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Community

Building Community - Overview

Long before carriages (pronounced "coach" in English) became a term of art for instructors of the arts, sciences and athletics, various teachers through the ages had begun defining success as the ongoing peace of mind resulting from the continuous effort to become the best you are capable of becoming.  Defining success as a state of becoming - not as a state of being - is most associated with the Greek virtue of arete - a love of seeking the highest level of good in each individual, family and community.  This love of excellence is often awakened or roused by a teacher and is nurtured through the tool of competition.  Competition derives from the latin word "competere" which means to strive together.  The lifeblood of any community, therefore, is the quality of arete and competere.  If fair play diminishes or there is undue emphasis on end results (fame, money, power, grades or winning), the virtue of arete wanes, causing the quality of community and institutions to decline as well.

The stewardship of communities is akin to the safekeeping of a fruit orchard.  A farmer plants an orchard, waters, fertilizes, prunes and after time enjoys the fruit.  The process takes years.  Cared for properly, the orchard will continue to bear fruit for future generations long after the original seed-planting farmer is gone.  Should, however, a future farmer become more focused on getting and having the rewards of being a farmer than tending the orchard, the orchard will wither or even perish.  For this reason, our best business literature (e.g., Built to Last (1994) and The Living Company (1997)) emphasizes that the most successful companies have a greater purpose beyond just making money ("a perpetual guiding star on the horizon") and a commitment to core values not to be compromised for financial gain or short-term expediency.  Similarly, it is vital that institutions of education, including youth sport, possess an uncompromising commitment to the moral purpose of teaching because as observed by H.G. Wells, "human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe" (Outline of Human History (1920)).

The future educational value of youth sport depends on the willingness of program directors, coaches and parents to operate as learning communities to ensure that underlying teaching customs and practices continue to improve.  All agree that just as life in the litter prepares puppies for life in the pack, sport provides role opportunities to socialize and prepare youth for life in the world.  What then should be the ethos of youth sport - "every man for himself" or Kipling's Law of the Jungle (1895) that "the strength of the pack is the wolf and the strength of the wolf is the pack."

Let us be clear - BeLikeCoach will not make policy, prescribe best practice or pass judgment on what are the correct morals and virtues for the institution of youth sport - that is a decision to be made by society as a whole and the BeLikeCoach community is but a single voice in a large and diverse chorus.  Instead, our intent is to provide a safe and constructive forum for those individuals and groups who recognize that no matter how long one teaches youth and no matter how many training courses and books are consumed, challenges arise for which knowledge and experience alone are insufficient preparation.  In these moments, an ethical and moral grounding provides a platform to develop courage to do what is right for youth and to engage in self-examination.

We understand that it's not easy to risk exposing possible shortcomings but we also believe that the fate of youth sports as institution rests on our individual and collective courage to live by the maxim "when you are through learning, you are through."  We believe youth are born with a hunger to learn where they are, who they can trust and how the world works.  How we feed this hunger matters more that what we say.  We can't be pretend to be enthusiastic, hard-working, loving or balanced because youth see it all and they can't be fooled.  If we truly aspire to be better program directors, coaches and parents, our children will follow and youth sport will further evolve into a co-curricular and moral institution of teaching and service.