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Make a Successful Adult

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 3.48.06 PMSometimes I hear something that strikes my heart and that happened at the WCTE/PBS Annual Dinner last week. Tara Brown, known as The Connection Coach, said that kids need to hear, “You are good at ________.” (Fill in the blank.) The motto under Ms. Brown’s name on the event program read, “Helping schools build stronger connections with every student.” She’s a speaker, trainer, author who inspires audiences to embrace authentic connections to unleash the potential of young people. She said, “A kid needs five healthy adult relationships to be a successful adult.”

You are good at ________. Five healthy adult relationships. Those words hit me like a neon sign printed in all caps. I had healthy, strong, loving relationships. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles. But it was a high school teacher and coach who instilled confidence in me as a gangly, awkward teenager and taught me some life lessons.

I grew up in Pickett County where basketball reigned, and still reigns, as the number one sport. Our high school gym was packed for every home game and students vied for a position on the team. Wearing a black and gold Bobcat uniform was a challenge and an honor. As a 9th grader, I was one of the tallest girls to try out for the team, and I’m sure that Coach Elaine Sells, who had been a Pickett County basketball star and had recently graduated from Tennessee Tech, thought she could train me to be a good player.

It was the days when girls’ basketball was played half court. Three players on offense. Three on defense. All I had to do was post up with my back to the goal, catch the ball, and, with a sweeping arc motion, throw the ball into the goal behind me. No dribbling. No fancy footwork. A simple smooth move for a hook shot. But the balls I threw rarely went through the net. Most times, nowhere near the net.

Elaine did her best. She demonstrated the perfect hook shot. She stood in front of me and I mimicked her movements. I practiced hook shots with and without a basketball. After team practices, Elaine worked one on one with me. At home, I stood in front of the basketball goal in our backyard and tried and tried to master a hook shot. For two basketball seasons, I dressed out in uniform and sat on the bench. The few times that I played in games, I hoped that no one would throw me the ball. Not only was I the tallest player on the team, I was the most uncoordinated and the least competitive, but I loved being a team member.

Elaine kept me on the team. Those two years as a player and the next two years as team manager. She had encouraged me to try and work hard. And then she taught me to accept my limitations and use my assets. I was happy to gather towels and basketballs and cheer loudly and encourage my teammates, especially the younger players.

So, this is a public thank you to Elaine for not giving up on a gangly, awkward girl who loved basketball and couldn’t play a lick. Thank you for giving me a job that I could do well and making me feel successful.

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