I remember years ago watching a youth league team filled with outstanding players. They were successful at the highest levels. Yet, few of the players had success in the game beyond that experience. Why? I’m sure there are many reasons, but I would speculate that one of them has to do with the truth from Proverbs 20:21.

“An inheritance gained hurriedly at the beginning, will not be blessed in the end” (NASB).

At a young age, these players reached the pinnacle of success. Their talent had paid off early…and then failed to do so later. For some of them, perhaps others “caught up” in size and skill. Others were perhaps burned out on the game. Others got distracted and in trouble.

I believe this verse and the experience of these young players is a caution to all who parent and coach young people. What comes easily and quickly at a young age needs to be tempered and disciplined, or it will not last. Those who are big, strong, and skilled in the early years of playing the game must be forced to focus on fundamentals (even forced to fail, if necessary), or else they will never last, never reach their potential. Success early is not evil, but it must be met with caution. Early success does not, in any way, guarantee long term success (the opposite is also true…early failure is not a death-sentence for players).

What, then, should be the approach? Take the long view. Temper your tendencies as a parent and coach to ensure the early success of your children and players. Never, ever, sacrifice the permanent at the altar of the immediate. Long term success is built through humility, patience, discipline, and hard work. Short term gains come through current strength and skill–such things are deceiving. Winning and statistical success in youth leagues–if approached as the pinnacle of success–prove to be foolish endeavors in the long run. You can do better by the kids you parent and coach. They need more from you than current success. They need parents and coaches concerned about them as players and, more importantly, as people for the rest of their lives.

Here’s a prayer for those who relate:

Lord Jesus, I give you all my desires for my kids and my players. Take out whatever does not honor you and whatever is not best for them. Make me a parent, a coach, who understands what is best in the long run and one who never sacrifices the permanent at the altar of the immediate. Amen.