Have you ever wondered why some kids make an indelible impact in reaching their personal goals? Well, my simple answer to that question is they need to be born to the right parents or family.
Well over a year ago I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book outliers, recently I revisited the book which has spurned me to hit the keyboards again. As a person who coaches for a living, my job is to try to get the absolute best out of those that I am responsible for. Being a football coach is much more than just teaching kids to play a game they love. I see my role as an educator, mentor and role model. I believe my job is to impart knowledge, develop skill and help build the desire to succeed. My job is not easy because I only have the kids for about 1.5 hours, some, one night a week others I see nearly every day. It is important for me to try to set the right tone or environment. For me, the right environment is a place where principles can be lived and practised. I know that what I do makes a positive impact on kids but the fact of the matter is, as much as my ego would like to think that I am the bee’s knees in developing footballers the biggest part of a child’s career is the parent, for it is the parents that determine virtually every aspect of the child’s development and the environment from the day they first start to develop in the womb.
The book Outliers leads me to reflect on my own skills as a parent and the circumstances and environment that have led my children on their journey. I have two girls both very unique and individual and both had a very different first nine months of life in the womb. My firstborn was a dream start with both my wife and I have been very relaxed at a time when my football career had exploded in Malaysia. The wife spent much of the nine months very relaxed, eating well and constantly resting. She gave birth to a healthy 3.8kg baby girl who drank breast milk non-stop for almost a full year after she arrived. Our second born was in comparison a somewhat different situation with my wife now having less time to rest, more so now that we had our first bundle of joy in the picture, she weighed 3.3kg slightly less and along with a little more stress having had to move again due to being transferred to a new team in a completely different town and hence the environment. A completely different set of circumstances presented itself which meant that things were very different from our time in Kuantan. In Negeri, I was doing extremely well but the city was very different. There was constant smoke due to burning off that often happens in that area. In Kuantan, we had the Hyatt hotel resort so every afternoon we relaxed by the pool overlooking the beach. Unlike Kuantan, our house in Negeri was small and dark. Due to my success the neighbours would congregate in front of our house it felt like we were a zoo exhibit, so I arranged to get the front glass tinted which helped as we could now at least open the curtains for some privacy. These factors I now believe had created certain circumstances that led to my children’s futures.
Both have grown to be healthy intelligent individuals. However, both are very different in significant ways. The firstborn is taller, she has an incredibly high IQ and very rarely ever got sick growing up. My second gift is a little shorter on average to high IQ and was more susceptible to illness growing up. Both kids are unique in their own ways they have very different character traits the older one is somewhat obsessive-compulsive needing a strictly regimented schedule to allow her to function she is a routine girl and heaven forbid should that be broken. She is a perfectionist and will apply herself to anything that interests her with great diligence. My younger one is more carefree, more of a natural without the work ethic, she is an artist who loves drawing and is loved by anyone who comes in contact with her. Once you get to know her you just want to be around her all the time she is super funny and witty. Both are doing well in their personal lives.
So the point to this story is that there are certain things/circumstances that we did or were exposed to during these important first nine months of life that ultimately created the very different set of foundations for both my girls to become who they are today. We were totally unaware of it at the time but when we look back now there is a clear reason as to why my kids have developed into the physical beings they are today. There is no science behind this story it is just a gut feeling that I have because I always ask myself how? I ask myself why my first borns immunity seemed to be higher than her sister, why is one taller and one shorter, is it genetics? Why does one have an incredibly high academic IQ but the other has much more common sense. We have asked ourselves how did our kids become musically inclined, how did they achieve such amazing success in an industry which is difficult to break into let alone win an ARIA at such a young age. Where does the confidence they both show come from, the lack of fear in terms of exposing themselves to vulnerable situations such as singing in front of thousands of people without blinking an eye? Sometimes my wife and I sit in awe wondering where it all comes from but when we start to look back there is a certain timeline of events that ultimately led my kids to their own successes. Those events happened because we as parents facilitated our children’s environment throughout their early development. We created the opportunities for them and in particular, my wife has a lot to do with their current good fortune.
