To make Nigeria into the great nation she is capable of becoming, it is essential that more men and women choose to serve as mentors to this next generation of leaders
Many of us find ourselves acting as a mentor to children, brothers or sisters, kids in the community, people at church, or those that report to us at work. Yet, few of us have received training on how to be a successful mentor. We just naturally slip into these roles and do our best to support those who look to us for guidance and help. Since we are investing our efforts in mentoring, why not take the time to learn the art of masterful mentoring?
At age 16 my life was in emotional upheaval. My parents had separated. My mom, brother and I moved from a quiet town in the Midwestern U.S. to suburban Philadelphia. I entered a new school two months after the year had started. I felt lost in the crowd in this much larger student body. I didn’t know anyone. To my intense disappointment, I had missed girls’ volleyball season.
Little did I know how significant this life change would be. At this crucial crossroad, my first mentor found me! Here is the story of how one person changed the course of my entire life.
Mentors recognize potential and reach out.
One day a short, older teacher approached me in the school hallway. He asked, “Have you ever played basketball?” Picking up a basketball had never crossed my mind. Volleyball was my only focus. Coach Price offered me an opportunity, “You are welcome to join the girls’ varsity basketball team. I can see you have potential. I’d like you to try out this season.” Surprised and curious, I told him I’d consider it. I showed up to try-outs knowing nothing about the game.
Coach Price saw the basketball player in me. He recognized me as a tall, strong girl with a capacity to be a solid player. A fire ignited inside me those first few months of practices and games. Basketball was in my blood; I hadn’t known this. Coach Price could see through the lack of conditioning, and the absence of basic skills. He could see the potential I had for greatness in the game. He held the vision for me. He pictured possibilities for me that I could never have envisioned for myself.
Mentors continuously raise the bar.
As I progressed in my dribbling, passing and shooting skills, Coach kept challenging me to take each one a step further. He knew it was up to me. Did I have passion for the game? If I was willing to put the work in, he was willing to work with me and mentor me as a player and a person both on and off the court. The more I developed, the more his view of my potential expanded. Even while I was plodding through my first year concentrating on basics, he could envision me finishing my three-year career as the first girls’ 1000 point scorer in my school’s history. He realized this before anyone else. He helped me see it too.
Mentors guide us to the next level (but they are not pushy).
Coach Price knew that I could have a ticket to higher education if I could maintain my passion and tenacity for the game. He suggested that I attend a summer basketball recruiting camp to see if college scouts might have an interest in me. I was ready. I attended the camp. Months later I was actively recruited by many top-tier colleges.
Mentors offer acceptance.
Coach accepted me as a person. He and I had seemingly little in common. He was 40 years older than I. He was a man, I was a teenage girl. As my mentor he knew virtually nothing about me and he did not claim to know. However, as my mentor, he met me where I was. He took time to know me as I was.
Mentors listen and care.
Coach was not so wrapped up in his vision for me that he could not see my emotional and social struggles. Coach listened; he heard me. He understood when I would break down in practice over painful family issues. He helped me re-focus and move forward.
Mentors celebrate progress (no matter how small or big).
Coach could never have known how my basketball career would turn out the day he invited me to join the team. He was pleased to see me develop as a person and a player. He enjoyed watching my confidence grow.
Because of his vision (and of course my hard work) things turned out amazingly well: I did become the first girl to score 1,000 points in my school’s history. I made the women’s team at Princeton University and was voted captain and MVP my junior and senior years. I went on to play professionally in Brazil, England and Sweden. None of this would have happened without his influence.
My mentor’s legacy lives on in me. He helped me find and unleash my personal greatness.
A Mentoring Challenge
To make Nigeria into the great nation she is capable of becoming, it is essential that more men and women choose to serve as mentors to this next generation of leaders.
Your assignment: Ask yourself, “Who am I mentoring? And how can I improve my mentoring skills?” With some extra focus, you can take your mentoring skills to another level of success. You can be a positive, powerful impact on your protegés. Identify one or two of the above ideas to practice as you mentor others. Mentoring is a tremendous contribution you can make to your community and your Nation.
For those who are not currently mentoring anyone, be open to that possibility. Ask yourself, “Who do I know that could use me as a mentor?” You just never know your influence could alter the course of another person’s life.
The Mentor’s Call
(poem by Patricia G Omoqui)
I am a mentor.
I am powerful.
I am the leader of a new generation.
grand ideas, remarkable achievements.
I am the One
Who with my spark
Ignites fires of change.
I am the One
Who invests myself in others.
It is I
Who accept this calling
To transform my world.
I am power. I am One who is a Mentor.
Poem by Patricia G. Omoqui
Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.