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The Value of Positive Coaching

I wasn't much of an athlete growing up. I hung around other kids who played sports, but I was never really good at any of them. Baseball, football, and soccer just didn't make sense to my body.

Take baseball for example. To me, the idea of failing to hit the ball was more anxiety than I could take. So I'd stand there motionless; frozen like a statue. On rare occasions, I'd get so scared that somehow I'd be forced to act. But I couldn't really focus this energy. It would typically result in one of three things: 1) a baseball bat would go flying into the dirt, bounce, and then spin in the air a couple of times; 2) I'd practically throw my shoulder out by swinging at air, also known as a strike; or 3) I'd make some sort of contact with the ball in the most unpredictable way- either resulting in hilarity or an occasional trip to first base.

There were a handful of team sports that I attempted, but only one that I felt truly enthusiastic about-- basketball. Growing up with a legend like Michael Jordan in the forefront of popular culture gave me very romantic ideas about the sport. This romanticism was also brought on by the fact that I grew up in the birthplace of basketball: Springfield, Massachusetts.

When I was 10, I started playing in a youth YMCA league. I would dream of playing like Jordan; displaying the same exquisite grace and seemingly-impossible power. But obviously, I was no Jordan. I was more than pudgy; I would sweat like a pouring faucet; and I was overwhelmed with an all-consuming fear. This translated into a very poor performance, either when playing with friends or when on the court during practice and games.

I made some successful passes, assisted with a couple of points, and was just above the level of pathetic skill-wise. By the final game of our season, however, I still hadn't made a basket during a game. I hadn't even taken a shot during a game.

Then came the final game of the season. My coach had encouraged me to believe in myself constantly, but I just couldn't do it.

"Don't be afraid to make mistakes. You'll never make the shots you don't take," he'd say, as if the statement was etched into his mind from some motivational poster.

Well, during that final game, I got the ball and had an open shot. And instantly I heard a yell.

"Take the shot!" my coach bellowed.

He must've screamed that a hundred other times before-- I'm sure. But for the first time, I heard it. As if being pulled from some hazy dream, I immediately focused on the backboard, took the shot and watched as it sunk through that bright orange rim; swishing through the net and making the most beautiful noise my ears could've heard at the time.

Playing basketball didn't make me an amazing athlete, but it made me feel amazing. It changed my perspective on life forever. A single coach's positive encouragement and reinforcement broke through to me-- teaching me the value of truly trying my best.

I'm 26 now, and Ive accomplished things I've always truly cared about doing. I feel like I'm on the right path, even if I make mistakes along the way. I wouldn't be where I am today without that coach.

He helped me believe in myself. Though I only made one basket that season, it was my basket, and it's kept me taking chances ever since.

Do you have a story to share about a coach who changed your life? Share your thoughts with Education World.

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