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A Beautiful Parenting Lesson from an NCAA Basketball Coach

It’s the morning of my daughter’s 18th Birthday. After a little pre-dawn celebration, I send her to school, post the obligatory birthday photo on Facebook, and flip on the TV to let Good Morning America roll in the background while I scroll over coffee. I can’t say what it was that made me surface from my social media dive, but I was grabbed by the flinty, middle-aged man being interviewed. He communicated an authenticity and depth of experience that captivated me enough to hit the rewind button.

“You have to communicate,” he said. “I say this to my staff all the time: If we don’t speak to our players every day about everything that matters, someone else will. So don’t get frustrated when they listen to someone else. Especially in today’s day and age with social media—there are so many voices, so many words in their heads. We have to make sure that we articulate what we need from them every single day so that they stay consistent with who they are.”

This wise man, Google would tell me, was Frank Martin, the coach for the University of South Carolina’s men’s basketball team. I would also learn that we are in the middle of the NCAA finals. Oh, that’s that March Madness stuff. Got it.

His flow of eloquence was in response to a question about how, after the win against Duke in the second round, he would keep his team up and avoid the dreaded letdown when they played Baylor the next day. “Although some of them have become men, they are still kids. This is all new to them.”

Parenting Wisdom, From The Court To The Home

I am not the sports enthusiast in the house. My husband has that well covered, so I stick to knowing about other things. But this man, his words, they radiated a truth I needed to be reminded of: we cannot stop communicating with our children—even when they have become adults overnight—what we need from them, how to filter those other voices, what our values are, because as soon as we do, someone else will take that role. And that part is inevitable. But as they make the transition into adulthood, and as they go off to college, even if they’re staying at home and driving two miles to the local JC, it is all new to them. If we don’t continue to have important conversations with them, there are 8 million other voices at the ready.

I have never cared for the “nagging Mom” label and think it may be time we replace it with “consistent voice.” Whether we are talking about cleaning bedrooms, curfews, using alcohol or the importance of caring for those less fortunate, we need to be consistent in the messages we convey.

Thank you, Mr. Martin, for providing some much needed guidance to a Mom in Southern California who knows nothing about basketball but, like you, cares an awful lot about her kiddos. Your words are golden. Also, I hope you guys win. I may even ask my “Alexa” what time your game is against Baylor so I can tune in.

With love, from the West Coast.

Tracy Fitzpatrick enjoys unraveling life’s juicy mysteries one story at a time from her home in Southern California, which she happily shares with her life-of-the-party husband, 3 fiercely independent and witty teenage daughters, 2 dogs, 3 horses, 2 cats and a rabbit.

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