Friday, July 4, 2008


I've read books on mentoring (To Own a Dragon, Mentoring: a Framework, Raising Cain, to name a few...) and considered myself a mentor to a number of kids ranging in age from 11 (and now 18!) to 21.

It's pretty much never not "messy." Asking a kid to open up with trust takes a lot of time the longer i teach/coach the more i sometimes almost want to say, "wait, please don't tell me everything," - yet they sometimes do knowing full well I'll have to "report" what they say to others...

So this one kid on my triathlon/water polo teams I met around October of last year - just as one of the messiest periods of my personal life was ending. Partly because of that, I made a conscious choice to just be seen as, "coach," to this guy.

After a few weeks, one time his mom asked me to take him home after water polo practice and because the mom had been really good about taking him home normally/picking him up, I said sure. he mentioned how hungry he was and that his mom wasn't gonna be home (working), so we stopped at mcdonalds and talked. i don't remember what we ate, i don't remember most of what we talked about, but that was when i stopped being coach and started being mentor.

I began to ask about his grades. About his goals in sports and life. And he began to realize that someone cared about him enough to make him not play water polo if he ditched school, got suspended, or got caught lying to me. But I always made sure to provide a, "next time," to see him and let him back in the activities to be clear I wasn't giving up on him.

Yesterday I spent about 7 hours with the kid through a variety of activities ranging from riding bikes at the group home, swimming, eating taco bell, water polo, and taking him home again. While helping me out at the group home, I noticed how proud he was to say, "I've known Coach Dorman for almost a year now," and stuff like that. The group home kids were in awe of his athletic ability - which I can take some credit for :-). His attitude was great and he worked out hard in both biking and water polo.

At the end of the time, he made a comment that really made me pause - "i don't have many people to just... talk to." and went on to explain how his dad didn't speak much english, his mom kinda expected him to be a good big brother/chores, etc. and his uncles were drunk all the time. I try not to bring it up (bad experiences with some kids in the past), but he talks to me about his parents fighting and stuff sometimes too. I rarely prod (but sometimes it's needed!).

A great reminder as we celebrate America's Independence that the best moments are usually the ones we don't plan for. Ironic given this. No matter what happens to this kid in life, I hope he'll always feel he can just "talk" to me or someone about what's going on in his life, and even with his future kids.

p.s. If you know me, my new title picture makes perfect sense... that's me running on the beach after the California Ironman 70.3 March 29th. The ocean seemed to cold by that time though even though I'd swam 1.2 miles in it at 6:30 that morning... hope no one's offended :-) doing an olympic-distance aquathlon this sunday which should be cool even though i'm not ready for the run really.

1 comment:

Rainmaker said...

That's great to see you're reaching out and helping out - and perhaps even more importantly, that they are accepting the offer - even if the offer for help is never spoken. Have a great weekend.