Boys Learn Best From Each Other
Whether it's on the sports field, in the classroom, at recess, or somewhere in between, boys often learn best from each other. While this may seem obvious, it often is hard not to get involved when there is an argument, when a situation looks like it is getting out of hand, or when you feel you need to provide some sort of moral support or comfort. As adults, we are the "frontal lobes" for the boys and we teach and guide them in every way possible, yet it is through their experience and interaction with their peers that boys apply and test out what they have learned. I was reminded of this last week during a 5th grade soccer game.
During this particular game, three amazing Fenn boy moments occurred, all involving the same goalie. In the first incident, a goal was scored and the goalie was upset with himself; he felt he had not done his job, even though this was his first time playing goalie. As the other coach and I were evaluating the situation to see whether we needed to go over and console the boy, a number of his teammates ran over and dealt with the situation. They talked with him, put their arms around him, and provided him with the support he needed—support he could only have received from his peers. In that one moment so much happened: The goalie felt supported, his peers confirmed that that he could not have stopped the shot, his teammates witnessed the power of empathy and sportsmanship, and, most importantly, the boys effectively dealt with the situation by themselves, without adult intervention.
Later on in the game, two other amazing Fenn boy moments occurred. First, there was a handball within the penalty box, which set up a penalty kick. The boy taking the penalty kick was a good soccer player with a powerful kick; he also was well aware that the boy playing goalie had not played goalie before. So when it came time to take the penalty kick, instead of nailing the ball, this boy gave it a firm kick, which allowed the goalie to grab the ball. Fenn boy moment number one. Then came Fenn boy moment number two: The goalie, even before the ball reached him, knew what the other boy was trying to do and said loudly, in so many words, "Come on, if you're going to kick the ball, kick it. Don't take a weak shot on me!" The other boys laughed and cheered, and the kick was retaken and of course, a goal was scored. In this moment these two boys exemplified to their classmates empathy, kindness, courage, determination, and respect, and they did a far better job handling the situation than the coaches could have done.There was no way, as coaches, we could have handled these situations any better. In fact I would argue that the boys handled them better than we would have. As adults we teach and guide our boys to do what's right and how to handle themselves, but then we need to let go. The boys need to figure things out for themselves with their peers in their "real world." It may be ugly at times, but by working through the issue(s) on their own, they will gain more confidence and grow that much more. I’m not advocating for a hands-off approach, but a balanced one were the boys are given more of an opportunity to be the teachers as well as the learners.
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