By Tim Nash
So, I heard this story the other day and decided to tell it to the two teams of 13-and 14-year-old girls I coach.
My players, most of them anyway, like story time. They have learned to expect something completely unexpected, and it often leads to an interesting conversation. Others, those on the other end of the “Things I Find Interesting Scale,” just listen and kind of give me that open-mouth stare while thinking, “What the hell is he talking about.”
Anyway, this story was an attempt to explain to my players one of the challenges girls that age face — getting out of their comfort zone and testing themselves in difficult environments. That is, after all, where the most progress can be made. But every time some of my girls go out on the field, they will place themselves in their comfort zone, that area of the field they are used to, the spot that offers no surprises.
I move them around, pull them aside and talk to them about trying new and different things, but they are sucked back to that familiar place. Everyone wants to do what they are good at, and that’s how they spend their time. It seems that the players who make the most progress are the ones who get mad at themselves for not being able to meet a new challenge. They will keep at it until they master it, like the player who got so mad at her inability to juggle, she worked at it until her personal best went from 12 to 438.
But it seems to me that if improvement only comes when you are angry, it’s going to be a hard life.
So, I decided to tell them about the lobster.
Did you know that a lobster’s shell doesn’t grow as the lobster grows? Me either. Here’s what happens, or more accurately, how I explained it to my players, complete with liberties and editorial license.
Lobsters are perfectly happy hanging around the ocean floor, crawling around doing whatever it is they spend their time doing. They are protected by their hard shell and life is carefree. Until, that is, they start to grow a little. Growing, as it turns out, is painful, uncomfortable, even a little annoying. Their shell, you see has gotten too small. It is restricting their progress, hampering their growth.
Now, they have a choice to make. They can either stay in their shell and remain the same mediocre, under-performing lobster forever, or they can bust out of that old shell that’s holding them back, and grow.
So the smart lobsters, the ones who have bright futures, listen to the older, wiser lobsters in the ocean. They take the advice of those around them trying to help them improve and become better lobsters.
The smart ones, decide to bust out of their comfort zone and get rid of that old shell. It’s a hard decision. Sure, the shell is protecting them but it’s also holding them back. The ones that choose growth, go into hiding, because, well, they will be embarrassed if the other sea creatures to see them when they are vulnerable. They absorb all the knowledge around them, which in lobsters’ native language translates to “sea water,” and shed their shell.
It takes a while, but they grow a new shell. Once they have their shiny new shell, one that’s way better than the old restrictive one, they come out of hiding and proudly show off what they have accomplished.
But what happens when they grow out of that shell, you ask? Interestingly, they repeat the process many more times until eventually they get old and admit, “I can’t play anymore. I should just coach and tell stories.”
So, the bottom line here is the only way to grow is to bust out of your comfort zone – no matter how difficult or embarrassing.
And that’s why players should try to be smart lobsters.
Tim Nash is a freelance writer and author of the new book, “It’s Not the Glory, the Remarkable First Thirty Years of U.S. Women’s Soccer.” To order a copy, click here