As our children morphed from tadpole to bull”frawg”, we focused their extracurricular efforts towards athletics….a mistake in and of itself. I was too myopic to see the virtues gained from a well-balanced rearing. If I were to pinpoint my gravest mistake as a parent….the one area among the many where I failed…it would be that I did not expose them to the many flavors available for “their” choosing…a topic for another day.

However, we did take full advantage of the lessons learned from competitive athletics….small investments over time pay huge dividends….focus and persistence pave the path to success in any of life’s endeavors. Also, I was fortunate in that my personal choices had given me the opportunity to coach and mentor our children and their friends. Through athletics, not only our offspring but those of many others learned one of life’s greatest lessons…

TINSTAAFL!! There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch!!

When the tykes are tiny, there is no score….everybody is a winner….nobody is a loser….and everybody gets a token of some kind in the end….a medal or trophy…one more dust collector destined for the Goodwill box….I get that. I don’t agree, but I get it….

Wrestling, the oldest sport known to man, was one of our families’ chosen passions…my fav as a young man. And so I, along with a few of my crazy grappling brethren, coached our local high school feeder team. Upon assuming the reins, we instigated a few policies unknown to youth sports that were not popular with our constituents, the parents of our wrestlers. In order to be recognized at the “end of year” banquet, you, as a member of our team, were required to attend 75% of the practices…and you placed your John Henry on an agreement signifying your acceptance of these terms at season’s beginning.

Invariably, at the end of year celebratory banquet, we would be cornered by an enraged parent livid that little Johnny did not receive a certificate of participation…to which we would simply refer to the agreement that they and little Johnny signed. “But you embarrassed him in front of his friends” they would say. To which we would reply, “No sir, YOU embarrassed him by not bringing him to practice a sufficient number of times to warrant recognition as part of our team”. Surprisingly, I was not fired as a volunteer coach for being so uncompassionate.

When did we decide that we were owed something from this life and why would we teach our children something so preposterous? When did we learn to expect something for nothing? When was the word “entitlement” given birth and why do we feel entitled to anything? NOTHING is free. For EVERYTHING there is a sacrifice….a price to be paid. TINSTAAFL…

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6 thoughts on “TINSTAAFL”

    1. Yes I was also thinking to make the same comment! My oldest child (7) is starting to show some interest in athletics and we have a great time playing soccer together.

      I definitely see the need to break the entitlement mentality, which I suppose is just a fancy way of talking about being spoiled. Good article!

    2. Unique and thought provoking observation Samuel….in answer, a greater appreciation for all facets of the human experience, not just the physical. To more deeply appreciate nature…music…art in its every form and function…literature. As you know, for a balanced existence we need to attend to the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. To go it again, I would have chosen less time in the gym and more time in nature…less time on sweep singles, and more time tickling the keys…less time watching film, and more time reading inspiring literature. Our children may never know of their intrinsic gifts because I failed to lead them in a direction exposing them to all this life has to offer.

      1. Great post Dave, loved it! I would think your focus on athletics while Nick and Marcus were young is not unusual. I think the process of becoming well-rounded doesn’t stop in adolescence or teenage years. Perhaps younger years can be more geared toward athletic pursuits while later years in life can be more dedicated to growing the appreciation of art, nature, and literature? It doesn’t take much perspective or wisdom to appreciate a good single leg takedown, but certainly takes a seasoned man or woman to fully appreciate the best literature, art, wine, and nature…

        1. Touche monsieur Mark….both fellas were challenged to be curious…to ask why often…perhaps their bred curiosity will serve them well as they learn to appreciate the many flavors on the menu….

          Thanks to you, Sam, and David for your insightful comments…

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