Chapter One: The Dream.
I was seven when I wanted to be a teacher. It was cool for a moment. I felt I had something to give and I had a sincere sense of wanting to help others. Age eleven brought me the desire to be the next Barbara Walters. I wanted to be a reporter, to get the story and ask the hard questions. When I was 13 I dreamed of playing softball in the Olympics. I wanted to be the best at something. Age 17 saw me enter college as a Psychology major, wanting to help others once again, only to be told by my E110 teacher Colleen Webster that I was a writer. In the spring of 1992 I became an English major with a concentration in Journalism. Back to being Barbara Walters.
Then, a handful of “find myself” jobs brought me back to sports, coaching and ultimately to psychology. Receiving my Master’s Degree in Sports Psych, I came back to my previous decision about majoring in psychology. I am an adjunct professor at Ursinus College… I guess that also brings me back to my very first desire of being a teacher. It’s funny how life often completes the loop for us. There is something about closing the circle that makes me feel somewhat complete.
Chapter Two: The Reality.
Along that path of figuring out what I really wanted to be and do, I found the people who said I couldn’t, or the ones who told me no. I heard I wasn’t good enough. It was never my parents, or my teachers or my coaches who ever said any of that. It was in fact never anyone else telling me I wouldn’t succeed. It was the story I was telling myself that held me back. It was me. And it was time I recognized it.
I opened a training facility. I won awards. I was recognized by others for successes and thanked for my ability to reach kids and make them feel special. I have always opened my camps and clinics with four rules. We hustle all the time, we respect each other, we keep things fun always, and we NEVER use the word “can’t.” Perhaps that fourth one came from my strong desire to correct my own weakness and my own inability to stop saying it to myself. I have invited those I teach to use “I just haven’t mastered it yet” instead. Because some day, we all have the ability to rewrite the story. But it has to start with the words we dream up in our own heads.
Coaching my team, I often resort to these reminders. When we say “I can’t.” We believe it. We limit our potential. We make life hard because we say it is.
We don’t need to. That’s the funny part. We don’t need to make things anything but simple. Because, when you take the pieces apart, we find they really are not as complex as we conjured them up to be. One idea, one thought, one “I can” moment all of a sudden changes things. Our minds turn a corner.
I often ask my players to breathe this in, to let go of negatives and hold on to the dreams we had when we entered into the role of being an athlete. To rewrite the story we tell ourselves is simple. It just takes a little faith, a little less of what we think is reality, and a lot more of the dreams we had as that seven year old little kid.
Chapter three: The Dream.
I am a teacher. I am a coach. I am a writer. And every day I wake up, I decide my mood. I choose the feelings I get to have as I get out of bed. I am creating my own story. Based on all the things I have wanted to be, all the things I decided I could be, I have changed the can’ts to cans and have allowed my dream to take it’s own shape and direction. Whatever I have yet to accomplish in my life is completely up to me. I have more choices than I often thought I did.
When we grow older, we don’t actually always grow wiser. I would take my mind as a seven year old any day. My ability to dream and act as if. The ability to see the things I want to do and not see any of the self-constructed barriers.
Perhaps it’s because I am facing a birthday at the end of this week that I am reflecting on my own story. Like when I was seven or eleven or thirteen, I have a dream of what I will be someday. And I have once again invited the dream and reality to be one in the same.
No one told me I couldn’t.