New Heights by Jess Larson

rock-climberThis weekend the Teen Programs Manager, Margaret, our brand new Teen Squad Coordinator Krystal and I will be taking a group of teens to First Ascent Climbing for a climbing day. Two community members and climbers generously raised support among their friends in order to send our Teen Squad on (for most of them) their first climbing experience!

When Margaret and I were discussing the plans, she laughed, mentioning that Krystal wasn’t the most comfortable with heights; what a way to welcome her to her new job! At that point I broke down and confessed that heights are not my favorite thing either. I love hiking in the mountains, but when it comes to actual, vertical climbing I prefer to have my feet planted firmly on the ground. And then, Margaret admitted the same feelings. So we now have three Girls in the Game staff members, all slightly uncomfortable with heights, accompanying a group of teens climbing for their first time (of course under the guidance and supervision of the trained professionals at First Ascent Climbing with all the correct safety gear).

To some, this might sound like a disaster waiting to happen. To me, it sounded perfect.

A volunteer leading the dance!

I do a lot of the volunteer training for groups that come out to help  at our After School and Game Day programs. Every time I meet with a new group of  volunteers, I tell them that it’s a good thing if they don’t know the sports we’re playing or if they aren’t particularly athletic. It’s good for our girls to see adults try something new and struggle with it, whether that be learning how to cradle a lacrosse ball or feeling self-conscious about dancing the Whip/Nae Nae. It’s good for them to see us fail. Yes, fail. Just as long as we get up and try again.

I must admit I am a perfectionist. I have a hard time trying anything new unless I can guarantee that I will be successful at it; I’d rather not take the risk of failure. Our culture fosters the need for instant gratification, which in turn does not bode well when trying new things if you are not good with the first try. We decide that that new experience just isn’t our thing, or that we are just not good at it. The problem with this type of perspective? How do we really know unless we get back up and try a second, third, fourth time? I think so many girls feel that same pressure, whether it be in school, extracurricular activities, in their appearance or even in their future careers. There’s always that pressure to be good immediately or to get off the field, so to speak. And it holds us back from our own personal growth and new amazing opportunities.

Cradling Clarendon
Learning to cradle a lacrosse ball

We want Girls in the Game to be a safe place for girls to try new activities, both the girls that are ready to jump right in and the girls that try to disappear on the sidelines. Girls in the Game should be a place where both of these girls feel safe to fail and try again. How do we create this environment? We do so by modeling this attitude from the top down, from our coaches to our volunteers to our girls. Which is exactly what our teens will see this weekend at First Ascent Climbing from the Girls in the Game staff: a little fear, a lot of nerves and eventually, triumph.

This weekend, both the teens and the staff will be facing our fears together  in order to reach new heights, both on the climbing wall and in life. After all, there’s no reward without a little risk.


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