Character is a trait that really matters to coaches, especially in youth athletics. It’s more important than winning games or even an individual’s physical skills – which can be learned and honed. It’s often a mystery, and a source of angst, for parents when their child isn’t chosen over another when they’re equal in size and physical ability. The difference is character and is best characterized by “What would you do if no one was looking?”
There’s an often repeated saying that “Sports builds character.” What the statement doesn’t take into account is the existing character traits that youngsters bring with them to the game. Character will depend on the virtues and positive behaviors they’ve assimilated. It is possible to alter a youngster’s behaviors and attitudes, but it can be a challenge and require a considerable amount of time and effort.
Youngsters can act much differently on the playing field than they do at home. Unfortunately, some parents hang their hopes of a college scholarship on their child’s sports participation. A coach watches his charges and observes how they react, speak, and interact with their teammates in an entirely different environment.
Players of extraordinary character share, have empathy for others, and push through to the end during hard practices or games. They’re also humble and understand that winning is a team effort. They accept tips and pointers as a positive and constructive experience, incorporating it into their practice sessions and even practicing at home.
There are always going to be standout players and those with a chip on their shoulder and they’re often cut because they ultimately aren’t team players and seek glory for themselves. That’s why when coaches are faced with the tough decision on who stays and who goes, in the final analysis it all comes down to the character that each individual displays.