Alex
tom walsh

  

Alex is a cool kid.  I knew him for a couple of months last fall, when I was coaching the youth soccer team that my step-daughter was on.  Alex came to the team without a lot of confidence in his ability to play soccer, without a lot of the drive that makes an excellent soccer player.  But he came with a heart of gold and the desire to do well, and that's all it takes at that level to meet with success.

The funny thing was that all Alex had to do to be successful was to meet with success.  He had to be accepted as a member of the team, and he had to play a couple of games and make a few plays.  He already had it in him--he was pretty good on defense, actually, and he didn't need a great deal of coaching to be able to function as a player.  All I really gave him as a coach was acceptance, encouragement, and some pointers on some basics of the game, and Alex did a great job all season long.  He improved with each game, and he developed a great deal of self-confidence.  He was also a lot of fun to be around.

Alex's greatest asset, though, was the fact that he listened.  When I gave him pointers, I could see him paying attention, thinking about what I was saying, and then actually trying to do what I suggested.  More often than not, he was successful.

Working with Alex was pretty easy, because we all knew exactly what we were there to do:  play soccer.  The kids on the team were there to play their best and learn and practice new skills.  

And on my team, they were there to learn about playing as members of a team and showing good sportsmanship at all times.  All of the other benefits came as results of the work they did on the field.  The self-confidence and higher level of ability came as results of the efforts that they put forth and of the amount of encouragement that they received from me and their parents.  

Alex thrived in an environment of encouragement and teaching.  We didn't try to turn him into a soccer player--we tried to teach him what he needed to do and let him do the rest, and we watched the other aspect of who he was bloom as this one small part of his life came into place.

I often think of Alex when I see parents with "problem" children, or when I see kids that don't seem to have any self-confidence or even a sense of self.  I wonder when I see them if the kids have always had adults trying to "fix" their "problems," not realizing that if they were to encourage the children to develop their true strengths, many of these "problems" would go away as a result of their confidence in another area.

I know that in my life, developing confidence in one area always bleeds over into something else, and I'm able to accomplish more in other areas simply because I've gotten better at something else.  On the other hand, consistently failing (or not living up to the expectations of others) at something has brought me down in other areas.  I stopped painting as a teen because of the criticism I got from family members, and that "failure" definitely affected me in other areas (though I did take up painting later in life when I no longer cared what others thought of my work).

We must trust that what we're doing has a purpose.  We must realize that we're not here to make kids conform or perform, but that we're here to help them to develop their own unique skills and talents, not the ones we want them to have or the ones we think they should have.

I wouldn't even be surprised if some of Alex's new-found confidence on the soccer field bled over in to his school work or other areas of his life where a certain level of confidence is necessary for success.  And I wouldn't be surprised if Alex were to grow up one day to help someone else to gain confidence in one area of his or her life.  And isn't that all we really can do in this life--provide a base for our youth to build and grow from, so that at some time in the future, they can give a similar, stronger base to young people in their lives?

I'm very thankful that Alex came into my life, if even for such a short time.  He had an awful lot to teach me.

  

There can be no great courage where there is no confidence or assurance,
and half the battle is in the conviction that we can do what we undertake.

Orison Swett Marden

  


  
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