A 2-Minute Video That Might Change the Way Your Kid Thinks

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Question: why do so many kids quit organized sports?

Have you checked out the numbers? No fewer than 70 percent of American kids will quit organized sports by age 13. According to my slightly-less-formal survey of parents, figures for music and dance are in the same ballpark, if not higher.

Some of this quitting is fine and good — after all, kids should try a lot of different stuff. However, I think most of us would agree that the current numbers are unhealthy, especially in sports, which (at least in the U.S.) is increasingly dominated by a travel-team culture that focuses on elite performers and ignores everyone else.

While there’s no shortage of blameworthy factors, it might be more useful to focus on the kids — specifically, on the reason most kids quit.

Here’s the thing: most kids quit because, at that moment, it feels like the logical thing to do. They take a hard look at themselves, and they measure themselves against the elite competition, and they figure (wrongly) that they have zero shot at long-term success.

So the real question isn’t about changing the entire screwed-up culture of youth talent development. Rather, it’s more about changing the way kids look at themselves. About shifting their perspective to one that’s more accurate.

With that in mind, check out this two-minute video that uses some classic Wallace and Gromit-style claymation to send a powerful message: developing your talent is far less about possessing magical genes and far more about motivation and hard work.

What I especially love about this video is the straightforwardness. It doesn’t sell kids any  of the sugary Disney “just believe in yourself and you’ll succeed” syrup. It doesn’t overload them with scientific talk. It simply lays out the facts. Find something that you love and that suits you. Everyone develops at different rates. Hard work is the path forward. 

My question: Why isn’t this video shown at the start of every youth sports season, at the start of every school year? I could imagine similar videos for music and dance — not to mention for math and writing.

And I wonder: does anyone know of any other similar videos and/or learning materials that would be good to share around?


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14 Responses to “A 2-Minute Video That Might Change the Way Your Kid Thinks”

  1. Chris says:

    This might be my favorite post yet

  2. Robnonstop says:

    One of the most demotivating factors of organized sports in schools is letting the best pick their teammates. Their ego inflates while the weakest performing kids get fed up with sports in general very quickly.

  3. Jamie says:

    Love it. Thanks Daniel.

  4. Doc says:

    Haven’t finished it yet, but Gladwells new book “David and Goliath” touches on some of these ideas of big fish in a small pond and small fish in a big pond. So far it has had a few major ideas and lots of interesting stories and history to support it.

  5. djcoyle says:

    Good to know, Doc, thanks so much — I’m excited to read it.

  6. Lara Saario says:

    Dan, interesting that after reading your post, I saw this article on math ability that parallels what you are saying… http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-09-maths-experts-born.html The neuroscience of how we train our brains for math is fascinating and not unlike the other topics you write about.

  7. Tõnis Saag says:

    Very important topic and well written.
    But I would argue the meaning of ‘success in sports’. At the age of 13 social relations become more important and the influence of parents decreases. Youth begin to understand that their strongest side may not be the sports at all. If that’s the case, they will not buy any story of success through hard work, and the only thing that will keep them engaged is understanding how persistent physical activity helps them achieve higher results in their core interest. This means that from this point forward coaches become community managers and trusted advisors rather than the authoritarian clown in the middle of the centre of attention. And there are only a minority of those who have high long term goals in sports and the others simply enjoy the fellowship together with physical activity.
    In other words, the success of sports depends on the goal and for the majority of society this means just being fit and healthy, and having fun with friends.

  8. Alex says:

    @Lara

    You could say this is math ability but the math abilities of mathematicians don’t have almost nothing to do with these championships.

    The whole research is lacking a lot and the researcher understanding about these calculations feats make me cringe, also his understanding of autism – he pass things as being right when he didn’t even looked at the horrible flawed methods of another research he is drawing some of his conclusions. Probably a former Daniel Tammet fan-boy. The researcher probably will figure out what is really happening soon…

    Good Mathematicians: Terence Tao, Edward Witten.

    I have taught my brother some of the tricks of how to calculate fast (pretty much everyone can become a “freak” in this with hard work), but there is nothing to do with developing the field of mathematics. This and theoretical psychics you need to be at least a bit more intelligent than average and work a huge amount (every year in average the breakthroughs in theories come from older people with more study time on their hands).

  9. djcoyle says:

    Lara – Thanks very much for sharing that! Great article — and I like the conversation it’s started in subsequent comments.

    Here’s a thought: What seem like “simple tricks” to experienced experts are, in fact vital gateways to newbies, because they demolish barriers that keep them from getting engaged. So I love opportunities to show simple tricks, because they’re a gateway drug.

  10. raymond says:

    Alex, Please take this as constructive criticism. If you want to have your message taken seriously, you really need to either edit or review basic grammar usage. The English language is too complicated for any of us to use it perfectly. I’m sure an English teacher can find something incorrect with what I’m writing. Go back and reread your first sentence and see if that is really how you wanted to write it. Then read through the rest of your message and see what you find. I’m sure you meant theoretical physics instead of theoretical psychics. Just trying to help. An old PE teacher.

  11. Alex says:

    @raymond

    Yeah, I only attended one week of an English course, I would first need to read about basic grammar usage to be able to review it. Had to Google what PE means… probably will learn it in a couple of years when I’m finished with the other material I have to learn. Thanks for the advice though :D .

  12. Deirdre Scott says:

    Food for thought, see the “child star” that’s being knocked off their pedestal ( in this case podium) . Might we be forgetting the feelings encountered by that child when his or her early success comes to an end . Too many observers get voyeristic satisfaction at seeing this scenario unfold when in fact our job as coaches/ parents and humans is to mind the child who has stopped achieving whilst others pass them by.
    This promotional video is about self belief , hard work and patience yet we are ready to disregard the self esteem of those who for a time possibly felt proud and hopeful about their early sucess.
    Also we should bare in mind a select few early achievers are doing so because of a lucky blend of motivation, skill learning, enjoyment and and opportunity. They may grow their sucess with hard work and remain somewhere on the podium.
    For those who don’t, lets make sure they take all the positives from early success into the next brilliant chapter in thir lives … That’s Long Term Athlete Development !

  13. Totally needed this for a parent. Thanks!

  14. absolutely love this video and i am going to play it to all of our children in november at their presentation day/night – so total children shown to should be about 230. Absolutely love its simplicity and the message that it gets across. Whoever created this deserves an oscar :)

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