My daughter recently did a podcast where she explains that her musical career began in the womb. You see during the pregnancy and throughout most of our lives we have done a whole lot more listening to music than watching TV but as it happens in Malaysia there was always music playing at home because I was always at home, the benefits of being a footballer, yes I travelled a fair bit but I also spent lots and lots of time at home with my family for those first few years whilst I was still playing professionally. We could not understand Malaysian TV so we mostly listened to music, so music has always been a constant partner in my children’s lives.
The other major factor which has helped my kids is reading, I taught both my kids early on to read and my wife made it a rule that they must read every night before going to bed for 20-30 minutes without fail. They are both absolute bookworms and that has helped them with every aspect of their development. Reading has developed their knowledge bank, for it is the knowledge that eradicates ignorance, critical thought is essential today more than ever, especially with the explosion of the internet it is easy to be led by falsities. In today’s society is largely influenced by the corporate agenda, it is sometimes hard to recognise fact from agenda-driven bias reporting and stories that can shape your worldview. Reading helps to open the young mind to critical thought, imagination, creativity and affords children the opportunity to become masters of their own lives.
Football played another major cog in their development, the work ethic, the responsibility, the social factor and exposure to different cultures and areas of our large city, amongst a myriad of opportunities that they were exposed to by having an ambitious attitude towards their sports participation. It also embedded them with a skill that enables them to continue playing and enjoying the health and social outcomes of the game.
I have many friends who themselves have highly successful children in terms of careers and there is one characteristic however that we as parents all share, we are all ambitious, we have ambitious partners and in being so we are exemplary role models to our children. They see us persevering, working hard and having this attitude of anything’s possible and it rubs off on our kids. This allows us to be “silent motivators” however always and all along the journey there is that real voice that helps them and shows them the direction and pathway to achieving goals. Just recently my wife and I were discussing one of her friends who was a prolific ballet dancer, at 19 she decided to quit and her parents said OK. No attempt to try to talk her into persevering, today twenty years later she totally regrets not continuing with ballet and wishes that her parents had urged her to continue. A similar thing happened to my eldest when my wife had booked her into her first recording session at a studio. She said she didn’t want to go and my wife simply lied and said well I’ve already paid for it so you might as well go in and try it out. Had my wife just said OK my daughter would not be where she is today doing what she loves full time. That recording session is where she came up with anyone but me, which is the song that propelled her to triple J.
From that moment on we asked her if this is what she wanted to do? She said yes and in order to get my daughter the success, she desired my wife began to research the music industry, hours, days, nights relentless study, videos, articles, documentaries, legalities, contracts you name it my wife became a generalist in music management. Then the phone calls, emails and exposure to the industry here and abroad. Within four years my daughter was nominated for an ARIA in the category of, “artist of the year”, alongside Sia, Delta Goodrem and Jessica Mauboy. She was nominated in four categories; the song of the year, for her collaboration with the Hilltop Hoods, Video of the year, and alongside her producer, she was nominated for producer of the year in which they both worked together on her album. She won for breakthrough artist.
Now while my daughter worked tirelessly at her craft do you think the success she is now enjoying would have eventuated had we allowed my daughter to manage herself. The simple answer is no because my daughter like virtually all other highly talented children does not have the life skills to enable such a feat, help and support from family is a prerequisite, nobody is born a natural there is always some form of the support mechanism that drives success regardless of the occupation. All greatness is nurtured through cooperation, unity, love and support from the many in society but primarily from the parents. We must always strive to create the opportunities that your children need to succeed.
