Growing up, I never heard the word entitlement. In fact, I was an adult before I ever read the meaning of the word. Looking up entitlement in the dictionary, I found three definitions: the state or condition of being entitled; a right to benefits specified by law or contract; belief that one deserves an entitlement to certain privileges. That last definition is the reality that coaches and teachers face.
Entitlement has to be taught. Sometimes it may be taught in the home, other times outside the home, and in worst case scenarios, both. I am thankful that I was taught early on by my family and members of my community two basic fundamentals: 1) there are no free lunches and 2) you can achieve your goals, if you are willing to work to attain them.
My father worked hard and long hours to provide for our family. I watched my mother work from early morning to late evening taking care of the family. When I was in junior
high, she started working in a shoe store. She continued to work at the shoe store for the next 40 years. As a child, I was given an allowance for the chores I was assigned to around our home. When I was 12, I started working in a local grocery store, and a tire store. Through high school, I worked on my relatives' farms and ranches. Finally, I worked in oil fields around our town. I received a high school diploma, went to a junior college on a partial scholarship, then worked in radio and television to supplement the scholarship. Having to work for part of my scholarship was validation of the two principles I was taught. It was true there are no free lunches, and if you are willing to work hard for your goals, you can receive extra benefits. The work I did in radio and television added greatly to my ability to becoming a successful head coach on the collegiate level.
In 2006, Sacred Heart conducted a poll through the university's polling institute, and they found the following: nearly 83 percent of Americans agreed that America's youth felt more entitled compared to the last poll in 1996. Entitlement is in essence an attitude. The definition of an
attitude is the mental position with regard to a specific fact.
The solution to the entitlement social issue can be found in playing the game of football. Some would ask, "What does playing football provide?"
• There are no free lunches - everyone pays the price to play.
• In football and in life, one must earn playing time,
accolades, as well as personal and team success
• Football is a goal-oriented game.
• Teaching the importance of goal-setting and how to reach those goals will transcend an attitude of
entitlement with an attitude of gratitude for an
opportunity to reach goals.
Scott Smith, who played for me at Baylor, came from an affluent neighborhood in Dallas, Texas. However, because of his parents and coaches, Scott's only feeling of entitlement was thankfulness that he was given the opportunity to prove himself on the major college level. Seizing that opportunity, he proved himself first as a quarterback, then as a
defensive back on a 10-2 Southwest Conference Championship team. Scott eagerly took to the concept of setting goals to become successful, first as a player, then as a husband, father, leader and coach.
Coach Smith teaches his players the importance of goal-setting, which in turn, teaches the players, "Opportunity is the only entitlement." In a free society the opportunity is there, so it is incumbent on the individual athlete to seize the opportunity to set and reach goals.
Scott Smith - Rockwall (Texas) High School
When an individual learns to set goals, it invariably helps alleviate many social issues, but particularly entitlement. We asked our juniors and seniors in our football program to become goal-oriented and set specific goals in all areas of their life. We asked them to set goals physically, mentally, spiritually. As coaches we also ask our players to consider setting a goal of becoming a servant leader.
• The head coach shares the importance of setting goals
and working diligently to reach them.
• Each student-athlete is given a sheet of paper with a line
drawn down the middle and asked to list their personal
strengths on one side and their liabilities on the other.
• A positive vision of one's future demands that positive
goals must be set and reached in order to crystalize that
vision in 10 years.
• Our coaches continually asked the players this question,
"How can I help you reach your goals?" (coaches must
be role models as effective servant leaders willing to
This process of goal-setting can become a solution to many of the social issues. Setting goals on a daily basis and reaching those goals encourages an athlete to set bigger and more long-range goals that will someday allow them to reach levels of success that most of them never dreamed of. Teaching our athletes to be willing to serve others by learning to set goals,
individuals learn that they don't have to be given something, but they can earn it by knowing what they want and how to get there.