Revisiting F.U.N.C.T.

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For years, I have written and spoken about how sports are a great metaphor for life. The dynamic of how we deal with our participation in sports mirrors how we live our lives.

We are struggling as a society to make sense of all the changes we see all around in our outward lives. Our lives seem out of balance and with what is happening with the universe, time has been shortened. The resultant feeling is that we feel rushed, filled with angst and stress. This seems to manifest itself with the craziness we’ve seen in the news about aberrant behavior of coaches and parents.

Several years ago, I wrote in the “The Zen of Basketball Coaching”, that when I speak to coaches, especially young coaches, I counsel them to seek balance in their lives; Seek balance between all the different parts that make up who you are; Seek balance between the ego and the rest of your life. Become successful on all fronts. Remember, We’re about being and becoming, not just about what we do for a living.

We all make hundreds of choices minute-by-minute, daily, weekly which affect our lives in small to big ways because each choice carries with it a result. Think about anything we’ve done, and we can trace its ‘good’ results or ‘bad’ results back through a series of choices to the original choice that got us started on that path.

Teaching the concept of “choices and results” to our children will require our living by these same concepts. In order for our children to understand how the principles work in our everyday decision-making and relationships, we must be the models they see.

Accepting responsibility for “who we are,” means examining our choices at every turn. The way we choose defines who we are in a given moment. We may start with a ‘highest thought’, but if we begin to rationalize, compromise, justify and excuse, soon we may find we’ve moved away from SPIRIT and find ourselves making choices from ego.

In a book about the legendary U.C.L.A. coach, John Wooden, “Wooden: A Lifetime of Observation and Reflection On & Off The Court”, the Coach wrote, “Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating. Youngsters need good models more than they need critics. It’s one of a parent’s greatest responsibilities and opportunities.”

When I work with coaches or parents, I always encourage that they bring this positive role modeling and image creation into their work with the children. Guiding youth to be the best they can be requires that coaches or parents be aware at all times of how they’re being perceived.

As adults, who are our role models? How have they affected our choices? And, now as decision makers and role models, how do our children perceive us? We are always role modeling for the next generation; SO, we are the figures our children will model themselves after.

And what about changing the future of the way we compete?

Supporting the child is a very important parenting choice. Parents have the opportunity—the gift—to be able to help direct the child’s future. Before that can happen though, the parents must be willing to change many of their old beliefs. That’s not an easy thing to do. We resist anything that challenges our current beliefs and our established comfort zone, yet the only constant in life is change. And change is the hardest thing we do. Change is not merely necessary to life--It is life. Positive change will require faith in a whole new shape-shifting for a future where children can come to accept that there is no need to feel superior to or need to be better than anyone else; A future where they recognize and accept the Oneness between people rather than separation; A future where we realize that there is enough of everything to make us happy and fulfilled; A world without the need to compete but where they can co-exist with cooperation and mutual respect.

Sounds really drastic, doesn’t it? What are the alternatives? Adults can continue the current way of thinking and acting where everything is about competition and to be better than others. We can continue this idea of separateness. Our children will continue to mimic what they see the adults around them doing. Which kind of future sounds better for our children?

Changing the paradigm begins within the family. Since the child mirrors the attitudes of the parent, this exposure to parental actions and expressions shapes the child’s choices. If we can teach our children to celebrate our differences rather than to denigrate them; If we can teach them to live without hate, anger and fear by teaching them to come from a place of love, how might we change the future?

Nearly a decade ago, I introduced a set of concepts at a local YMCA branch where I was Sports Director. These were intended to bring a more Spiritual approach to coaching and playing basketball, and to parenting. I wanted to encourage a change in the way we view winning. I felt that by coming from love and compassion rather than from trying to be better than one another, we could teach a valuable lesson in cooperative living. I used these concepts in teaching the coaches, during team practices, and in parent meetings. I gave this new element to both my life and coaching the acronym, F.U.N.C.T., in order to remember and be able to teach it more readily. I realized too, that I must have the qualities represented by these letters before I could ask them of others. F= Forgiveness of myself and others. U= Unconditional love. N= Non-judgmental. C= Compassion. T= Truthful at all times.

This simple but powerful lesson for being and becoming is now part of every lecture, team handout, and indeed, my way of life. Living and teaching these Spiritual ‘laws’ is, by far, more difficult than teaching any other aspect of the game.

What could life be like if we implemented these laws into every corner of our lives?