20 Aug Don’t Follow the Crowd in Youth Sports
I didn’t join a travel team until I was 14-years-old.
Until then, all through elementary and middle school, I played on a recreational team called the Blue Bobcats.
I loved my rec team. I had a hip coach who was from Austria. He had a cool accent. His soccer IQ was out of this world. My teammates were quirky and my best friends.
After each practice, I was bursting with excitement on the car ride home to my parents, “when is the next practice?!” I was eager to train and do it all over again.
I was tempted, however, to leave my current situation that was so incredibly perfect. Travel coaches scouted me and pulled my parents aside, telling them how gifted I was. It all was shiny and amazing, and alluring. I was close to leaving my coach and my teammates.
Alas, no amount of cajoling from travel coaches could’ve gotten me to leave my team. Even though I could’ve jumped from rec to travel, I stayed with rec. I was loyal to the Blue Bobcats.
I took the narrow road.
Even though my peers were joining travel teams, I declined.
Even though coaches tried to persuade me it was for my best interest, I knew it wasn’t.
At the time, I wanted a few more years on my rec team because nothing was wrong. I wasn’t going to fix what wasn’t broken. I’m so glad I stayed because the extra few years on my rec team made me fall in love with the game more.
A few years later when I turned 14, I made the decision myself to go to travel because I was finally ready.
Maybe you’re wrestling with a decision right now – where you can choose to follow the crowd, or do the opposite of what everyone else is doing.
You know what you want, in fact, you know what is best for you, yet you still refuse to listen. Instead, you listen to the voices of others, or the voice within you that is easily tempted, and wants immediate gratification and approval.
So perhaps you choose to follow the crowd.
You’re similar to the rap artist who sold his soul to a record label. You’re the comedian who tries not to offend everyone and who gives up his original jokes that made him unique. You’re the kid who goes to the party to drink because you want to be seen as cool. You know it’s wrong. But you do it anyway.
How’s that working out for you?
In sports, you follow the the crowd every day, and you don’t know it. Have you ever stopped to think what you’re currently doing isn’t working for you?
You’re on that higher level team because of the status and name, but you don’t play a single minute.
You’re chasing colleges that will make a grandiose Instagram post and make you look awesome, but they don’t want you.
You’re playing year-round, practicing four days a week, with no break because you’re told to, but you know it’s not for your best health.
You’re putting toxic junk into your body and chugging energy drinks because the rest of your teammates are, but you know it’s terrible for your performance.
You’re joining in on the gossip because you want to have authority over others, but you know it’s harmful.
You’re scrolling TikTok because it feels so good to not pay attention to your own troubled life, but you know deep down it takes time away from your improvement.
You don’t prepare meals for tournaments because you’re lazy and so is everyone else, but you know this makes performance nutrition harder and you more exhausted in the end.
You don’t stick to a program because you lack discipline and consistency, but you know this hinders your results, not to mention, you know deep down you’re disrespecting your parents’ time and money, as well as your coach.
Is any of this working for you?
Maybe you’re a parent.
Maybe you’re pressured into keeping up with the Jones’ and you struggle between doing what is truly best for your kid, or what will get you approval from your neighbors. Perhaps you’re trying to please the team coach.
You’re scared to assert yourself, and jeopardize your kid’s playing time.
You’re keeping your kid on year-round sport, and not allowing them to explore another hobby that could change their lives.
You’re still taking them to practice in the Summer, and risking overuse injury and mental burnout.
You’re paying for the team with the best acronym, and not asking what your kid wants.
You’re still quiet and you don’t challenge the coach’s plethora of 3 mile conditioning tests and unnecessary fitness sessions and HIIT circuits at the beginning of practice, and you leave your kid in the hands of someone who is downright negligent.
You’re still making your daughter who has Osgood-Schlatter and intense knee pain still push through games, and you put her knee at risk for worse injury.
You’re trying to do what is gratifying in the now, what makes you comfortable, what makes you safe.
‘My daughter can’t take a month off to get better…she would fall behind the rest, or she would miss that showcase,’ you try to justify your addiction to short term gratification, and keeping up with everyone else.
Is this the path you truly want to take?
The narrow path is hard. It tests you to get clear on your values and take a stand.
You risk being persecuted, shamed, and even bullied. You’re going to feel icky at first.
No one said it was going to be Candy Land.
But the road less traveled, though challenging, produces far more fruit in the long term because you stay true to your integrity. Instead of chasing approval from everyone else, you begin pursuing what is meaningful to you, and oftentimes, it’s something great than yourself that will require immense struggle. At least, initially.The road less traveled, though challenging, produces far more fruit in the long term because you stay true to your integrity Click To Tweet
Through this difficult path, you are led to more fulfillment because you’re not living through others and you’re not seeking approval from the world. The narrow road is not about worldly approval, but instead, your purpose.The narrow road is not about worldly approval, but instead, your purpose. Click To Tweet
When something is common, I urge you to question it. You don’t find purpose by doing what is common. You find it by doing what is uncomfortable.
Truthfully, not many find the small gate and enter.
They are blindly led astray by the majority, and then wonder why they are lost and unfulfilled when they climb for so long, yet end up at the wrong peak. You’re disoriented because it’s cold and lonely at the top.
But just because everyone is doing what’s mainstream, doesn’t mean it’s good.
You also have to ask yourself, what is the end goal you’re aiming for? Will following others truly get you there?
Going deeper, is it worth following the crowd, or perhaps are you better off seeing what awaits at the end of the narrow path?
Don’t follow the crowd.
Have you said this before? How often do you repeat this mantra? How often do you actually take your own advice?
When everyone else flocked to the sparkly allure of travel soccer in elementary and middle school, I stuck with my rec team until age 14, and it was the best decision I made for my leisure time and soccer development.
When I got offered Division I spots in the ACC and Big 10 conferences, and everyone else said yes to these schools, I chose to play Division 3 at Johns Hopkins University, and it was the best decision of my soccer and academic career.
When all of my college classmates became medical doctors because that was the thing to do as a Johns Hopkins University graduate, I decided to pursue coaching, and it was the best decision for my purpose on impacting the younger generations.
When all of my old friends still partied and drank every weekend into their 30s, I quit drinking and partying, and it was the best decision for my mental and physical health.
When all of the female Influencers around me are showing off and taking glamorous selfies to get followers and make money, I stayed true to educational content.
I was made fun of for not choosing D1, even called crazy. I got shamed by my peers for quitting alcohol. I didn’t get quick followers or make quick cash by going the educational route on social media. And thank goodness, because now I see why I took the narrow road.
It’s hard, but I promise you, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The initial pain was so meager compared to the long-term benefits that are still, to this day, paying off more than I ever could’ve dreamed of.
Analyze your own life.
Are you following the crowd?
Are you mustering up the courage to stick out like a sore thumb?
Are you putting on your shield with conviction and bravery, ready to be bullied and shamed?
Are you finally pursuing what is meaningful, and not what gets you approval?
Are you taking the narrow path, that so few discover?
Are you going to come out on the other end with your integrity, character and values still intact?
Don’t follow the crowd in youth sports.
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“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” – Matthew 7:13-14