As many people know, February is Black History Month, where the United States takes its time to appreciate all that has happened in African American history and culture. However, most do not realize that just a month prior, in January, it is National Mentoring Month or NMM, which gives all of us a chance to appreciate those who have paved the way for us in what we love to do whether it be academically, socially, athletically, or in your career.
Although the focus of NMM is on promoting youth mentoring, all mentoring should be brought to light, because let’s face it, we are all youth in terms of experience at one time or another no matter where we need guidance. Therefore, someone has to find the time to pass their knowledge to us so that we can succeed.
It does not matter if you are a coach, teacher, boss, parent, colleague, or even a friend. Most of us have played both sides as mentee and mentor to at least one other person in our lifetime.
Having a mentor means having someone who cares about them, can empathetically assure that they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges, always wants to make sure that they are important, and make them feel like and know they matter.
Deep and fruitful mentoring relationships tend to have powerful positive effects on young people in a variety of personal, academic, and professional situations. It is what connects someone to personal growth and development, and social and economic opportunity. As people, we are naturally creatures of habit and example. If we see and learn from someone handling a leadership role with the utmost class and dignity, then we will more than likely attempt to follow suit because it will be cool to us. On the opposite end, if we see and learn from someone who seems unmotivated in their role and makes poor decisions, we are more than likely to follow suit as well. It really is no different than peer pressure to smoke a cigarette because, it’s cool, right?
We all know the answer to that is a no, but regardless and moving on, the best kind of mentor is one that not only can provide insight into how to improve at a certain task, but can also connect tasks to any aspect of your life. Empathetic, selfless, enthusiastic, and versatile can describe the ideal mentor. Again, these qualities are not too different between a parent, boss, colleague, coach, or a friend.
You may have had a time in your life where you’re seemingly at rock bottom. Whatever the case may be from injuries, finances, family, athletic speed bumps, or feeling socially outcasted, you have likely needed someone to pick your spirits up and provide the best ways to handle the trying times. Your mentors likely were able to provide why it was best to go about a situation a certain way. Most of the time, all it takes is that little nudge of success and support to propel you to the next good step in your life.
Personally, I have had several great mentors in my life. Of course, parents will be the ultimate mentors, but outside of family, I have been surrounded by many wonderful influences. I have had coaches, employers, fellow employees, and friends who have helped me develop and instill a progressive way of life for myself.
I have been very fortunate to have had wrestling coaches who, even when I had some tough and close losses, give me the courage to keep pressing forward. They also helped me understand my value both on the mat as well as how I can apply it in any of life's challenges. I was lucky to have had caring employers who always gave me the utmost respect and praise before advising me on how I could improve my struggles by giving me scenarios to work with. Lastly, fellow employees, in one way or another, have taught me to constantly aim to be an inspiration in another life through how I carry myself and can find a way to relate to anyone.
As there are many of you who want to emulate after a certain someone who has made an impact on your life, I too, approach my life how I decide to because of what certain mentors have done for me. Throughout the whole college experience, my wrestling coaches are who made it all easier. Not only were they there to give me the positive feedback that I needed, but they also took the time to make one-on-one time with me so that they could meet with me to give me the pointers I needed in order to improve on the mat. Just as they cared about me on the mat, they also really cared about me as a human being.
My coaches were always able to relate wrestling to any aspect of life whether it be tackling a stressful academic load, or adapting to any troubles in my relationships, or looking for the perfect job right out of school. Being a mentor also had to do with the way they carried themselves, and it was always in the best way possible. They always followed through on what they said when it came to taking the time to get involved physically in practice sessions, being there on time when practice was supposed to start, and keeping in contact with their athletes regarding upcoming meets and such.
The best part about them was that they didn't take themselves too seriously all of the time. They knew when to get down to business, but they were always willing to crack jokes and have fun with all of us wrestlers to not only create a team bonding atmosphere, but to also develop close relationships with all of us.
Just finishing up my first year as a wrestling coach, I kept all of these traits in mind from my college coaches and it has served me well as I have sensed great comfortability and respect from my athletes. My mentors taught me the importance of being prepared, on time, empathetic towards my athletes, and continuously finding ways to keep my passion high for the sport.
So, take the time to reflect and evaluate on your habits today. Are you always punctual, organized, and understanding of the bigger picture? How do you tend to handle tricky situations compared to easy ones? Your mentor or mentors throughout your life have likely played a major role in shaping those habits. One way or another, we all have to pay it forward in life, so take the time and appreciate or even reach out to your mentors to simply say, “Thank you for helping me.” One day, you may have people reaching out to you and simply put, there are very few feelings more gratifying. Make a difference. Make sure your mentors know that they matter and that their mentoring is worth mentioning.