It is the parent that must put aside personal needs, those who are willing to sacrifice the countless hours of driving and waiting. For some circumstances do not allow it, for others it is a burden too big to bare because they have very little understanding of the process. Or it could be because they prioritise social norms to that of the outlier. “Too much training may affect their school work”. However, in my experience, can tell you that I have had kids in our school like my own that train 4-5 nights a week others 6-7 times a week and still managed 90+ on their ATAR. My wife and I made some huge financial sacrifices to ensure that there was always one of us present to fulfil their daily needs. It came at a personal cost to us but to see how my kids have grown into these tremendous adults I can say that it was worth the pain.
Throughout the book, Malcolm Gladwell cites similar examples. Particular circumstances where parents played the major role in the individual’s success through the facilitation of opportunities, he has a whole chapter based on the relative age effect and how cut off dates discriminate on children born in the later months simply due to a flawed identification model that puts kids who are bigger and more mature against kids that have had less time to develop and in doing so the younger kids get left behind in terms of coaching opportunities and experiences. In other cases, he discusses how quite often it is a matter of circumstance that leads an individual to become successful like for example the story of the Beatles. Their ultimate success came down to the fact that an average pub band had an opportunity to play 8 hours a day at strip clubs in Hamburg. It was the amount of time they played and wrote music that turned them into what is most likely the greatest band that has ever been! It is estimated that in those three years they did over nineteen hundred shows. Think about that for just one moment, in this day and age Beyonce would be hard-pressed to do that in her entire career.
Ultimately your children will only go as far as you are willing to support them unconditionally. They don’t understand the process required and sometimes it is not a bad thing to push your kids in a good way. It may be easier to just let them quit but the aftereffects last forever. Working hard for something they want and learning to face difficult circumstances to fall down and to get back up and go again and again and again is ultimately what it takes. It’s the law of attraction and you get what you attract or are willing to focus on. These days I can tell how far a child will go just by speaking with the parents, sometimes I only need to observe the parents and I could guess pretty accurately where their children’s future may lay. it is something that I have learned from fifteen years of coaching, training, talking to, researching and discussing children and football with parents. We are the ones responsible for providing our kids with their future models of reality. The question we need to ask ourselves is what will that model look like?
From the day they arrive our world changes in many ways, there is no manual that comes with the package and in many cases, we just continue on where our parents left off. We may then follow a model governed by societal norms and ingrained traditions such as, where our children school, what sports they play, the foods they eat, amongst a plethora of other influences that come to us via the five senses. Your children are born a blank slate, whilst there are genetic factors that can determine physiology the mindset is not governed by genes. Bad people usually become so because they are a product of their environmental factors, their influences and experiences.
At a young age our children clamour desperately to fit in with their peers, Anthony Robbins says that all human behaviour is governed by six human needs. These are certainty, uncertainty or variety, significance, love and connection, growth and the last is contribution. These form the basis of virtually every choice we make in life. In football, significance plays a huge part in a child’s development. Each child wants to be part of the collective and the better they are the better they rank on the significance scale. Football is a unique platform for social engagement that allows kids to create bonds, work on relationships and build a healthy amount of self-esteem. With a well-qualified individual at the helm your child’s knowledge, desire and skill will grow. A parent’s role differs from that of a coach. Parents that are knowledgeable are better equipped to deal with your child’s participation. When I say knowledgeable I mean having knowledge of the process of success as well as a basic understanding of the game. It’s simply not possible to help your kids if you know absolutely nothing about the activity your child is interested in.
We all want our children to grow healthy and happy and becoming great at anything is not a measure of successful parenting or successful people. Success is a big word that is thrown around very loosely and quite often it is associated with big achievers, sports stars and celebrities but success is much more than becoming a movie star. For me, the most important aspect is that my children are healthy and happy. That they have lots of good friends, that they are respectful and kind, that they live their lives based on principles and purpose. Anything else they do in their careers is just a bonus that comes from a healthy sense of wanting to make a positive impact on this planet. There is nothing wrong with having ambition especially towards something that can only increase your child’s chances of obtaining a healthy lifestyle.
I leave you with this great quote below from the legendary John Wooden.