Mentoring in Sports
This week I wanted to take this time to explore the importance of mentoring in sports. Mentoring can take many forms. Coaching can be a form of mentoring but often mentoring takes a more informal role. A senior athlete on a team can mentor a younger athlete on the team by helping them at a competition, helping them get there they need to go on time, helping them get prepared for a race or event, etc.
To explore mentoring in sports more I reached out to Martha McCabe the founder of Head to Head, an organization that focuses on bringing Olympians and youth together.
Mentorship benefits both the mentor and the mentee in many ways. As a 2X Olympian, there were times in my life when I faced disappointment where I felt like I was at rock bottom. Despite being surrounded and led by strong coaches, teachers and parents it was athletes who had recently experienced similar disappointments that were able to get through to me, and teach me that I needed to persistently keep putting forward my best effort if I wanted to see results.
As a mentor, seeing young people around me work through challenges has helped me to better understand myself too. I can see similarities and differences between my mentees and I which means I’m more equipped to deal with challenges in my own life too. Further, by working closely with mentors I’m often provided with new advice, ideas and strategies to tackle different challenges in my life.
In my opinion, the most important piece of finding a good mentor is ensuring you are being mentored by somebody that you can connect with, respect and are interested in hearing and learning from. The more you as a mentee buy in to the process of learning and being mentored, the better the experience will be. As such, it can sometimes be challenging to find a mentor that you are able to connect with on a consistent basis. By finding time a few times a year, monthly or even more often to touch base and share updates and experiences, a mentor is able to better provide advice and experiences which may help you as the mentee. With this said, if you don’t fully look up to your mentor, you might not benefit as much.
One idea for a program that can help is NSOs and PSOs could set up informal and formal ways of connecting young athletes and older athletes. There should be mentorship programs to help connect athletes with one another to share knowledge and experiences. This is something that Head to Head already does really well!
They should also set up mentorship programs for coaches. Connecting coaches across the country with national team coaches and high performance centres to help the spread of knowledge and information to help everyone grow.
While mentoring and being mentored may not address a pressing challenge and create a social impact directly, I think it has indirect impacts. Mentoring can help connect people and share ideas to address things like inclusion on their teams, addressing challenges they face due to their locations or trying to be more environmentally friendly. Mentoring and being mentored can help address social challenges through the spreading of information, resources and tools.
Giving back to the community through mentoring is an impact on its own. Being able to help others find themselves and develop personally and professionally can be one of the most rewarding things that we do. We can have an impact simply by sharing our experiences and helping others grow.
Thank you Martha for your thoughts!