Kids these days. Are they better or worse than previous kids? Are they soft? If so, whose fault is that?
Kids. What to do with them? Should adults take it easy on them or take a hard line? Sports people are weighing in on all of these questions with breakneck frequency.
Here are two of the most recent kid takes.
First, from LeBron James speaking in admiration of his former coaches.
“As a kid, they showed toughness and stayed on me every single day! Never sugar coded nothing, told me to real and lit me up when I wasn’t applying. Reason I’m saying this is I believe this is a major part of the reason why kids don’t succeed as much because the leaders, coaches, etc., won’t get on them because their afraid of losing the kid, or losing the sponsorship that comes with the kids, or have their town agenda on how much they can benefit in the long run from the kid not realizing they’re cheating the s— out of the kid.
“We as kids don’t know. We need to be pushed, kicked, loved, then pushed and kicked again cause that’s what brings and breads the hunger inside of us! Whoever u are out there please stop worrying about u and if u really care for the kid give them the guidance as my Coaches, mentors did for me!”
“You know what makes me sick to my stomach? When I hear grown people say that kids have changed. Kids haven’t changed. Kids don’t know anything about anything.
“We’ve changed as adults. We demand less of kids. We expect less of kids. We make their lives easier instead of preparing them for what life is truly about. We’re the ones that have changed. To blame kids is a cop out.”
Both James and Martin seem to be from the school that believes more can only be expected from the younger generation when more is expected from the adults. And that seems like a fair place to start this discussion. The tired refrain that kids are soft these days almost always, perhaps conveniently, isn’t followed by an explanation of how they got that way.
Both seem to be offering a prescription for what they see as a problem to be made better — more tough love. There’s some validity there.
The public’s reception to the comments, though, illustrates how difficult it is to have a frank conversation about “the kids” at large. We can assail Martin for making millions while his players make nothing. We can suggest that they know more than he believes them to know. We can suggest James’ comments ring slightly ironic given his history of oversensitivity.
Here’s the point. Kids need both tough love and tenderness. They need to be motivated by both stick and carrot methods. Broad conversations about every young kid playing sports usually get stuck in neutral because the participants believe one of the sides is being overemphasized and the other ignored. Too much time and energy is spent bemoaning participation trophies or, conversely, trying to eliminate any discomfort that the obvious middle ground is ignored.
Of course, kids need to be coddled at times. Of course they need to be made to face adversity without a bailout. Parenting and coaching is an art, not a science. Learning when to employ a soft touch or a hard line is a process. There is no handbook.
Kids these days are quite similar to kids of different generations. The same for parents, who want the best for them. The conversation about how to best insure that is not a new one — nor will a consensus opinion be reached any time soon.
The only positive to come out of it is for people on opposing ends of the spectrum taking pause to consider when an opposing view is voiced and work toward their ideal middle ground.
Kids these days deserve that type of introspection from their elders.