As a coach at Enterprise Middle School, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the most amazing students through soccer, volleyball, basketball, and baseball. Teaching and coaching young people is part of who I am.
At a recent basketball game against our city rivals, we found ourselves at the precipice of a unique CharacterStrong opportunity unlike many others. On this day, we seemed to overwhelm them in all phases. It felt like it was just our day. EMS was winning big at halftime! Seems like a nice story, if you’re a Wildcat fan. But at halftime is where this story takes a special twist.
The coach came over to me and asked if I would ask my team to play “fake defense” for one of their players. This opposing team’s player had been with the basketball program for two years and had not scored a single basket during the entire time they played. He was less athletic and coordinated than the other students. However, you could see that while basketball was not his sport, he was clearly trying his best. Seeing the opportunity to make someone else’s day seemed too good to pass up so I presented the proposal to my team. My players were ALL IN and willing to do something extraordinary in the world of sports.
I truly believe that intentionally focusing on CharacterStong, teaching the ideas of working on one's character, seeing teachers greeting at the door and having the advisory class contributed somewhere in my player's heads. The students, together, understood that some moments are bigger than a game. That there are times when your character is being tested. Each player out there understood that they had a chance to show their character and came through in a big way. The next day at practice, my players went on like it was any other day. They did not take a moment to bring it up or tell everyone about it, they just participated in practice like any other day. To me, this felt like the ideas of showing good sportsmanship was just second nature to them. Like, “yeah coach, glad we got that kid a basket, it's no big deal.” And while our school took a few moments to recognize the actions of my team, isn’t making kindness normal what all schools should be striving for?
John Norlin is a Co-Founder of CharacterStrong, a Servant Leadership trainer, and motivational speaker. He was Washington Advisor of the Year, taught 5 leadership classes per semester for 10 years at Sumner High School, and was a Program Administrator for the Whole Child for five years.