By Joe Ulm
I’m 50 years old – or, as my son reminded me the other day I’m “half way to a hundred.” Half way to a hundred, indeed. The thing about being half way to a hundred is that I’ve learned things over those years; things I want to share with younger people so they can avoid some of the pain I endured learning those lessons, so they get a head start on life, so they learn fundamentals of success. It means I’ve become “that guy” – you know, the guy who can turn any discussion with younger people into a lesson (these people are more commonly called “dads,” but that’s a topic for another day. ). All joking aside, this idea of sharing knowledge with younger people is how our I-Mentor program started. This spring, three of our I-Mentor players accepted roles as Field Assistants which means I’m their mentor. I was so excited to dive in.
Now before I turn this story on it’s head, it’s important to know that our I-Mentor program is hard. Players are asked to create solutions to difficult problems, meet challenging timelines, communicate at a professional level, be a role model for other players, oversee projects, etc. In fact, it’s expected that players will fail at a number of tasks throughout the program. They’ll be supported by their mentor throughout, but in the end, they’ll do the work – they’ll be the ones to make it happen. It’s with this approach in mind, that I asked Soli Kothari, Sam Diebert, and Eli Rades to develop the plan for our fields this spring. Here’s what they were asked to do:
- Create a schedule for every field to so they’d all be prepared and ready for team practices by 4/9.
- Define what “prepared” means – for both practices and for games.
- Develop a checklist and process for how we prepare fields.
- Create an inventory of all the field equipment we have.
- Estimate how much paint we expect to use for lining the fields this spring.
- Develop calculations for paint usage by field size that can be used for this spring AND for future seasons.
- Create a schedule for checking the fields when it rains (for both practices and games), and develop a checklist for how it’s done.
- Create a plan for Wagner park. The plan needed to include a new way to use the park – something we’ve never tried before.
That conversation occurred on March 16th. Our next meeting was on March 24th which meant they had just 8 days to complete all of it. 8 days that are full of school work and other obligations. Just 8 days. If you have kids in High School you know how busy they are; how many obligations they have. How little time they have. Still, I gave them the list stoically, leaving them with no excuse for not having it done. I hung up the phone wondering if I gave them too much; wondering if I asked too much so soon. I assuaged my concern by reminding myself that challenges like this was what the program was about. Besides, I had most of the work done already; work I was ready to use as a teaching tool, you know, because I’m the mentor and all. What I received from them changed everything.
Not only was every task done, but it was all written clearly, color-coded, created using the right tools, and shared with me 15 minutes before our meeting started. On top of all that, they walked me through everything professionally, sharing their thought process along the way and detailing various options that may be worth consideration in the future. Oh, let’s not forget that most of the fields were prepared already, as well. Weeks ahead of time. I was amazed. I wasn’t amazed because I thought they couldn’t do the work, but my gosh…the degree of professionalism they showed and the critical thinking they employed in the process was… better than I’ve seen some people do who are twice their age!
In the end, I did have some suggestions; some ideas I could share with them, things I hope they found helpful. But there’s no question that some of their ideas were better than mine. Some of what they presented taught me. I firmly believe there is a ton we can learn from younger generations – I just didn’t expect it so soon.
Half way to a hundred, yes, but also with plenty still to learn, apparently. Even from those whom I mentor. Soli, Sam, and Eli – thanks guys. Thanks for letting me be your mentor – and thanks for mentoring me – it means a lot. Together. United.
Stay United, everyone.