What Does it Mean to Be a Good Mentor?

Creating new relationships for high school students can be very difficult. This is why it is very important for veteran athletes to have clear expectations of what they need to do in order to be an effective mentor. There are several key components of what it means to be a good mentor. A mentor is a person that advises another person during a new experience so that the mentee feels supported and accepted. Some peer mentoring programs assign mentors, but in my cross-country team, all veteran runners from grades 10-12 will be responsible for being good mentors to all of the upcoming runners. The key components that the mentors will need to follow in order to be successful are:

Modeling appropriate behavior- New participants may be overwhelmed by the large number of participants and all of the new skills that they need to learn. It is important that all veteran runners act appropriate in order to model the behavior that we cherish on our team so that we can be successful. This means showing up on time and using appropriate language at all times. We must remember to treat others how we would like to be treated. All runners need to follow all directions and ensure that we correctly model running skills. These skills include proper dynamic stretching, warming up, static stretching, following workout directions and cooling down instructions. The younger atheletes will surely be looking up to you for guidance and when you choose to act appropriately, they will follow suit. 

Staying positive- We need to always keep a positive attitude regardless of what happens with either a fellow mentor or a mentee. Remember that mentees are new to the sport, the school, and specifically to our team. We must be empathetic and understand that this is a new experience for them and do our utmost best to be positive and upbeat about the overall experience. By keeping a personal positive attitude about all that we do during practices and races, we can help to spread that positivity to our mentees. Some days this will be difficult for us to do, so we must all work together to maintain this positive attitude. We must be optimistic about all that we do and understand the the undermost reason for doing it. One of the easiest ways to do this is that whenever we see something positive happen such as someone reaching a goal, meeting team expectations, or simply doing something well, we acknowledge that person with words of encouragement. 

Always taking the opportunity to help someone in need- Good mentors should be available to help a mentee when they need it. This is a very simple act to accomplish. During practice, keep your eye out for anyone that is struggling and lend a helping hand. If this is either during dynamic stretching, static stretching, or during a workout, it is only making that person better by giving positive constructive criticism so that they can improve. If it is not possible for you to help at that time, feel free to tell a coach or fellow teammate that may be able to help.  

Encouragement- Because cross country is such a demanding sport, it is imperative that we encourage one another in times of physical stress. This means that we need to cheer each other on during workouts in practice, motivate one another before, during and after races, and consistently work with one another to be the best that we can. Encouragement is the key to building and spreading self-esteem, self-confidence and motivation. 


What does it Mean to Be a Good Mentee?

Being a good mentee can be just as important as the mentors that are trying to help. The common phrase, You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink is what is meant. Mentees must be willing to accept help in order to get better and be successful. If a mentee understands that everyone on the team is there to support and help them, then they will be more accepting. Below are 5 key characteristics that all mentees should have in order to be successful:

Have an open mind- Because you have chosen to pursue a new sport at a new competitive level, all mentees must understand that you will be asked to do things that you have never done before. Some of the exercises, workouts, and strategies will seem strange, but you need to trust that your coaches and teammates are doing the right thing. Be open to the new experiences and embrace them with open arms. If you go with the flow, listen, and be accepting of this new sport, then you will be successful.

Do not hesitate to ask for help- Always remember that your coaches and teammates are always here to help you. Every upperclassmen that is a veteran to the cross country team has gone through a mentoring program and has been trained to be helpful in any circumstance.  Do not hesitate to ask a fellow teammate or a coach for help whether is pertains to cross country or anything else. We are here to listen and help you.

Accept help when it is presented to you- If a coach or teammate is attempting to help you, accept the help. You will be doing many new movements and trying to implement them and we are all trying to make each other better. Remember that when someone tries to help you, their goal is to help you improve. It is your first time and within a few weeks you will be so accustomed to many new skills that you will no longer need anyone help. The sooner you learn, the closer you will be to independence.

Stay Focused- It is very important that when it is time to stretch, do a workout, and when someone is addressing the team, that you stay focused and pay close attention. If  there are any social distractions then it may result in missing some information that will impede your success. Remember that there is a time to socialize and a time to focus. If you can find this balance then you will be all set!

Have fun!- Although you are competing in a high school sport, it is important to remember that it is indeed a sport! No one enjoys doing activities that are not fun, so we want to make sure that we enjoy it! Everyone will get faster as the season advances and it will be exciting to see everyone improve. Be sure to have fun making connections with others, overcoming physical and mental hardships that arise, and enjoy reaching personal and team goals that you have created!