From a humanistic coaching perspective, I always enjoy coaching moments where athletes come to realize their potential as a athletes, but more importantly as individuals outside the sport. I have been working with a group of graduate students under the guidance or Professor John McCarthy from Boston University at an under served High School in the Boston area, Boston English High School. We have been at the school two days a week for the entire year in attempt to educate the student-athletes on personal and social responsibility through their sport/activity. In order to accomplish this we are taking the work of Don Hellison (1991) and his "Levels of Responsibility" model to increase personal and social awareness in the school. What I have seen throughout the course of the year has been remarkable, but one story sticks out to me in particular and a few weeks ago that story made the entire year at English High School a very rewarding experience.
On Wednesday, May 13th there was a combine held at Gillette Stadium, home of the NFL's New England Patriots, for High School Football players in the upcoming senior class. We presented this event to the English High football team in hope that they would get excited to participate in such a large venue and in front of a lot of other talented players from the entire state. However, only one of our guys was interested and he happened to be a freshman. This unfortunate occurrence presented a slight obstacle: We could let him go and most likely get dominated in every event due to the two year age difference, or we could reject him from participating due to the age requirement. As you can imagine, we decided to let him go and we would find a way around the rules. Our decision was based on the principle that the population we are working with at the school is always being told they can not do something and their potential and imagination is placed under extreme constraints. Therefore, we typically like to reject this type of attitude whenever possible, so the decision was ultimately a simple one.
(Note, I could probably write an entire novel about this day, but will try not to for your sake)
On the day of the combine, another graduate student and I picked up the athlete from school and headed down to the stadium, none of us knowing quite what we were in for that day. For the flow of the story, I will call the athlete we were with Mac from here forward. On the car ride down, Mac's anxiety was very prominent. He was sitting by the backseat window and listening to his ipod. Once dialgoue was initiated with him, he had a barrage of questions waiting us. He wanted to know every detail of the combine, and honestly we didn't have many answers because this was also our first time in attendance at the event. What we did tell him was to try his best and thats all he could do. Now, throughout the afternoon (literally beginning at check-in) there were so many great things that happened to Mac. After check-in I told Mac to go do his thing and I would be standing on the sideline with his stuff if he needed anything, then I assumed the role of observer, this is where I really learned. I won't go into too many details, but I think Mac took a big step at each event (4 events), resulting in a gigantic leap in the personal and social responsibility model he was supposed to be learning. His body language changed drastically and he was very interested in everything taking place. He became more social and met a few new friends to tag along with. Most importantly to me, he became more confident. At the completion of the 4th event, all athletes competed in a few "skill" position drills to be led by coaches. For Mac, this meant he would be doing some defensive drills and covering some wide receivers one-on-one. During the drills a coach came over and told him that he could be very good someday and when Mac told the coach he was only a freshman, the coach was very impressed and gave Mac some great encouragement (I wanted to go up and thank him for his words, thats the kind of impact that coach had).
When it was all said and done, Mac came over to us with a glaring smile on his face and excitement written throughout his body. He said he had a great time, got a good workout, and was ready to eat! We took Mac out to a local resturant and bought him dinner, meanwhile debriefing his afternoon. Some of the things he said were absolutely inspirational and what took place over those 4 or 5 hours could never have been replicated at the school during our advisory time. Mac opened up to us about school, music, movies, and even drugs! We had earned his respect and I felt like a big brother to him. The connection achieved was immeasurable and I believe will alwasy be present from that day forward. Since the combine Mac has been more voacl as a leader on his team and I think he has a better understanding for the model we are teaching and how it affects his life.
By seeing Mac's transformation, I in turn became transformed as a coach and therefore looked at this situation as one of "dual-transformation" between an athlete and a coach. This event was very inspirational to me and what I took most out of it once again preaches the importance of a strong coach-athlete relationship. Establishing and maintianing these relationships I think determines the success of any coach. With the respect of your atheltes, you will in turn have a greater ability to educate your athletes whether it be a technical aspect of the sport or an essential ife skill.
Thanks for reading and see you back again tomorrow for my Wednesday Review