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Givers vs Takers

At the AVCA Convention in San Antonio, I enjoyed dropping in on a session by Russ Rose and Terry Lyskevych. As fascinating as it was to listen to two fellow Chicagoans give their perspective on the lay of the volleyball land, I enjoyed as much watching the crowd. John Cooke sat in front of me (although he looked as if he was sleeping…as he sometimes does) to take in their words. I wondered if he were there to enjoy the conversation, to learn new ideas for their own team, or to take a nap. In any case, I found it fascinating that the elite of the elite coaches were present.

One point of interest, besides the comical overture of the presentation, was Russ’ comment about today’s athletes. He said we are not in a good time with athletes right now. Unfortunately, this is a common theme I hear amongst many coaching colleagues these days. Coaches feel as if the players take a lot for granted, don’t work as hard or don’t know how to work as hard, are spoiled, privilege, etc. Ironically, I have an 80 year old mentor with 35 years in the military tell me that his parents said the same thing about his generation. It’s all perspective and every generation has its own unique challenges. I believe we often compare what we had versus what the current generation has.

Through my blog, I am often overwhelmed and humbled when someone tells me they have followed me for years. I never knew them nor got any comments, but have time and time again been told I’m followed. The only following I really know of are a few numbers on Google analytics that tells me I had 25,000 visitors this month. I have no idea who these visitors are, I can see they are from around the world, but I am appreciative they find what I write somewhat interesting. Or maybe they are on my blog for the resources. Honestly, I’m indifferent to why they visit. I’m glad to provide a resource and a way to help grow our game. That’s always been my objective.

Recently, an active participant of the AVCA and a board member of the First Time Attendees Committee, Brian Swenty, who I randomly met at a round table lunch at an AVCA Convention in Kansas City, approached me to join him to start up a Volleyball Coaches facebook user group. I was just about in the process of moving to my new gig at Miami and really wasn’t ready to embark on another online journey. But I couldn’t avoid Brian’s persistence and partnered along.

On this facebook group, we quickly attracted 250 users in the first week of the group and it is over 400 users now. I’m impressed and surprised with its quick growth, but I also find it fascinating that only a small group of members actually participate in the group. By participate, I mean GIVE information or comment on posts, and are active. I am willing to guestimate that only 15 people are contributing members, givers, to the group. The remaining members are “takers”. Those that are group members in order to learn, find information, or feel they need to be a part of the group to not ‘miss’ something important.

I am a taker of many groups. I enjoy taking information from the Harvard Business Review group, Mashable, The Talent Code, etc. I do not plan on being an active member of those groups, will rarely if ever leave a comment, but I do enjoy the ideas I develop through these groups. Sometimes I will share information from these groups that really spark my interest and feel my online friends will find the same.

Being a taker is easy and something I do for me, but being a giver is far more rewarding. We can’t be givers in everything we do, but we shouldn’t be takers with everything we do. There needs to be an aspect of our lives that we embrace and give. We can’t give all the time either, but there needs to be a discipline regiment that we can provide information, experience, and expertise to help others grow. In turn, we grow.

With the abundance of information and convenience of access to it, this generation, our players, continually and unconsciously take information. We have not provided them the tools to be givers. So much is already taken care of for athletes, and students of this generation, that we fail to provide the platforms for them to learn to give. And if we do provide them that platform, it is often a false platform because we are scared to let them fail, make their own mistakes, and grow from the process. The platform has a safety net that needs to be cut.

There is a precarious balance between giving and taking. How much leeway should we allow our players to grow before they get in serious trouble. At what point do we define serious trouble. When does providing a platform to be a giver interfere with the ultimate path of the team? I don’t have answer for these giving questions, but I hope as you take this information you can come up with the answers. Hopefully, I can read about your ideas in the format of your choice and we can network to grow from one another…as I have with so many other great coaches and thinkers.

Balance in life is essential, but teaching how to give, to be humble, to be a servant will pay great dividends to future generations (until they become grandparents and complain about their grandchildren). Maybe it’s a never ending cycle.

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