The idea for a blog about the challenges teenagers face in today’s world has been on my mind for a long time. The quality time I have had with our teenage daughter, her friends, and many junior hockey players since I retired from playing has been a learning experience more than anything else. It is quiteadifferent environment than the one I grew up in and learned to play hockey in.
As many of my readers know I am a student of history, often reflecting on events other generations had to go through just in the twentieth century (the Great Depression, WW II, communism, etc.). I participated in a class trip with my daughter this spring that took us through some of the most important battlefields of the Civil War. Other times I spent mentoring and teaching young hockey players all across the United States and Canada. All these experiences allowed me to more deeplyanalyze the challenges teenagers faced in the past and today. There are several things young people, teenagers, have had to do to succeed in the world they lived in or live in now. I would call it ATTITUDE but using the word in a very positive way. I really enjoy writing or verbally debating why we as people succeed. Reasons for failure do not deserve the overwhelming attention they’re getting in today’s media. I firmly believe everyone is good at something; I often use that line speaking to young hockey players or athletes in general. It’s up to us parents, coaches, teachers and mentors to find out what it is and emphasize those qualities to each and every one of our children.
The focus of many generations during their teenage years was either to help provide for their families or fight for the country during wartime and preserve the freedoms they cherished so greatly. Life was different then, when young men helped with the family farm, or enlisted in the Army, Navy or Marines, often lying about their age to be part of something bigger than themselves. The second half of the twentieth century brought peace and prosperity to the western world, the perfect atmosphere for unlimited opportunities for anyone to pursue their dreams. Millions of teenagers took full advantage and we witnessed the most incredible technological expansion the world has ever seen. Globalization at the end of the twentieth century and beginning of the twenty first brought a whole new set of challenges for today’s youth. Before I write about mydaughter’s generation I would also like to enlighten my readers on my time growing up in communist Czechoslovakia.
I have had many conversations about my “journey” through the first nineteen years of my life behind the Iron Curtain. Theyusually ended with people saying they’re sorry I had to go through it. My immediate and always honest answer is, “Don’t be, it made me stronger”. I appreciate what we have here that much more and will stand up for it anytime. Truth was in short supply where I came from.
Just imagine going to state controlled schools, mandatory participation in parades celebrating the “great revolution of the people”, learning distorted history to fit the government’s propaganda, etc. I was very fortunate to have great parents and grandparents. My father got to travel to western Europe and North America to play hockey and see the “outside world”. The elite athletes were allowed to travel behind the Curtain not to represent the home country but the communist system ultimately controlled by the “almighty” Soviet Union. The only way to better your life during that time was to be a world class performer and we had a lot of them, still do. Hockey became the ONLY opportunity for me to excel, an opportunity I would not let go to waste under any circumstance. As long as I stayed healthy, I was not going to be denied. Some say I was lucky having a father who was elite player and I am also physically gifted.
I WAS lucky, born to a great family who always supported me.
My grandparents were old enough to remember what the Czech Republic was like before the Nazi and subsequent Soviet occupation but never gave up trying to provide a better life for their grandchildren.
No matter where kids grow up they need the support of their families especially during their teenage years, the most formative years of their lives. They need role models to follow. For me it was my dad on the ice, my grandfather off of it. I understand not everyone has all of their family members nearby. Actually, it is rarely the case in modern western society. The importance of teachers, coaches or elite athletes being the role models has increased. I am well aware of my responsibilities of being a role model to many aspiring hockey players and I always cherish that role.
The challenges my daughter and her peers face today are much different. The opportunities are plentiful but they must compete with young people all around the world. Globalization and advancement of the Internet technology have made the world smaller than anyone anticipated. People are more mobile. The distraction of wars and the need to help provide for your family are not there in most cases.
Many suggest the competition for good education or good employment is fierce. Yes, it is, and it is a good thing. Facing adversity is a big part of becoming successful. The strongest ones will always persevere. Progress is accomplished by many trying and many failing. The best ones will move our nation and the world forward. There is no guaranteed success in life. We should not give out trophies for participation. We should provide the structure and boundaries when they’re too young to know better. The only thing we should guarantee to our children is equal opportunity and unconditional support. What they do with it is up to them.
We can conclude that every generation has many different challenges facing them. Looking back at history will allow us to deal with ours in much easier ways. There were some tremendous sacrifices made by young people especially leading to the second half of the twentieth century. The sacrifices of today are only the time, effort, energy and focus you put in to succeed. Success is not only measured by the amount of money you make, the championship trophies you hold over your head or titles in front of your name. The true success is when at the end of the day you can say, I really did the best I could today. That feeling is what drives all the great ones, more than anything mentioned above.