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Mentoring and Racquetball

 

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I'm currently participating as a mentor in a mentoring program and thought that I'd share a little bit of my experience in the hope of encouraging you to become a mentor.

Mentoring programs show kids that someone cares; something that each child needs to know if they are to develop emotionally and socially. Children look to role models to help them face the future. Mentors can be a positive example, something many children seek.

Mentoring may be easier than you think because your role is not to be a counselor or psychiatrist, but just someone to hang out with, a role model, or for at-risk kids, just a friend to get the child out of a stressed home environment for a couple hours.

Racquetball and mentoring seem to be a pretty good match. Although there’s no guarantee that a mentee will even like racquetball, it's fortunate that racquetball is an almost instantly addicting sport. I play racquetball weekly with my mentee and I found it to be an easy way to remove barriers between myself and him.

My mentee has gotten good enough to win a couple of local junior tourneys but of course you have to exercise a lot care about putting a mentee into a pressured situation such as a tournament. It takes some judgment to figure out what is the exact level of challenge that they are ready for. You may want to check with a professional counselor as to whether they recommend that a mentee play tournaments. I play so many tournaments that I decided that I would start taking him with me so that I could spend more time with him. When first starting out, I set pretty low expectations. I originally only entered him in round robin tournaments so that he would be assured of playing several matches. The first goal was just for him not to give up in the middle of the match, which he wanted to do. He seemed to like the overall experience though. Next tournament, while he was losing badly, so I told him I would give him a dollar for every point he made. It worked to keep his spirits up as he switched from focusing on his loss, to the money that he was making off of me. Now, he loves going to tourneys with me, meeting friends that he’s made a previous tourneys and just hanging out at the clubs watching great matches.

The good thing about hanging out with your mentee at racquet clubs is that there are other supportive adults around, he can learn how to get along in social groups by watching how you socialize, and it's a safe environment in which to let him play with other kids. You're both having a great time without having to work at it.

The State of California has simplified things by approving almost 400 quality mentoring programs. The programs range widely, from those where you help kids with their homework, to working with at-risk children. The mentoring organizations are especially short of men volunteers.

Kids in the mentoring programs are there only because they have chosen to have a mentor, so it's good to know that it's a decision that they've made themselves and not forced into it. If you're interested, take a look at the web site for the California state mentoring program: http://www.mentoring.ca.gov/ or if you live outside of California, look for information from your state.

Thanks, and if you have any questions for me, feel free to ask!

Alex Glaros


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