Two weeks ago I did a re-post of an old blog post from 2017. This week I am doing another re-post. This one is from a post from 2015, but it is still as important today as ever. I will be doing these re-posts from time-to-time, since most of you were not with me on this journey in the early days, and I have some older posts that are still appropriate and that I think you will like.

Early in my career, fellow coaches and teachers sometimes talked about the idea that we had to make sure we didn’t play favorites. I totally understood and bought in.

While we could never treat all kids exactly the same way because they are all unique, we needed to make sure that we were consistent and fair in how we treated them all, and that we did not treat kids so differently from one another that it appeared we had favorites.

But a funny thing happened on my way through my teaching and coaching career.

I realized that I was a human being – a human being with feelings, one who, like all human beings, likes certain types of people for the way they do things and how they treat others more than he likes other people for the way they do things and treat others.

And I realized that I felt this way about my students and athletes, as well.

The Horror!

“WHAT!?!? How could you, Scott? They are all to be treated the same, no matter what they do, and no matter how human you think you are!”

But the more I tried to fit into that neat little package, the more I struggled with it. And the longer I taught, coached, and directed athletics, the more I came to realize that it was okay for me to feel the way I did.

I realized that no matter how hard I tried not to, I was going to have favorites.

Once I realized that, I was able to honestly and openly assess what that meant. When I would discuss the concept with other coaches and teachers, they confided in me that they felt the same way, too.

And then I came up with the line that has been my mantra on the subject for most of my career:

“Because I am a human being, I have favorites. However, I don’t play favorites.”

That idea has guided me for many years now. It freed me to be able to just teach and coach all kids to the best of my abilities while at the same time recognizing that they are all different, and I am going to feel differently about each of them because of that.

When I say, “I have favorites,” I mean that there are students and athletes who have a combination of talent, skills, effort, attitude, and character that make me like them a lot. When one has all of those things, they are going to be our favorites, and so they may get treated a little differently.

I am not saying those kids get special treatment, or they aren’t held accountable, or they get whatever they want, or anything else like that.

I am saying that, all things being equal (namely talent and skills), the kids who receive more of my positive attention are the ones who I like more because of the kind of players, students, workers, teammates, and most importantly, people that they are.

Of Course They Do

It actually makes complete sense. My favorites have always been the kids who:

  • give great effort
  • study the game/subject
  • come to practice/games/class with their motors running
  • have a focused attention and effort
  • have a teachable spirit
  • put the needs of the team/class ahead of their own
  • are polite
  • are fun to be around
  • smile and laugh a lot but are serious when they need to be
  • handle themselves maturely
  • ask questions
  • carry on conversations with me about things outside of sports/class
  • are committed to and then lived our team’s or class’s standards
  • are respectful
  • push others while encouraging them at the same time
  • do whatever is needed
  • are outstanding, unselfish teammates/classmates.

Look at that list of attributes and tell me you wouldn’t want people with those characteristics on your team. Of course, you would.

Then I ask you – “How could those people not be your favorites?!”

Let me close with three messages, one each for coaches/teachers, athletes/students, and parents:

Coaches/Teachers – Don’t be afraid to have favorites if your favorites are the kids described above.

Don’t worry about rewarding them more than those who don’t fit the description above.

Don’t fall into the trap of rewarding talented people who have poor work ethics, attitudes, and selfish behaviors instead of the those who do everything the right way and the way you want them done, with 100% heart, passion, and love for the sport/subject and the team/class.

Athletes/Students – Work to become a coach’s/teacher’s favorite based on the description above, and start living those things.

Don’t try to get by on your talent alone.

Recognize that talent will only take you so far, but your effort, your attitude, and your commitment to others will take you to places that are truly special.

Parents – Help your child understand what I have just explained about becoming a favorite. Make sure that you understand it, too.

Don’t fight it; embrace it.

Don’t you want your child to be that child, too?

Don’t you want your child to be the kind of player, teammate, or student that everyone wants to have on their team or in their class?

Don’t you want your child to be someone’s favorite because s/he has all the characteristics that make her or him an outstanding person of great character and integrity? Then keep in mind that your child’s coaches and teachers are looking for that, too.

Do you have “favorites”? How do you deal with them and this issue?  I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below