I recently experienced the 2nd greatest heartbreak in my 9-year-old son’s life: He was assigned his positions in football – starting Center, and starting Defensive End. What he wanted was Running Back.
To say that he was disappointed would most definitely be understating it – He was devastated. This is the child that is so laid back that I occasionally find him eating dinner 1 hour and 40 minutes after he started. He’s leisurely. He’s happy-go-lucky. He has never – EVER – cried over sports. After last year’s Championship football game (where his team was unexpectedly pummeled) a friend asked him how it was – his response? “Good – I mean, we got crushed, but besides that it was good.” Competitive is not a word I’d use to describe him.
And yet here this was: Heartbreak.
For me it was heartbreaking, too, watching my boy literally cry himself to sleep over a position in a sport. And it wasn’t because of the position itself…it was because of the story he was telling: He was telling himself he was the Center because he wasn’t good enough or fast enough to be the Running Back.
I wanted to help him change his version of the story.
To me the issue was clear: He couldn’t and wouldn’t be taken off the line, because he is a big, strong, tough kid. His coach could not afford to move him. And, to be honest, he isn’t the fastest kid on the team. But the reason he plays where he plays is because of what he DOES have to offer – not because of what he doesn’t.
The Center has to be loud. Smart. Steady. Quick (rather than fast). Strong. Unafraid. And he is all of those things.
His story could well be a victory – I knew that he could be the hero of his team, if only he would tell himself that he was. The one that delivers the ball. The one that defends his team. The one that protects his QB, and leads his line. Yes…I know…he’s 9. But his story was defeating him. The power of the stories we tell ourselves is incredible – no matter our age, intelligence, or experience.
And so we talked – about what he can do, instead of what he is not doing. About who he is, rather than who he is not. We talked about enjoying the opportunity he is given, while still working for what he wants…and we talked about the fact that I can cheer him on, but only he can change his circumstance.
The next day, my son requested a few minutes with his coach in private. When I asked him what he talked to Coach about, he said “I asked him what I should work on to have a chance to play Running Back in the future.” I was so, so proud. Not “Why can’t I do that?” or “I don’t want to do this” but “What do I need to do to improve?” That’s BIG…not just for a 9-year-old kid….for any of us.
And to his coach’s credit? He was totally honest. He told Landon that it would take hard work. And improved speed. And that, even with all of that…he didn’t know if he could take him off of the line – he is the starting (and only) Center – and he told Landon that he is there because that is where he best completes the team. He told Landon that he is tough, big and strong….and that he’s at Center because he is all of those things. And he told Landon to keep working….and in the meantime, to be the best Center he can be.
And on Saturday, when the first game came and went – Landon played Center. He played every play. And he came out of that game grinning from ear to ear.
At the end of the day, he had fun because his story changed. He remembered that he got to be the hero, playing Center.
Think about a situation in your life that feels defeating. Now consider if you’re telling the story as the hero, or as the victim? Can you change your story?
If you need a little help, I love to work with women, men and teenagers to create the story and life of their dreams – if you need someone to hear your story, and support you in recreating it, please check me out at http://www.meaganenglishcoaching.com
XOXO! Thanks for being here!