With juice and a donut in hand, Cameron and I are sitting on a park bench outside the gym where we just finished playing our second basketball game of the season. "Cameron, why don’t you shoot the ball during the game?” I ask. “Last year, my coach told me I wasn’t allowed to shoot.”
“Hmmm.” I pause. Take a bite of my blueberry donut and fight the urge to ask who her coach was so I can have a few words with that man or woman, but I snap back to the present and focus on the magnitude of this moment in this 10-year-old’s life.
“Well, you are my center… and the tallest girl on the team. What happens when you shoot?” “I miss…a lot.” She looks down at her feet, embarrassed by her performance. “So, what if I told you on this team, you are allowed to shoot, and miss?” “Seriously?” Her face lights up. “Cameron, do you want to get better?” “Yes.” “Do you want to help your team be successful?” She nods. “Then from now on, you are allowed to shoot.” She smiles, then looks away, contemplating her fate. “And if I miss…” “I don’t care if you miss, Cameron. I just want you to be brave. If you see the shot, take the shot. If someone is in your face, then pass to your teammate.” Cameron looks out to the field. I can tell I have sparked something in her. There is a competitor in there and I need to draw it out.
“Are you brave?” “Yes, coach, I am brave.” She straightens her back. I can feel the energy shift. “I know you are. These girls look up to you. I want you to know you can be brave during the game and at practice. These girls look up to you, and I trust you.” We clink our juice boxes, she leans over to give me a hug. The smile on her face in that moment is worth every minute I spent volunteering to coach that team that season.
The next week, Cameron takes her shot in the first 45-seconds of the game. It misses the rim completely and the other team gets the rebound. The team sprints to the other side of the court to set up for defense. Before Cameron can turn around, I am already on my feet. “Good job, Cameron. I see you. Do it again.” She smiles, gives me a thumbs up, hustles to the other side of the court.
We won the game, 32-14. Cameron had 12 points.
We didn’t win every game that year, but a child felt loved and gained confidence in herself. That is why we coach.
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead http://amzn.to/2gnncKJ
“As for you, my fine friend, you are a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate delusion that simply because you run away from danger, you have no courage. You are confusing courage with wisdom. Back where I come from, we have men who are called heroes. Once a year, they take their fortitude out of mothballs and parade it down the main street of the city, and they have no more courage than you have. But they have one thing you haven’t got: a medal. Therefore, for Meritorious Conduct, Extraordinary Valor, Conspicuous Bravery against the Wicked Witches, I award you the triple cross. You are now a member of the legion of Courage.”
-The Lion formerly known as "Cowardly"