Updated: Feb 13
Today’s youth are extremely talented yet can also be very impatient. In my experience, many young rugby league players feel like they have failed if they are not playing regular NRL by the time they’re 21. One of the key responsibilities of a coach and mentor is to guide talented rookies by educating them on the benefits of virtues such as patients, selflessness and mindfulness as quickly as possible. The good ones get it – not all at the same speed, but if they’re honest and have the right character they gradually learn to identify with the challenges of the journey. This is why it is important to be patient. It may take time before the penny drops.
The only way to gain experience is by spending time in the arena, and the best lessons are learnt as a result of mistakes and poor performances. As parents, we experience this with our children throughout their lives. From teaching them not to touch hot surfaces, through to the choices they make as teenagers and young adults. Guiding talented young athletes and aspiring professionals in any field has its similarities. A vital part of their development is learning that talent alone is not going to get them where they want to be. The frustrating part is that they have to figure this out for themselves. This is where the patience comes in. As long as they are honest with you and themselves, they will get it – eventually. Some of our greatest examples of success have been results of long journeys.
I witnessed firsthand the development of former Broncos and Australian centre Justin Hodges. An enormously talented athlete, Justin struggled with the professionalism of the NRL in the early stages of his career. However, as he matured, he transcended into one of the best players and respected leaders in the game.
Watching the 2020 Australian Open, I gained a new-found admiration for the performances of Nick Kyrgios. Like many, I have been frustrated by his antics over the years but found myself drawn to support him because of his newfound humility and maturity. Rugby league star, Johnathan Thurston couldn’t crack regular first grade until his early 20s before going on to become one of the greatest players and leaders the game has seen. Cricketer Steve Smith started as a leg spinning middle order batsmen. His talent has never been more evident since his evolution as result of losing the Australian captaincy.
As the old saying goes – talent is cheap, you can find it anywhere. It is very easy to identify talent; the hard part is in the development of the person. In many cases the journey can test the coach or leader more than individual. Be prepared to invest time and energy in your people. Sometimes it will mean doing nothing but being there to support them when they fall. If they’re honest, they will grow to respect you and repay your loyalty and belief in them. It’s in these times, usually some years into the relationship that the mastery of the talent evolves. Hang in there and stay patient.