spiderman and other freaks…

i remember when i was trying-out for the soccer team at william mitchell high school in colorado springs, colorado…it was back when i was a sophomore and a transfer student to the district…at this time in my life, i was so small (and skinny)…not the hulking, hunk of chiseled beef you see walking the streets of minneapolis nowadays;)

back then, i was so skinny that they used to call me spiderman…i mean, it was crazy how freakishly small i was–if i turned sideways, i would disappear (my super-power)!  note to world: self/body image issues are not unique to girls/women…and let me tell you–no guy, at any point in their k-12 school career, wants to be “that small”…

anyways, back to the fall tryouts…it so happened that i made the jv soccer team…and once that was established, the coach went about training and evaluating us further…to see who would be in the “starting line-up”…

i remember one day during our training, another sophomore (a guy who kinda looked like an older version of the evil kid from the omen-the original 1976 classic…which still holds up as one of creepiest halloween movies of all-time!) who had also made the jv squad…made a comment directed at me–he said, ‘this guy doesn’t realize he’s too small for the team’…walking right behind him came a senior/varsity player (a person who looked to be a fully grown man–as evident by the 5 o’clock shadow he was sportin’ at 3pm) who said, “he can play” (matter-of-factly) and continued on his way…funny thing was, that same senior was one of my club team coaches from the summer before (i seriously thought he was an adult when he was my coach:)

well, training went on for a few more days before our first game and i worked hard (encouraged by the words of the senior/varsity player/former coach)…and the other sophomore made a few more jabs…then, game day finally came…

on game day, the jv coach had us all huddled up as he went over the starting line-up & the game plan…and he called my name, i was starting at right center midfield!  one name he didn’t call was that of the guy who had been taunting me…anyways, i started that game and every remaining game that year–while my nemesis rode the pine…when i walked out onto the field, i looked back at him and smiled–my face, my posture, and every nonverbal part of my being…if translated…said one thing: what’s up now, bitch?!

the words “he can play” were big for me…heartened me, gave me strength…in that moment, my former coach was lookin’ out for me and i appreciated it then (and now)…and that lookin’ out is something i’ve tried to adopt in my own work with kids…especially, with kids on the margins…you know, the ones the rest of the world calls freaks

happy halloween!!!

sincerely–your friendly neighborhood spiderman

tradecraft: the “ten attitude”

one of the first paid youth positions i held was as a soccer coach with skyhawk’s sports academy in washington state…(it was a summer sports camp organization)…

i was nineteen when i first started working with this organization, and at the time…i didn’t know jack about working with kids…green as could be…a complete and total rookie!

looking back, i realize that this was a great place to start what has now become a life-long career for me, what has become my profession…honestly, i owe a lot to this organization and to the people i worked with during those summers (4)…it was soooooo influential for me–it still impacts my work today…more than 20 years later!!!

i had played soccer since i was five, i loved it, so this job was fun for that reason and also because i worked with a lot of guys i played soccer with in high school…i worked with quite a few friends…jeff, tuan, “ghandi”, john, hugh, ben and others–guys who loved soccer and loved the job!  we would travel around the state together, lead soccer camps (to kids aged 5-12 years old), scrimmage after camp times, and hang-out…what more could you ask for in a job?! working here (6 hours a day, 5 days a week), i learned how to motivate, inspire, encourage, train, coach, listen and talk to kids…i also learned a lot of great games and stories and “how to tell stories” (each day after lunch, the camp director would tell crazy-funny stories to the entire camp of kids–anywhere from 20-100 kids–keeping their attention and entertaining them for up to 30 minutes–so great)!!!

of all the things i learned working here, the most important was “the attitude you bring to the job”…i still remember the first time i met the vice president of skyhawk’s…his name was dave…and he led us in some games and drills (just like he would do if he were leading a group of kids) and he was extremely positive, enthusiastic and engaging…and in leading us in that way, he was teaching us about the energy and enthusiasm that he (and the organization)  expected us to bring to camp each and every day…

and he asked us, “where are you, on a scale of 1-10, today?!” (ten being the highest, best/most positive attitude you can have)…”do you have a ‘ten attitude’???”…the lesson here was simple…your attitude matters; it is vitally important to how you relate, motivate and coach these young people–it is a choice, choose to be a ten!!! 

further reading: if you have an interest in this kind of thing, attitude and motivation…you should check out the book in the side-bar titled, “make the big time where you are” by frosty westering…one of the most successful college football coaches (ever) and a great human being!


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