School starts in a few short weeks. Teachers report sooner than that and Administrators are probably back at work this week. Stores are loaded with school supplies and kids and parents are eagerly waiting to see how this new year will go. Snyder's advice to his team "to not take anything for granted" about the upcoming season also applies to educators, students, and parents about the upcoming school year, and really, to all of us about life in general. We take for granted here in the Kansas that everyone has an opportunity to go to school, that most people can afford school supplies, and that there will be enough quality teachers to staff every classroom. But recent lessons from the political front have demonstrated to us that if we sit on the sideline, those things we take for granted may just be taken.
Teachers and coaches should not take for granted that what worked (or didn't work) last year will have the same results this year. In a couple of weeks, a whole new group of students walks through the door or steps on the field. Sure the faces may be familiar, but life has happened to these students since you last saw them, and those experiences will shape their attitudes, their hopes and dreams, and how they respond to the task of learning. Bodies change. Maturity happens (or doesn't) and those same students we last saw in May, have a new set of variables for us to deal with. We should take the time to listen to what students have to say and what they are not saying. We should get to know them as people first and students second. We will need to see them for what they can do this time around and not assume that they will act and perform in the same way we remember. Most of all, we should challenge them to dig deeper, to ask more questions, and to persevere when learning is hard or obstacles block their path. We cannot assume or take for granted that they will know how to do any of these things well without our guidance or support.
I had a very good basketball team one season, more than a few years ago, that achieved state rankings and notoriety (levels of team success that our school was unaccustomed to at the time). The following year, we returned the majority of our varsity players, so expectations were high. But by the mid-season tournament, we were just a .500 team. I blamed myself as much as anything because I had allowed them to rest on their laurels because I, as everyone else did, assumed we would just pick up where we left off. We took winning for granted because we had been successful the year before because we had many of the same players. But during that tournament we had a meeting of the minds and emerged with a new resolve to no longer take for granted that the success of the past would automatically propel us to success in the future. We redoubled our efforts in practice, revised some strategies, and changed our attitude from one of entitlement, to one of humility and renewed our sense of purpose. And that effort, that change in our thinking, produced the results we had expected all along. But it didn't happen until we stopped taking things for granted and started doing the things we needed to do to achieve the goals we had set forth. That is the message Coach Snyder was trying to convey.
Appreciating what we have, the people who are dear to us in our lives, or the people that provide us with needed services is something we should be cognizant of every day. But many times we fall short. Taking something or someone for granted happens because we get comfortable. We get accustomed to "the way things are" or we fail to see what is right before our eyes. I think of how excited I am to see the sun after several days of rain, and how I miss the rain after weeks of hot dry weather. We do this with people too. We go about our daily lives and fail to show or tell the people around us how much we appreciate them, need them, and love them. We assume. We get busy and distracted. And we take them for granted.
So how will we change? It usually takes a "North Dakota State" moment, or a loss of someone close to us before we wake up and realize what we knew all along. So purposeful planning, a resolve to not overlook the details, and the commitment to do the work and effort required, is step one. Step two is to have an attitude of gratitude. Notice what is all around you: what you have, nature's gifts to us, and who is important in your life. And Step three is simply reflected in Nike's slogan - "Just Do It!" Getting beyond taking things or people for granted requires action on our part. We can't "hope" it will happen, we must make it happen.
I have high hopes for the upcoming school year. There is nothing greater than the optimism and excitement that greets every teacher and student on the first day of school. It is up to us to ensure that we leave no stone unturned, no job undone as we work toward success both in and out of the classroom. Assume nothing. Plan purposefully and do what needs to be done. As an exclamation point to this idea, I'll leave you with one last thought from Coach Snyder's interview,
"I know what we have capabilities of being and whether or not we can reach that level or not is dependent upon a lot of things, and the biggest thing is not taking anything for granted."