It is somewhat ironic that I posted something on Coach Majerus last week (http://tinyurl.com/av29bux) -- it was excerpts from an article that was written in 2008 by S. L. Price for Sports Illustrated. Part of the excerpt dealt with parents and the way they hovered over the kids, trying to protect them from adversity and difficulty even, as Majerus explain, those are some of the most important phases for kids to go though in order to develop and be successful. His terminology was "helicopter parents." I thought I'd share that part of Price's article today:
That sparked a tangent about parents today, and how they "want to take all the pain, all the heartache and all the sadness out of their kids' lives. All the things that make you a better person, a better coach, a better teacher -- all the things that are so much the fabric of life. I'm so much better for every loss I've had. I can...."
Majerus paused, and everyone in the place leaned forward in his seat. It was pin-drop quiet. When he spoke again his eyes had filled with tears, and the words came out slowly; suddenly it was 1998, March 30, and Doleac and Miller and Alex Jensen were beating Kentucky in the NCAA final, up by 12 early in the second half. No one had expected them to even get there. No one had expected Utah to beat Arkansas, Arizona and North Carolina -- all those traditional powers -- and now Majerus saw Kentucky, too, in his grasp. Then came Utah's collapse, his overmatched players finally run down and beaten 78-69, the whole awful film of it unspooling again in his head.
"I don't know how to tell you this," Majerus rasped. "I don't think I can get you guys there; I probably can't, because it's so tough to get to the Final Four. But, you know, I was just a bad player; any walk-on with me now is much better than I ever was. But I always loved to play, and I knew how to get my way in: I'd find all those guys who were good shooters and set picks for them and I'd go on the floor for loose balls. [At Utah] I had such great kids. I love those kids. They played their asses off, and we got to the national championship game; I can remember every moment of that game. You become so much better a person for all the bad things that happen to you. But all these helicopter parents, they just hover there, and they want to take all that away from their kids. They don't want them to fight through it."
And at that moment it became clear: the task Majerus set for himself long ago. It's not just the searing losses that will teach his players. It's him too: dealing out the hard knocks and heartbreak that he felt once. If parents won't do it? Majerus will be the pain their kids fight through every day. Some may understand. He's almost past caring. Majerus will walk that long tunnel to the locker room alone, head down, two people indeed. There goes the happy coach, back in his element. There goes the saddest man you ever saw.