Mentoring is simple and fundamental


As the season gets more and more serious it is easy to forget about mentoring because we are "too busy." Here is a reminder ... 

I coach football at Monsignor Donovan High School in Toms River NJ. I have been Head Coach there for five years as this season gets underway.
We have just finished our third annual “Virtue Camp”, a sleep-away camp in the mountains of Pennsylvania for five days and four nights. It is at this camp that a tremendous evolution is borne each year.
The cornerstone of our “Virtue program” is a man-to-man mentoring component that lays down the foundation for intimate relationships between staff and team, a resolve to specific actions in our young men’s lives, and a brotherhood amongst teammates based on trust. We don’t continually struggle and strive to get these things. We have them because we take three minutes a week mentoring in an organized fashion.
Through the consulting, leadership and guidance of the Sportsleader program we mentor our individuals in a weekly theme that has been picked from a list of typical character traits that our team is in need of for the upcoming game, like ‘courage” for example.
The weekly theme is presented on Saturday, or Monday, to the whole team. Each day after practice I holler “Grab a kid”! This has become a tradition. Each coach summons a player from his mentoring group and they talk as they walk off the field together.
It goes something like this:
“Hey John, nice job today with your reach steps” (SportsLeader Coach Paul Passafiume calls this “getting the player into the funnel”). You’ll get a smile, and a “thanks coach”.
“This week is ‘courage week’”, “where in your life do you think you can flex some courage this week?”
He’ll say something like “I need to tell my older brother to stop drinking”, or “I have to stop letting people steer me into doing things that are against my will”.
You will say, “Well lets do something specific”, “let’s agree to this”, “Go home and take your brother out to McDonalds and tell him you’re buying”, “tell him you love him but the drinking is breaking your heart and is killing your relationship”. “Tell him that he needs help and get him to agree to get it”, “at least you will tell him that you don’t like what he’s doing, and you are putting the relationship on his shoulders”.
He’ll say “Ok coach, I’ll try”. You simply reply, “I know you’ll try John”, “You are courageous.” You will follow up one week from then, briefly discuss his successes, and lay down the next “resolution of the week”.
On game day your fifty kids or so will run onto the game field having accomplished something that they otherwise wouldn’t have if not for having you in their lives. They will play the game courageously, knowing personally what “courage” really means.
Mentoring is simple and fundamental. You just can’t win without being simple and fundamental. A practice can take 120 minutes. Make it 117, or 123, and your whole life will change, because theirs will.


By Dan Duddy