“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” – Michelangelo
“Let me try,” my daughter shouted in frustration as I tried to tempt her into a more cautious approach to roller-skating.
I had a bag of reasons why my little girl would fail. You see this tiny spirit spent the first nine months of her life staring at an orphanage wall waiting for a bottle to be dropped off in the simple cot she called home. She did so as the dust from the local cement factory sifted into the hopeless hearts of a town called isolation. Isolation could be many places, but whatever river passes by it carries away the future of small children abandoned by those most responsible for their being.
In a rare moment for me, I actually shut up and stopped burdening her with my pessimism. I stopped controlling her ambitions. I stopped being the parent who stifles opportunity and labels it love.
And as I shut up, she put forth a remarkable performance of perseverance. She skated, she fell, she rose, and she smiled. My courageous and annoying seven-year old may be burdened by an inauspicious start to this life, but she will not be burdened by the stigma of failure. She smiles more in defeat than any other child I have ever seen, or raised for that matter. She is the embodiment of effort and resilience - and she cares not to hear otherwise from anyone, including her ridiculous father.
Soon after my daughter amazed me, I was engaged in a conversation I could not help but feel was directly related to pigtails and patinaje (roller skating).
A coach tried to argue that American players have no understanding of the game and that there is no pathway to change that fact.
I could not help but wonder how much of our demise with respect to talent development rests upon my shoulders as a coach - upon my profession.
How often do I spend time listing justifications instead of enlisting inspiration?
If I am honest with my daughter, I failed her not through intent but through ignorance. My daughter can skate, swim, paint, dance, draw and deliver her best effort each and every day. She may well become an accomplished champion in any of these endeavors as long as I do not believe otherwise. She needs no false praise. Children have a sixth sense for insincerity. She will have to create a pathway, not dismiss the possibility that there is one as the coach in my conversation suggested. There is always a pathway to improved performance.
The hard floor upon which she may fall will either support her pirouette or shepherd her on to other endeavors. But she may as well skate, and fall, while it still inspires that glorious glow within.
I am sure that American soccer players can become top European footballers.
I am also certain that we may be our own worst enemy if we suggest to my little girl, to ourselves, or to any child in our charge otherwise.
“It always seems impossible until it is done.” – Nelson Mandela