There’s a nugget of life advice often given to high school kids, particularly high school athletes. A nugget that is so off-the-rails I cannot believe it has survived
“These are the best years of your life.”
Best years? Lord, I hope not! The best years of your life in high school? That seems kind of depressing forecast on the power and potential of each young athlete and student.
The BEST years?
No, but they are special years. They are years in which the high school students are afforded unique life opportunities. They are special because the future is a blank and open canvas.
Teenagers, listen up! You may feel a giant load of pressure right now to define your future. The system will tell you that you should have the specifics of life cemented firmly in place by graduation day. WTeenagers, when that day arrives and this pressure mounts, fling off this weighted jacket of the system’s expectations.
The canvas of your future should be painted with your passions and desires and likes and dislikes.
It’s okay not to know exactly what you want to do with your life when you are 18. It’s okay to say no to the dreams others have for you that aren’t fit for you. It’s okay to try something and fail and then get better for another try.
So why do we so often call these high school years the best? They aren’t. Or they shouldn’t be if you pursue your dreams.
Why do we, as adults, anchor kids down with low expectations? Teenagers grow up. Teenagers have great value even though they often bury or masks their potential. And sometimes, kids just need to get away and find another environment in which to blossom.
There’s an old coach’s saying. “The best thing about a freshman is that he becomes a sophomore.”
I believe in that saying and an expanded version which reads,
“The best thing about teenagers is that they become adults.”
As a coach, as a teacher, or even as a parent, remember those teenagers who are driving you absolutely bat-poop crazy today, have the potential to be awesome and productive citizens in the near or far future. They need dreams, resources, and some adults to believe in them.
Believe in your kids.
See the good in them.
Recognize their potential.
Help them down the path to fulfill their passions.
Make them work to achieve their dreams.
Be there to help them rebound when they fail. Give them the space to back up, reassess, grow, and attack time after time until the dream is a reality.
Develop in them a strong gluteus maximus rubberi, so they know how to bounce up when life knocks them on their ass.
And please people, stop it with the “best years of your life” advice to teenagers. Teach them to believe in the potential of tomorrow. Teach them to work and to fail and to bounce back.
The high school years are special years. Enjoy every minute and every experience. But graduating high school is not the endgame. Life is the endgame. And, if my math is correct, most of us hope to have much more life to experience after high school.
To each and every teenager I ever had the opportunity to coach, I am proud of the adults you have become or are becoming. Your best years were definitely beyond any of those years you spent on a sports field with me.
Keep the faith in yourself!