in addition to claimed and behavioral self-handicapping and to achieve less improvement on post-failure tests.
While research is great, sometimes it’s not always practical.
So, if you want practical, next time you’re at the ball field, don’t talk; just watch and listen.
Watch how the coaches interact with the “gifted” athletes, and watch how they interact with the athletes that are still developing.
Unintentionally, you’ll find that each athlete is coached the same: outcome driven. It’s not about getting better that day; it’s about throwing that fast ball absolutely perfect or kicking that soccer ball absolutely perfect. Nothing is mentioned about the process; rather, success is indicated by the outcome.
We are measuring success on outcomes, never acknowledging the growth from the process.
The number of strikeouts.
The number of baskets.
A win or a lose.
Our success is measured based on perfect execution instead of the process.
80% Play 20% Practice
For those of you that know me, you know I’m big on facts and research, but I’ll be honest here. There are not any facts to be included within this next section.
Alternatively, I will present anecdotal evidence in the form of my observations and experiences over the past seven years and personal findings gathered by talking to other youth performance professionals. Although the information presented in the forthcoming paragraphs within this section may not be considered factual or evidence based, I believe that you’ll find what I present to be quite accurate.
Today, kids play roughly 80% of the time and practice the other 20%. They go from tournament to tournament, playing for different travel ball teams, school teams and recreational teams, all aspiring to win a trophy because that’s what success looks like, right?
Although they may be practicing at least 20% of their time, what kind of quality do you think the 20% is?
What kind of effort do you think they are giving in practice?
Probably not 100% because practice is not as fun as a game, so why would they waste their energy on the small minority, 20%?
The mindset here is if the athlete plays more, they become better, right?
Well, I think that’s wrong.
I believe that deliberate practice is where you become better at your craft.
“Film Study is all about detail. From a young age-a very young age- I devoured film and watched everything I could get my hands on….The biggest element that changed over time, however, was I went from watching what was there to watching for what was missing and should have been there. I went from watching what happened to what could have and should have happened. Film study eventually became imagining alternatives, counters, options, in addition to the finite details of why some actions work and others don’t work.” – Kobe Bryant
There was a study conducted around 1996 that analyzed total practice time compared to total tournament time and compared the relevance it had on player skill level. The study concluded that the players at the most elite levels of chess completed nearly 5x more hours of deliberate practice then those of lower skill ratings.
“Cumulative hours of serious study alone, arguably the best index of cumulative deliberate practice in chess, was the single most important predictor of a player’s current chess rating among a set of activities considered by experts to be relevant to chess skill (Charness et al., 1996)”
While this study was established with Chess players, I believe that it relates to all other crafts. With that, we should be striving for the reverse, 80% practice and 20% play.
3 Ways Coaches Can Emphasize the Process More than the Outcome
- At the start of each season, hold a player only and parent only meeting (two separate meetings) discussing the importance of long-term development, and set your athlete and parent standards. The standards should be process driven.
- Praise improvement (even the slightest bit)instead of outcomes. Improving by just 1% each day is a great mantra to go by. Incremental Improvements.
- Make deliberate practice mandatory. If you don’t practice, you don’t play.
3 Ways Parents Can Emphasize the Process More than the Outcome
- After a game, ask open ended questions to generate a conversation rather than having a lecture with your athlete. After games as questions like the following, “did you have fun,” “what did you learn,” “are you happy with the outcome?” “What do you think that you can do, or what will you do to create your desired outcome?”
- Encourage your athlete to not only fail, but to analyze their failures concerning how they can improve. Failure should be viewed as an opportunity to grow.
- Don’t step in when your athlete is struggling. If your athlete isn’t receiving playing time, allow them to analyze why. Often times it’s because they’re not the better player, so encourage them to decide how they want to handle the situation.
3 Ways Athletes Can Emphasize the Process More than the Outcome
- Study all game film, including wins and losses
- Self-evaluate daily. Ask yourself, what can I do to be a better teammate? Introspection is essential to personal development.
- Understand that outcomes occur from individual moments. A desired outcome comes from a series of small moments and winning these moments will bring you to the desired outcome.
Involvement in youth sports, statistically, has been on a decline for many years now, and it’s time we stop blaming our youth. I challenge every coach and parent out there to self-reflect on their teachable moments. Are you doing the best possible job to set your youth up for a career full of success? Are you instilling the Mamba Mentality in your athletes? How can YOU be better as a coach or parent? After all, you can control only your actions.
Last but not least, my condolences goes out to the Bryant family and all other passengers on his helicopter. The loss is tragic to their families, but we must not forget about the impact that their loved ones have left on this earth. We may not know much about the other passengers, but I guarantee that each and every one of them has left their mark on this world in some way or another.
May each of them rest in peace and find happiness in their next journey of life, knowing that their legacies will still continue on through all of us.
Please go ahead and hug your loved ones a little longer today and cherish each moment with them.
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Study on Effort: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6176062/
Role of deliberate practice study: http://clinica.ispa.pt/ficheiros/areas_utilizador/user11/11_-_the_role_of_dp_in_chess_expertise.pdf