Some of you have already seen this on Facebook, so forgive the repeat, but it gives me a chance to go a little more in depth and apply it to my own testing journey.
For the past decade, I’ve been actively involved with my son in Scouting. From his first days as a Tiger Cub just coming out of Kindergarten, to his currently being an Eagle Scout and a Venturing Bronze Award recipient at 15, I’ve tried to show him that hard work and dedication to a goal will pay off. I’ve also frequently encouraged him (or perhaps cajoled is a better term at times) with “Come on, Nick, you are an Eagle Scout! If you can do that, you can do this!” for so many things (service projects, school work, etc.).
This summer, he surprised me by saying he wanted to hang around after our Scout meetings and play Basketball at our church. Tuesday night is when a lot of our various meetings happen for many of our auxiliaries (Activities Days for girls between 8-12, Young Women’s for girls ages 12-18, Cub Scouts for boys who are between 7-11, and Boy Scouts & Venturing for boys 11-18). Since we have the building that night, a lot of the guys in our Ward get together to play basketball after we finish with our meetings, and Nick decided to hang out and play ball with them.
Fast forward four months, and the High School team is holding basketball conditioning camp, which will be leading to tryouts three months later. I was somewhat surprised when my son said he wanted to participate in conditioning camp. I told him it was OK with it as long as his grades stayed above our agreed to threshold (any C’s on a progress report means an automatic suspension of activity until it is resolved, however long it took to resolve it. I made sure the coaches knew that). We did actually have to call in on that a couple of times, but it was amazing how quickly he resolved those issues.
So we get to October and the team tryouts. I was hopeful but also apprehensive. Nick was enthusiastic, but he’d never played team ball with a league or in junior high, so he was starting from an inexperienced position to begin with. Still, he’d put a lot of work in, and I thought, well, maybe that will help him make the squad. Sadly, at the end of the first week tryouts, I picked him up from practice and he said “Well, I didn’t make the team. I got cut in the first round.”
I thought to myself “That’s a bummer, but hey, he tried. I guess that’s the end of that.” He then surprised me and said “It’s OK, the guys who were trying out are really good and have been doing this a long time.” Wow, he’s taking this well. “Besides, I asked the coach if I could be one of the team managers so I could keep working out with the team and learn some more, and get into better shape and learn the ropes, so I would be in a better position next year.” Now that took me by complete surprise!
I asked him “So, you’re willing to come each week and do the grunt work necessary to help the team? You’re effectively going to be the ‘water boy’, you know that, right?” Please note, I didn’t say that to belittle what he’d agreed to do, but I wanted to really see if he understood what being a team manager meant. It meant prepping the gym before and after games. It meant making sure water coolers were filled. It meant making sure that equipment was working, stats were being kept, uniforms were ordered and available. It meant running the scoreboard. It meant videotaping the practices and games. There wasn’t going to be a lot of glamour in what he was going to be doing. He said he understood all that, and he was totally OK with it. Besides, some of his friends were helping with management duties, too, and his friends on the team were excited he’d be out there working with them.
For the past three months, my son has been getting up early on Saturdays and heading over after school to go and get the gym ready for practice, he’s been doing full workouts with the team and acting as “crash test dummy” for drills, he’s been hanging and removing nets from hoops, he’s been tabulating team stats, he’s been hauling water, he’s been sweeping floors, and he’s been traveling with the team to shoot video of the players, run the scoreboard and do all sorts of other things that the team needs. A lot of grunt work, almost none of it visible, but necessary and needed. He even went out and helped the team with fundraisers and special events so that they could raise money for a big Northern California basketball tournament that was being held 100 miles away in Patterson, CA (and which took up a good chunk of the week between Christmas and New Years). He did all of this, and more, while also keeping his grades up and doing all of the other things I’ve asked of him as a Dad. Not once did I hear him complain about any of it.
A couple of nights ago, my wife and I received a phone call. It was from the Junior Varsity team coach. He called us to commend Nick for all he’d done and for the commitment he’d made to the team, even in doing a lot of the unglamorous stuff necessary to help make the team perform well and stay on track with their training. That alone would have been nice, but there was more. He said he was so impressed with his work ethic and his desire to participate, that he asked if we would be OK with him being added to the J.V. team roster as a full player. Of course, were happy to say yes, but I told the coach of our own rules of eligibility regarding his grades. He laughed and said “Yes, I remember that, and of course, I will support you there. Still, if all that is in order, we’d like to offer him a full time spot on the team.” To which we said “Certainly!”
As I asked Nick how he felt about all this, he played it cool (this is a common trait for a 15 year old, I realize 😉 ), but he also showed a healthy dose of realism. “Dad, I’m on the team now, but I’m the low man on the J.V. squad. I’m probably not going to get much in the way of playing time, but hey, I now get the chance to play, and now I can practice and get better, so that maybe next year, I can start on the J.V team or maybe be eligible for the Varsity team” (he’s a Sophomore right now, btw). I thought that was really cool, and a testament to level headed realism, but I could also see the faint smile on his face. He was excited, and he was happy at this turn of events, even if he wasn’t going to outwardly admit it ;).
In the testing world, we are often faced with similar challenges. We often struggle with how we can break into a particular market, or we lament that there are no good jobs, or we say that there’s no future in what we do, and nobody really cares, so what do we do? We go on and we do the bare minimum, or we just sigh and say “Ah well, such is life!” Well, I guess that’s a way we could handle it… or we could do what my son did. He said “OK, so I can’t be on the team right now in the capacity of a player… what can I do?!” Thomas Edison is famously quoted for saying “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work”. Many times, we want to have the perks and the money and the prestige of doing something, but we are not willing to roll up our sleeves and do what is necessary. My son reminded me of just how valuable this process is. We can wait for something to happen to us, or we can go out and work to make it happen for us. There aren’t any guarantees, of course, but “fortune favors the brave”, and it favors those willing to do whatever it takes. To my son, thanks for the reminder, and thanks for proving you have the grit to do what is necessary, even if there’s no prestige in doing it. You now have a shot at doing what you set out to do. Here’s hoping you make the most of it, and thanks for reminding me of exactly what I need to do to make it on the big team in my own endeavors!