Playworks soccer season had begun and once again I found myself surrounded by the hyper and enthusiastic spirits of the young girls from Brunson Lee. Each one of their beaming personalities never allowed a dull moment, and I love them for that.
This season, we added a new teammate to the melting pot of free-spirited students. Her name was Makayla. Makayla was different from the others – she was quiet and pragmatic. While the others were always jumping for joy because they were given the opportunity to be a part of a team and play with their friends, Makayla’s demeanor was more serious.
There was a specific afternoon in which I found it nearly impossible to hold the girls’ attention during practice, so I dismissed them to play on the playground in hopes that it would dispel their restlessness. It was that same afternoon that I was confronted by Makayla. She didn’t run off to play with her teammates on the playground, and when I asked her why, she told me that she wanted to spend some more time with me practicing soccer. I was elated – not only did this student want to learn, but she wanted to learn from me.
As practice came to an end and everyone packed up to go home, I was once again approached by Makayla. “Coach Tayo” she said in a soft tone, “Can I practice some more, please?” My first instinct was to say no because I didn’t want her to be late for pick up, but as I looked into the stands I saw her grandmother sitting there, signaling to me that it was fine for her to stay longer.
The more we practiced that evening, the more I began to see something in Makayla that I had not seen in my other students before—determination. With each mistake she made, she was determined to find a solution to correct it. As we were wrapping up, Makayla filled me in on a little secret, “Coach Tayo, I’ve never played soccer before. I’ve never played in a real soccer game.” The sudden lack of confidence despite her dedication to improve surprised me. I knew that I needed to encourage her and be her cheerleader. I explained to Makayla that it was important that she keep trying no matter the outcome, that she is showing improvements despite what she sees. Finally, she cracked a smile. In that moment, I knew she trusted me to make her better. I felt like I actually had the ability to make someone’s dream a reality. I was truly a coach!