Stone the crows. Last week I had the unique experience of reading the sports pages where a major story had something extraordinary to offer young men.
I’ll assume no prior knowledge here about rugby as I know many readers are based around the world. Let me set the stage.
Rugby League hero Benji Marshal quit his long-time team the Wests Tigers to follow a two million dollar deal to play rugby union in New Zealand. He left his beloved Tigers in a somewhat less-than-ideal set of circumstances. Long story short. He was lousy at rugby union. It’s a totally different game. They offered him the option of going to play local club rugby in the New Zealand suburbs for 12 months. That’s a long way down the totem pole of sporting super stardom.
Benji Marshall and Humility
So what’s so remarkable and what does this have to do with teaching, raising or mentoring young men? Simple. When the news broke Benji Marshall did something utterly unpredictable. He was genuinely humble. He admitted to simply not being good enough.
This may sound like hyperbole but I was truly stunned. He was genuinely humble. He talked about having tried hard but just not being able to do it. He talked about not regretting the decision but accepting that it was a different skill set and he simply was unable to adapt or at least to adapt fast enough.
Think about what most sporting superstars in this position tend to do. They only talk in press releases. The arrive at customs with a baseball cap down low and Aviator glasses on impersonating a mute. They blame and they blame and they blame. It was injury! It was the coach! It was the medical staff! It was global warming.
Now for some contrast. In the same week Sonny Bill Williams, another rugby superstar for the benefit of my readers in Greenland, did something a little different.
He threatened to withdraw from a major international fixture because he was….wait for it….upset. That’s right folks! He was upset. It was related to the fact he had been unfairly implicated in something that happened 12 months previously. He had not received a full apology so he was upset and was considering (as the game’s biggest drawcard) not playing in the match.
There is so much here for young men. Marshall demonstrates something we don’t do well with young men at all. We don’t help them understand the usefulness of both failure and the need for humility. I devoted an entire chapter of my new book Bridging The Gap to the gift that failure can provide if we know how to be humble and teachable.
We need to help boys and young men learn to accept failure. We need to teach them the language of humility. We need to teach them that the great lessons of life often come from the ashes of our greatest failures. New doors open when some slam shut.
Our boys tend to place enormous pressure upon themselves in this culture. They must have perfect physiques, be popular with girls, be strong and successful and cool. How do they cope when they can’t measure up to that standard. That’s the skill-set we need to start offering and that’s the false ideal that we need to start helping them critique. So much of The Men We Need program is based on helping them see through the lies to an authentic manhood. If you don’t yet have a copy for your school or group then click HERE
In the box below please add a comment. What do you think about the Benji Marhsall story and the need for boys to accept failure and seek humility. How can we do this better?