Everything Hinges on Encouragement

I didn’t really start playing soccer very much until about the age of 50.   At the time when most people hang up their cleats because of bad knees,  I just started to join in.   Well I was in a great place to play, Brazil, of course, but still 50 and barely beginning?   The first time I played in Brazil was with the staff of kitchen workers and cleaners and a few others from my school who used to play every Friday at 5 pm.   They found out quite quickly that I wasn’t very skilled and after the first session I said to myself,  “Well that is that. I gave it a go and they are clearly so much better. Maybe I will find something else. .”   I didn’t go the next week and when I saw all of the workers the following Monday they all asked me how come I didn’t return. They said that they missed me.

That was all I needed.  And I think that that is all most people need.   It was so encouraging to know that despite my lack of ability that they still wanted me there.   The one thing I did have was fitness and because I have played other sports I ended up playing a lot of defense which all Brazilians love because they hate to play defense.   Playing soccer in Brazil is one of my best memories of living in that country and it probably would have all been for not had it not been for some encouraging words from some cleaners.     It wasn’t the leaders who encouraged me, but the lowest paid and most humble employees.   It was a great lesson to me.

The Olympic champion this year in the men’s triple jump is a man from Portugal, Nelson Evora.  Nelson and his family were originally from the Cape Verde Islands but, at that age of 5, they moved to Portugal.   It just so happened that upstairs from Nelson lived a track and field coach who saw some potential in Nelson and then encouraged him to participate.   At 20 years old, there he was standing on the highest platform receiving his gold medal, but he would have never had an opportunity but for the enthusiasm of a coach.

I am not so sure what makes coaches do what they do.   Most of them are just volunteers.  Very few ever make any money from coaching,  but the good ones seem to love to reach out and pull people off the street and onto the field.   There is nothing quite like watching an athlete perform well that you have coached.   It is a great moment filled with huge joy.

I have just watched this over and over again especially among young women.   They can be so reluctant and held back until one of their friends encourages them to go out and play and when they do, they have just the greatest time participating on a team.   All great coaches know that you just can’t put up a sign and hope that people will show up to a team.   You have to reach out and encourage people to play.  Every success hinges on it.


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