A few weeks ago I wrote about how I was starting to coach a Let Me Run team at Nation’s Ford Elementary. I ended up with 16 amazing 4th and 5th graders who are just wonderful boys. A major component of the program are the concepts we discuss at each practice about being yourself and creating healthier relationships. One recent discussion was pretty unbelievable, and I still get a little choked up thinking about it.
This particular day’s subject was about the importance of openly expressing our emotions and feelings. This was very new to them at first. They said “only girls do that!” So Coach Joe (my right hand man) and I began to share the importance of opening up and sharing your emotions. I wasn’t sure if our message was working, so I decided to be a little vulnerable with them. I shared a very personal story about my family and a time when I was really sad. I told them how I hadn’t dealt with the pain, and this affected my relationships with others. I then told them how I finally called my mom and cried on the phone to get out my feelings. It is difficult to get the attention of these young boys sometimes, but they were completely silent at this point.
Then I asked if anyone else wanted to share a similar story. One boy spoke about a tragic death in his family, but he never knew how to share his feelings about it. Several told stories about family members being really sick in the hospital, and the emotion in their faces and words just really touched me. The boys were being so real that it was contagious. Each of them said they had never shared these types of emotions with others, and you could see it was so helpful for them to open up. After each boy told their story, I asked the team if they would be willing to support that boy if he ever needed someone to talk to. They all raised their hands immediately to show how much they would embrace their teammates. It was awesome.
The best part was I never had to tell the other boys to quiet down during this discussion. And most of the time they sit several feet from each other. However, I watched them inch closer to the person sharing because they connected so deeply to the vulnerability coming through in these stories. I wish we could have kept it going all day! As we closed the discussion, we talked about how sharing our emotions is not only healthy but creates closer relationships. And it also creates the space to allow others to not feel so alone and release the pain they had been carrying around with them. I know I sure felt so much closer to them after this experience.
Of course, we then got to our running drills and did some relay races. Not only did we really have a breakthrough as a team on the serious side, but we started having some more fun too. Sometimes I can be a little too serious, and these kids sure remind me about the simple joys about having fun and the beauty of “play.” Ever see a young person’s face when they come up and say “hey, can we play dodgeball or soccer.” They are so full of excitement, and it inspires me.
So at the end of practice they asked if they could race Coach Davis. And if one of them beat me they got to dump water on both Coach Joe and me. Of course my boy Dreflian beat me, and they all sprayed us with water. And then we got a lot of big bear hugs from them!
It was such an incredible day to be apart of that experience both with Coach Joe and the boys. That is Coach Joe in the background below. He has become one of my favorite people in town and a dear friend. We are both so passionate about working with these boys, so it is fantastic to share the coaching experience with him.
One thing I noticed was that I left practice that day with a level of presence and happiness that I hadn’t felt in a few days. And I am I just a better person when I feel this way.
So my challenge today is can you identify someone in your life that could use the space to open up? It may take building some trust with them and then finding the right time to open up about yourself. Or maybe it means opening up that next time when someone is being vulnerable with you. I have found sharing authentically creates the deepest type of bond that cultivates a new context in our relationships. A group of elementary school kids being real were a great reminder for me. Have a great week.