Working with youth in sport has become an invaluable part of my life. I get paid to coach, but I also volunteer to share my sport at schools. And I can not say enough positive things about that time that I spend with kids.
To prove my point, recently I had an incredible volunteer experience that I thought was going to be a disaster for me.
I had been down in the dumps for quite a while, like a black hole of negativity. I was critical and defensive. I could not do anything right, and no one else could do anything right. In training, I was extremely hard on myself and was not taking coaching very well. It was to the point where I was convincing myself to NOT just quit and walk away. For anyone who has been competing in a sport for long enough, they can understand that this happens sometimes, but for me it was worse than I had experienced previously.
Luckily I had finally seen in myself what was going on and was taking steps to clear my head and figure out how to climb out of the hole.
Not yet my usual positive self, I had an event with 100+ teenage girls about sport empowerment.
You can imagine how difficult this was to wrap my mind around. Here I was, struggling with a sport I love, finding nothing good about it, criticizing myself constantly, ready to quit, being a crappy person to my coach, and I had to go demonstrate and talk about Olympic weightlifting and sport empowerment to this room full of girls. I saw nothing good coming out of me attending.
Not a bone in my body or thought in my mind wanted to go that day. I forced myself to go because I could see past myself by this point and I knew I had to do it for the girls, and I knew it would do me good.
So I went.
It was the BEST thing I could have done…
The girls were so excited to try weightlifting! With contagious smiles on their faces and an amazing willingness to learn, I taught and demonstrated for two hours that day and truly enjoyed teaching them the lifts.
But the most amazing turn-around in my mindset came during a question and answer session with the girls and all of the other amazing sport representatives that were there. We got asked questions like…
Why did you start your sport?
What inspires you to keep going?
What do you struggle with the most in your sport?
I gotta tell ya, when you are struggling with your mindset in a deep hole of despair and you’re in front of 100+ girls with a microphone to answer these questions, you dig deep to find those meaningful answers that you know are buried in you somewhere. Those answers that somehow got covered up with cynicism and resentment.
Well, I found those deep and meaningful answers for those girls, and for myself it turns out. I spoke about and reminded myself how much I love my sport, how inspired I am by my coach and teammates, and why I compete in and coach this sport. I’m not sure I’d be as far out of my black hole as I am now if it wasn’t for that event that every part of me was resisting.
There is nothing quite like talking to, teaching/coaching, and watching kids in your sport to have them pull out your truth and help you (re-)find your inspiration. I walked away feeling some light ahead of me.
I highly encourage anyone involved in sport as an adult to make time for working with or volunteering with youth sport. It is so good for the soul: You will find a deeper connection with your sport; you will be constantly reminded why you choose the sport that you do; you will renew your passion and love for the sport.
And you will keep the sport alive with the next generation. Who doesn’t love that idea?