How they let me be me

by jon on June 14, 2012

I recently finished coaching my spring Let Me Run team when my boys all ran a 5K together. They sure are incredible kids, and I learned so much from them over the last seven weeks. It was really one the greatest experiences in my life. So what did I learn from them?

I learned the importance of having some fun. At our last practice, we had a competition to see who could do the best soccer goal celebration.  Ja’Wan clearly won this contest below. It was a “laughcry” for me. That is my term for when you laugh so hard you cry.

I learned about the excitement of a big race through the eyes of a group of young people. It was a great reminder to me about keeping life simple and treasuring each precious moment.

I learned the real meaning of unity and doing something together. After most of the boys finished on Saturday, we realized our last runner, Ja’Wan, was still out on the course. The boys wanted to find Ja’Wan and finish with him so we could all do it together. Several people at the race noticed what was happening including the Charlotte Observer. They wrote a really nice article about the story in Sunday’s paper. Most importantly, what do you think it meant to Ja’Wan to have his teammates come back and support him in such a positive way? And it clearly impacted all the people watching.

I learned the importance of giving people the space to open up. At some of our practices, many of our boys shared stories of losing loved ones and other difficult events that no person should have to deal with. After some of these conversations, you could see the boys feeling lighter after having the space to express their emotions. The great thing is now they have some tools to continue this practice. And they created some wonderful friendships to keep this going.

I learned what it feels like to have someone run up and hug you for no other reason than to just say hello. Many of the kids did this before each practice and it always re-centered me on the real purpose of being with these kids.

I learned that young kids can completely energize you. They run around without a care in the world and many times only care about when they can “play” again. I was reminded how it important it is to have plenty of time to “play” in my own life.

I learned that friendships can happen between two people at any age. My other coach was a 64 year old man, and we couldn’t have connected more as friends. He was a major part of making this such a great experience. Joe is also incredibly passionate about giving back and being with our youth.

I learned what it means to be a team and achieve goals together. It sure was special to see all of our runners complete the race. Seven weeks ago they all set a goal to finish the race, and they all did it together. I am very excited to stay connected with these kids and watch them grow over the years.

I learned how enjoyable it can be to surprise someone with a little gift. I surprised my boys on their last day of school with framed pictures of them at the race. Thanks to my friend Caitlin for the idea! However, most of them just wanted to know if I had any extra medals. It was amazing to hear that “Coach Jon is here” and see them come running.

Most importantly, I learned that when you find the courage to just be yourself, many times you invite others to do the same. I know my boys sure did this for me, and it really allowed me to open up and be authentic with them.

What extraordinary lessons from an amazing group of nine and ten year old boys. My Nations Ford team sure personifies the meaning of co-creating a culture where one plus one is more than two. And they let me be me.  Have a great week.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Conni Pelley June 14, 2012 at 8:41 am

Great post Jon!


Karol June 19, 2012 at 3:13 pm

I totally enjoyed reading this post. I could say that I was really impressed by your commitment to your duties as a volunteer at Nations Ford, but believe that it would be more appropriate for me to say, thank you for your compassion and thank you for offering our boys a life altering experience. That was confirmed on the last day when you visited with them, and to see their excitement was extraordinary. I thank you and Coach Joe for taking this journey with our students, and on be half of the boys, thank you for one of the most defining moments in their lives. HOPE TO SEE YOU BACK NEXT YEAR :)!


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