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For Who? For What?

On September 3, 1995, Ricky Watters, then a member of the Philadelphia Eagles responded, “For Who? For What?” in response to a question regarding his apparent alligator arming (not stretching out for a ball he could have caught) a pass in the midst of several defenders; a pass aimed directly at Watters from his quarterback, Randall Cunningham. His response was an interesting statement speaking directly to motivation. Among the criticisms Watters took following the game, the main focus questioned why he didn’t risk the hit from the defender in order to possibly make an important catch. For who? For who should I feel compelled to risk injuring myself? For what? What is in it for me? Watters’ words from more than twenty-five years ago continue to resonate, especially when one considers the potential impact they have on the student-athlete.

School: For Who? For What?

“Why should I study when I can be online with my friends?”

“What purpose is it serving to learn algebra?”

As part of a body of research looking at new, guided pathways for students, data were

found suggesting that students are less likely to be successful in required classes in

comparison to those they choose to attend.

"You are making me take this. I don’t know what purpose this class serves.”

The bottom line is, when a student is less interested, this leads to decreased

motivation, which ultimately results in less effort and a lower grade.

Sports: For Who? For What?

“Why should I stay focused and push myself on a simple line passing drill?”

“What is the purpose of this drill? This isn’t real soccer.”

More than twenty-five years, Dr. Baron wrote a series of articles for the Eastern

Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association (EPYSA) publication, Touchline. One of those

articles focused on the word why? It really is an interesting word; a favorite of the three-

year-old. (“Why are clouds blue? Why do I have to go to bed? Why isn’t mommy home

from work yet?”) For the three-year-old, the word reflects a brain that is a heat-seeking

missile for information; a brain seeking to make sense of an expanding and new world

in the eyes of the child. The word why is a fair question, yet not a question always asked

by previous generations. Neither the police officer, nor the teacher, nor the coach was

frequently asked why; we simply did what we were told. We blindly trusted that our

directive was in our best interest. This is clearly no longer the case. Whether born of

cynicism, frustration, or bad previous experiences, today we understand that we must

engage the learner. We must bridge the gap between the perception of mandate and

the absence of engagement and the awareness of value and the resultant engagement

and increased effort.

“For Who? For What?”

For ourselves? For mom and dad? For my coach? For my eventual D1 scholarship?

Because you say so? Because I want to? These are all very different with regards to

motives and eventual outcome.

For Who? Hopefully for yourself!

For What? Hopefully for an attainable, realistic, and well-understood goal of your choosing!


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