Today our blogger is Alecia Ivery, the Girls in the Game Assistant Program Manager, here to share her wisdom on the importance of listening.
It is common to hear the phrase “think before you speak”. But I would like to add listen, think, then, maybe, speak. As a coach listening to our youth is very important. Whether it is verbal or nonverbal communication, they tend to let you know exactly how they are feeling. Actively listening to the girls is something that makes programming at Girls in the Game run smoothly and enables everyone to have fun, especially when the girls know that you as the coach are actually listening to them.
Recently during After School programming, we were discussing self-identity for our leadership topic, and we had the girls create a family tree. When all the girls were finished, we opened the floor up for girls to share their family trees with the group. We got to the last participant, and while she was reading I could tell something was wrong. Halfway through sharing her family tree she started to cry. I looked over to my co-coach and she was giving me the same “what should we do?” look. The participant started to share how she had lost her grandmother earlier in the year, and she said that when she talks about her grandmother she gets sad.
After she shared with the group, she asked if she could go to the restroom. We let her go, but I followed behind her and waited for her in the hall. As I waited, I tried to think of something to say to make her feel better. When she came out I asked her how she was doing, and she started to share her feelings about her grandmother. But then she started to address other issues that she was going through at home. At that moment, I realized she didn’t need me to come up with some profound quote or an inspirational phrase; she just needed someone to genuinely listen to her.
Now reflecting on the situation, I remember during my time as a coach with Up2Us, we discussed how important vital connections are for young people. One of those vital connections is the relationship adults build with the young people they work with or coach. I remember getting an information sheet that discussed how if “organizations incorporate ways for young people to establish and build relationships with caring adults they are more successful in supporting the positive development of the young people they serve”. At that moment in programming, the participant just needed a caring adult. She needed someone to hear her and let her know it was okay to voice how she was feeling.
From this experience I discovered that it is okay to not say anything even when you feel like you should have some piece of profound wisdom to give. Providing that safe space and opportunity for our girls to share stories, feelings, and experiences is more crucial, and I am glad I can help create that space. At that moment I found out how it is better to listen, think, then, maybe, speak.