Character Development

I spent all weekend at a youth soccer tournament. Players ranged in age from 8 to 18. Parents ranged in maturity from 2-yr-olds to mature. Typical spring in Ohio, as well as much of the US.

My job was to recruit referees and assign them to games. I devoted many hours last week doing both of those. 

During the tournament, I check to assure that all the referees showed up and to cover for those who didn’t. This was a great weekend. The only problem was one I created by not doing the proper math about when one game ends and when another begins and how far the fields were from each other. I started the game as referee and then turned the game over to the assigned guy. 

That’s because once the tournament play begins, I become the appeals court for referee problems. I travel from field to field watching and evaluating and giving tips for improvement to the entire group of referees. I also travel around settling disputes. 

Sometimes referees need some extra instruction. Or I have to move them around to avoid situations. Sometimes coaches or parents get into arguments and I try to settle things down.

It is a joy in life to contribute to the development of so many young people. I have devoted the last 25 years or so developing young referees. They may not always last as referees, but through the process, I try to teach them life skills of observation, decision-making, handling people, confidence, and communication.

The most gratifying thing in these tournaments is the development of coaching. Coaches used to know little about the game, didn’t teach anything during practice and then figured they could get the kids to do what they didn’t teach them simply by screaming at them–and at the referees.

Now, I see coaches teaching basic skills, then team building skills. They give instruction during the game instead of berating the kids. Sure, they get upset with some calls. We all do. Sometimes I do even when I’m evalutating a referee. That’s life. The bad coaches are becoming scarce.

We need to practice this same character-building effort in the rest of life. Is there a child or young adult who could use a mentor? Intentionally seek out people like that. Invite them for coffee or lunch. Build a relationship and nurture tham. I have few greater joys in life than seeing people grow.

Have you found a mentee today?

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