This article is the second follow-up in a two-part series. Find part one here.
Let’s see, where did I leave off? I had uncovered a newly reinforced and complete understanding of my path as a Youth Coach.
Act 2, Scene 1: (Enter teenagers)
(I’m very excited by the turnout expected for my youth coaching sessions as a result of the Career Fair. The counselor informs me that over 125 students signed up for my four scheduled discussions.)
My exuberance as I place the outlines and activity onto the desks is palpable.
“I’m gonna change lives today!” My ego exclaims this sentiment in my bloated head.
As the students file in, I’m a little taken aback by all of the football team jerseys and the middle school athletic gear — in general — the overall “type” of student that’s walking into the room. I exit the classroom and note the sign on the door: “Professional Coach”.
CRAP CRAP CRAP CRAPPITY CRAP!!
These kids have NO IDEA what they are getting into today!
As I re-enter the classroom, I hear the not-so-subtle whispers of which teenagers are masters for… such as: “What? A life coach?” and “Aw, man! I thought this was a REAL coach!”
“I’m gonna change lives today!”
My. Heart. Sinks.
There are going to be four separate, eternally long sessions of 25+ disappointed student-athletes. Four different sessions of children who want to be anywhere, but here, listening to my schtick. Four various times of the most painful 40 minutes possible. Could I fake vomit? Or quite possibly actually vomit? I want to run out of there and am looking for any reason to do so. My ego takes a one-two punch, and now it’s flying around the room akin to a balloon with the knot untied.
Inner Voice: “Wendy, you’re no chicken and never have been. Breathe. Relax. Think.”
And then, just like David Carradine in Kung Fu, I have a flashback to my coach training. What’s the opportunity in this situation? Why was this particular situation placed in front of me and how do I make the most of it?
And … WHAM!! It comes to me. Authenticity is my greatest strength. How can I use it?
As soon as the bell rings signaling the start of class, I look around the room. I look into the faces of mostly-disappointed kids. Then, I smile. “How many of you are super disappointed that I’m not a professional athletic coach?” Reluctantly, a few kids raise their hands. I explain to them, “You’re not gonna hurt my feelings; be honest.”
Fifteen more kids raise their hands.
Next, I admit to them that I’m a little nervous too, especially since they think I’m an athletic coach. Then, I tell them that I’m not sure what to do about it. I reveal to them the sense of panic that I felt as they walked into the room. Next, I ask them…
“What if I told you that a life coach and an athletic coach do the same thing minus a ball?” The kids get a little rowdy.
“Nope!” “No way.” “What?” So, I challenge them.
Q: “What is it that your football coach does?”
A: Helps us get a win!
Q: “How does your coach help you get a win?”
A: Makes us practice.
Q: “What do you do during practice?”
A: He shows us skills and drills.
Q: “Does he make the slowest kid a receiver?”
A: Ah, no man! He makes the fastest kid the receiver.
Q: “How does he know who’s fastest?”
A: He finds out what we’re good at!
Then, I know I have ’em.
I tell the room, “That’s exactly what a life coach does! I help you find out what your strengths are. I help you to discover the best ways to use those strengths, and I assist you in practicing those strengths to get you to your goal.”
I continued, “And just like those tires that you’re jumping in and out of during practice, I help you avoid or see obstacles that can trip you up! And I can make over $100 an hour doing it!” That one REALLY gets their attention.
From that moment on, these kids are entirely in my court.
They are wonderfully open to the discussion and activities that I planned out. They respond to my questions honestly and enthusiastically. Some even share personal situations in front of their peers without prompting. These kids are genuine, raw, guileless, and eager.
In the past, these kids have come to me because they, or their parents, have felt they needed me. This day, these students had no agenda, and their expectations were VERY low, possibly even negative. I met them where they were at, in an awkward situation they didn’t particularly want to be in, faced with a stranger who’s not who they wanted to listen to about anything.
Despite all of that, they allowed me to connect with them in a dynamic way that resulted in some hilarious realizations and interesting exchanges. I’m acutely aware of how special this moment was and how their lives changed.
But the life that shifted the most was… my own.
How can you bring more authenticity when challenged — when you need it the most?