When was the last time you were HUNGRY for something; I mean really hungry to where you would do anything to get it? When was the last time you felt that drive, that ambition, or that desire?

Growing up, if I wanted something, I had to work for it. If I didn’t have the money, I had to figure it out. If I wanted it bad enough, I found a way. This is not to be confused with GRIT. Grit is needed to sustain the effort, especially when faced with obstacles, and there will always be obstacles. Before one can express grit there needs to be a goal. Before one can have a goal there needs to be HUNGER.

Many coaches, martial arts instructors, and teachers have noticed a trending lack of desire in our children, and it seems to have been highlighted through this pandemic. It seems that many kids are not expressing hunger the same way they have in the past, whether it’s team sports such as soccer and football, or individual sports, such as the martial arts. It seems as though once they realize how much effort is involved, they decide it’s not worth it, or they try to figure out a way to get it without the effort required.

Maybe it’s through the unprecedented use of technology where our children spend much of their time alone or connected to a group online. Maybe, as parents, we are working more, alone in our home offices more, or maybe we just want our kids to have more we did. Whatever the reason, I am noticing a trend.

How then, do we teach hunger? How do we demonstrate to our children/students how to want something bad enough to do whatever it takes to get it? One way could be to highlight the efforts our children make and connect it to the accomplishment: good grades, a winning position, their next belt rank, or a successful project. Another could be to actually withhold the praise until some real effort is made. We can even make them WORK for what they want; like cleaning their room, family chores, or saving money. They will most likely hate it at first, but they will associate the reward with effort, real effort. It’s not enough just to show up. That’s only step one.

As a martial arts teacher I emphasize a student’s effort. You will often hear me say, “I’m here to feed you, you can either eat or leave with a dirty shirt”.

Ang Mattei

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