The Power of Reading

“Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty.  It should be offered as a gift.” – Charles Scribner Jr.

I spent a lot of time at the library as a kid, especially during the summers.  It was a great resource for my mother as she tried to keep her five kids busy.  It was within walking distance from our house, and had two ballfields behind it.  So, in the event that one or more of us got bored reading, we could simply shuffle out the back and play ball.  My mom could keep all her kids within shouting distance.

I read all sorts of books; but my preference was always biographies.  And it wasn’t just on athletes.  Yes, I did read books on Roberto Clemente, Ted Williams and Ty Cobb.  But I also spent time reading biographies on Ben Franklin, Napoleon, and John Adams.  Biographies drew me in because I was fascinated about how ‘normal’ people grew into ‘extraordinary’ people.

Many times, without knowing an individual’s journey, we tend to label someone as being born with a gift; or having been ‘blessed’ with talent.  We see where they are today and not what they went through.  But, when you read their stories, you realize the amount of work they put themselves through to achieve what they achieved.  You learn about the pain and suffering they endured along their journey.  Without hearing, or reading their stories, we fail to see that they weren’t born with super-human talent.  They persevered through what causes many people to quit.

The journey that these individuals endured is something that I feel is lost on today’s youth players.  Many kids that I work with seem to be looking for a quick fix.  If they don’t see improvements after a season, they believe they don’t have the skills needed to be successful.  They are looking for instant results.  They are not willing to stay on the path to get them to their goal.  What they don’t understand is that the path is long.  And it may be winding.  And it may require that they find a new way.  They lose sight of their goal and become too focused on the difficulty of the path.  They see how easy some people make it look but don’t see that these individuals make it look easy because they were willing to endure the path.

Biographies can provide the inspiration that kids need to stay on their path, regardless of the number of obstacles they encounter.  It helps them understand that these super-humans started their journey from a point very similar to where they are starting.  And in some cases, they started from further behind.  But these individuals pushed through the obstacles; or found a new way.

As a coach, I feel obligated to find any and all angles that can help improve the player.  Some times it may be putting them through a new drill to improve a skill.  Some times it may be showing them video to help them understand their weaknesses.  And some times it may be handing them a book.  A book that can help inspire them to push through the difficult times they may be experiencing.