I often jokingly tell my colleagues in the gym about my inability to coach athletes younger than six years of age. My “position” is that they are too adorable, and it would be difficult to correct what they do. As coaches, we need to have meaningful conversations with young athletes, and when I have them with mine, they sometimes revolve around their potential and worth as the complex human beings they are.
In our gym, the Active Start program sees athletes as young as five-years-old come into the gym to participate in structured training. The display of engagement and enjoyment of learning put forth by these athletes is, as I said before, too adorable to ignore.
It is a sign of hope for the future of our society.
How it happens
My conversations with these already-committed young athletes vary in degree depending on the training time. Sometimes they stop to say hello to coach José as they move from one event to another. Other times they deliberately approach me to ask to use equipment in my area. And in my favourite of occurrences, their coach instructs them to find me and say hello or show me something they’ve learnt.
These exchanges make me invariably happy.
And I’ve said I should write a book about what these children say to me. I should write this book (or books because covering it all would take volumes) for its massive entertainment value and the lessons inherent in what kids sometimes say.
Here are some of this week’s memorable exchanges.
Conversations with Young Athletes
I intimidate them
After a short chat with an eight-year-old girl, we’ll call her Tee; I understood that children are more aware of their surroundings than adults understand.
In passing, I asked Tee if she ever got tired of being amazing, to which she replied, “no, but some people are intimidated by me. I tried toning it down once, but I felt like something was missing.”
Intrigued, I continued to ask her what was missing. She said, “having control over people.”
I’ll remind you that she’s eight years old.
It’s going to take decades if it ever happens
On a different occasion, a conversation ensued with a seven-year-old boy about his potential. We briefly talked about limits, and I felt compelled to deliver the typical “don’t let anyone tell you there is something you can’t do” speech.
With the confidence of a seasoned Olympian, he looked at me smiling and said, “there’s probably something I can’t do, but it’s going to take decades to find out if it ever happens.”
We should all learn from this level of self-respect.
Six million dollars to start
Vee, of seven, asked me what I studied at university. I briefly covered my academic career and asked her what she thought she wanted to study in the future.
Her reply still has me considering that I might have chosen my original education wrongly.
“Well,” she began, “I want to do something that feels good, you know, something that makes me happy. But I also want to make a lot of money because I deserve a lot, but who can pay me six million dollars to start?”
After a short but seemingly profound thought, she continued.
“I think I’ll do what makes me happy, and people will have to see that I’m worth six million dollars or more.”
Yes, you are, Vee, yes you are.
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More to Come
There are too many exchanges to type here, but I will share more soon. Some of the value in these exchanges is the chance they offer to validate the athletes’ positive self-image. Further, it is an opportunity to use these examples of high self-esteem to elevate ourselves and other athletes who might need it.
This is all about positive coaching and the effects it has on our children’s future.
I enjoyed writing this piece. I’ll be back with more.