Lessons to Remember: We all Need a Champion 

By Eva Schmidt, PCC, CEC, NBC-HWC, FNP-BC 

With an apologetic head tilt and an obligatory “tsk”, the waiter informed us that the outside patio was full but brightened as he promised “the best table in the house.” He wasn’t wrong. He led us to a table next to a huge picture window overlooking the river with its show of splashing ducks. They seemed to be enjoying the sun as much as the rest of us, ignoring the din of the bustling waitstaff tending to the flood of happy patio diners. 

It was the first day of real sun and warm weather in months. Despite the unspoken knowledge among all of us that it wasn’t going to last just yet, a reminder of the fickle nature of spring in the Pacific Northwest, the collective sense of “ahhh” was palpable. And getting to spend time with my longtime friend, whom I hadn’t seen in some time, on this gorgeous afternoon made up for the overpriced salad in front of me. 

We talked about all those things that friends trying to catch up talk about – family, work, relationships. I was explaining that I had been stalled out on a decision I was trying to make. In his no-nonsense manner, one of the many traits I truly appreciate about him, he asked “what is your coach brain telling you?”  Great question, I thought.  

As we continued to chat and soak up the sunshine, my friend shared that he had been coaching his seven-year-old son’s Bumble Bee Football team. Not surprising, given that he is a former football player himself.  He told me the story of Vinnie, one of his young players. During last week’s game, Vinnie had run for an 80-yard touchdown. In his animated way, he described Vinnie running down the field as fast as his little 7-year-old legs would carry him. After the first 20 yards they gave up trying to get the little guy’s attention to alert him that he was running in the wrong direction. Instead, both teams began cheering him on and running down the sidelines with him, chanting “go Vinnie, go!” By the time Vinnie reached the end zone, he was beaming, showing only a split second of regret when he learned he had run the wrong way.  He had run hard, and was very proud of himself, which in his innocent little mind outweighed any minor regret he had for his mistake.  

I couldn’t shake Vinnie’s story.  At what point do we lose that innocence and start fretting about what others think? When do we start letting others’ judgment blunt our sense of accomplishment despite mistakes? When and why do we stop being Vinnie?  I know there are volumes of well researched data on the subject. But in this case, maybe the “why” is not as important as the “what if.”   

We finished our lunch and said our good-bye’s, vowing to not let so much time pass next time. As I drove home, I couldn’t stop thinking about Vinnie. “What if?” What if more people had a champion cheering them on? How different might their world look from that lens? Vinny ran his little heart out because he was being cheered on. Albert Bandura suggests people are more likely to succeed if they think they can. To foster self-efficacy, good coaches help their clients believe in themselves, championing their clients, chanting “go Vinnie go” for those who need to hear it. In answer to my friend’s question, my coach brain is telling me that even I need a champion sometimes. Do you have a champion? What if you did?