The Importance of a Coach and a Mentor in the Lives of Youth (Part One)
In this three-part series we will look at the benefits of coaching and mentoring youth. First you must define each term both on its own and also as it relates to the other. A mentor will be someone who shares an equal level of power in a low-pressure mentoring relationship. The bulk of the relationship is based on free-flowing conversation and guidance that takes place as mentors share their experiences and past mistakes to guide youth to better choices.
A coach on the other hand has a vested interest in the relationship. For example, Duluth, Minnesota boxing coach Chuck Horton sees his job as one where he breaks the youth down, so to speak, to a base level and builds them back up. There is a definite superior/subordinate relationship as they work toward specific goals such as a certain match or game. Once those goals are met, the coach will measure, monitor, and adjust the program to keep the youth moving forward successfully.
The above definitions may seem to be splitting hairs to some. After all, many coaches like Horton are also mentors to young people. One way we see this crossover role is the delivery of positive affirmations to build confidence. As a coach conveys his belief that a pupil is good/strong/fast enough to meet their desired goal, the student now begins to perceive himself that way, somewhat leveling the playing field with the expert, the coach.
Youth that do not have access to traditional mentors or coaches in their life may fill that need with a poor role model. They might look to emulate someone with a criminal lifestyle, someone involved with drugs, or someone who is a bully. They see that the role model’s negative behavior is getting them attention, albeit with negative results. The young person now finds himself in a downward spiral where it is difficult to escape the path they’ve chosen. The negative role model will seek to tighten his control of the relationship, pushing the youth further into trouble.
It is not impossible for someone in the last scenario to turn things around. But they do need help, usually in the form of mentoring and positive guidance. Often times that person has gone through a similar situation. A coach like Horton can guide the young person through difficult choices, showing them the consequences of their actions depending on which path they choose to travel. Left without such navigational guidance, youth have very little chance to right the ship.