A few weeks ago, I put out a request for readers to share stories of practical ways we can prepare students for adulthood. I was finishing up the manuscript for my new book, Artificial Maturity, and wanted to include real-life examples from people around the world.
The response was absolutely overwhelming! I’m so thankful for everyone who took time to share ideas. There were so many more than could be included in one chapter of a book. But I wanted everyone to hear these great ideas. So here’s the plan: over the course of next year, I’ll share a story that someone submitted. I hope you find them as challenging and helpful as I did!
Here’s this week’s story:
Believe to Achieve
Kids just need someone to believe in them… sometimes it’s hard for adults to understand that children have a maturity beyond their years that enables them to rise to difficult challenges just because a person they trust gives them support and confidence. I realized this in the most routine, yet unlikely circumstance – at a neighborhood swim meet.
My wife, Laura, and I have three young daughters and we have enrolled our girls in the neighborhood swim league for years because it teaches them great life skills. Our oldest daughter, Emma, started competing when she was 5 and by age 11, she had progressed to a fairly advanced level. For the first time, she was now facing year round swimmers who were very competitive, including a few that were ranked among the best in the state. Emma was a good athlete for her age, but she was now matched against swimmers who were older and more accomplished. She had two critical heats that night. Right out of the gate, she faced a ranked swimmer in the backstroke which happens to be Emma’s best event.
Next, in one of the final races of the evening, she was slated to swim the last leg of the team relay. Feeling tremendous pressure and totally intimidated, Emma was visibly nervous and very concerned with the possibility of letting her teammates down. In a conversation only a father can have with a daughter, I looked Emma right in the eyes and told her from my heart with full faith and confidence… “Emma, you can win this race! You have practiced. You are in condition. You can compete with these girls. You can win this race!”
Emma took the blocks, and when the gun sounded she swam the race of her life – winning her heat, right at the wall, with a perfect finger tip touch for the victory. Her relay team, where she was the closer, also won its heat. On that night, inspired by the unconditional love of a supportive father, Emma won more than blue ribbons; that small victory instilled self confidence that shines through today