Never mind Generation X, Generation Y, Generation XyZ, this is Generation GPS.
Last weekend I was in my hometown of Chicago and I stayed an extra night (while the team returned to Oxford on the 7 hour middle-of-the-night bus ride). The following afternoon, I met up with a best friend at a restaurant we used to occasionally frequent. I couldn’t remember exactly where it was, so I plugged it into my GPS, and away I went.
Following my GPS, I hypnotically drove to the destination from where I stayed in the suburbs. Tunes were jamming on the radio, I admired the magnificent Chicago skyline on the drive into the city, and ran into a sweet Sunday morning traffic jam (I sat in traffic an extra 30 minutes). Upon arrival, the GPS told me, “You have arrived at your destination”, but I did not. Since I have been to this restaurant before, it wasn’t the destination. So I managed to drive a little further and find the ‘real’ destination.
The trip made me realize how technology has “dumbed-me-down”. How society is dumbed down by technology. I blindly followed the directions of a computer connected through a wireless network, connected to a satellite in outer-space, connected to a server, connected to a computer, connected to a map, connected, connected, connected… I had total faith in this connected system and didn’t bother to think about where I was really going. I just did what I was told to do.
Before GPS, I would have looked on a map, relied on my memory, asked for directions, planned a route in my head, and remembered some of the old routes I used to take to this same restaurant I frequented a few years ago. I would not have sat in 30 minutes of traffic. I would have found an alternate route and saved time. And if I got lost, so be it. I would meander down a few side streets and find my destination. I would explore, see some new parts of my hometown I have never seen, and learned of a new shop or restaurant I would want to visit along the way.
It reminds me of the days I had to learn math without a calculator (blasphemy!). I had to actually process how numbers were put together to form equations and answers. My brain had to think, work, fail, learn, and explore. I was growing.
What does all this have to do with volleyball? I think about our players. All they know is the GPS society. Life, especially for junior volleyball players, is very programmed. Coaches have players follow a pattern, teacher have students follow another pattern, parents have their children follow another schedule. This cycle goes throughout the entire year. The kids go from one task, event, schedule, car ride, etc. to another, without thinking, without exploring, without failing, without learning. I see it on the court all the time. When something does not go according to the pattern, there is a look of wonderment on faces. Hitting a ball on two? Setting the first ball directly to a hitter? Swinging with a left hand in an emergency situation? How about trying to play a ball with your foot? Erik Shoji got some pretty good notoriety for that one (about a half a million views).
Ironically, it is the student athletes that do exactly all of these steps best, are the ones that often make the best grades, appear to be the best players, and are the most well-mannered kids.
The GPS Generation is missing the opportunity to explore, learn, fail, and most importantly think. Maybe I’m just a grumpy old man now that is saying, “When I was a kid, I did this…” or “Kids these days…”. But I am caught up in this GPS society and need to remember to think for myself sometimes too.