Empathy- Connection at its finest

empathy-brains-130911My junior year of high school was one of the most arduous aspects of my life. To summarize it most bluntly, my family moved, I prematurely said goodbye to my first dog who I considered my best friend, and I was going into what many teachers said was the most important year in high school for students. It was an overwhelming mixture of emotions that included anger, sadness, loss, and nervousness. I felt alone but I also felt like I was expected to shrug my pains off my shoulder and simply move on. This was all before I even went to my first class. I didn’t even know if I could survive the first month.

At first, I did what pretty much anyone else does when they have a problem that can’t necessarily be solved but can be dealt with by talking about it. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by enough family and some new friends to talk about whatever was troubling me and how I was feeling emotionally. Yet at the same time, talking about my problems never seemed to really let me move forward and become the person I knew I could be.

According to Merriam-Webster, sympathy is the feeling that you care about and are sorry about someone else’s trouble, grief, or misfortune. My friends and family were very sympathetic in terms of trying to counsel me or offering me some of their free time. They knew I was going through a lot so they kind of just dealt with whatever I did, whether or not it was actually acceptable in normal circumstances. This included sulking, detachment, and relieving myself of responsibilities. It made life easier, but I never actually made any progress in terms of acknowledging, accepting, and moving past whatever may have happened before.

Tennis season came up later during spring. I was doing well enough and my classes but I never bothered thinking about my future nor studying for the SATs. I was doing the bare minimum to pass without being in trouble but I stopped thinking about my future plans such as college. At first, I kind of assumed that I was just going to coast by during the Tennis season.

Fortunately, my tennis coach was able to see that I was in a pretty bad way. Apparently it’s hard to hide sluggish complacency when playing tennis in front of your coach. He wasn’t the type of guy who would accept anything less than your best so I wasn’t going to be able to hide my deficiencies. In the beginning, comments like “get your head in the game” were constantly thrown my way when I was making dumb mistakes. Eventually, these comments escalated to something a little harsher like “stop sucking!”.

He was pissed. I wasn’t going to get away with playing like a complete airhead. It was hard for me to believe that whatever I was going through was still affecting me a year later. My tennis coach knew I wasn’t bad but if I didn’t straighten out whatever what was going in my head, I wouldn’t be able to play.

I eventually told him about what happened throughout the year. Through the conversation, we figured out that I reached a point where I could only move on further if I fully accepted the pain that came from my previous experiences and accepted it. We agreed that what I went through sucked but at the same time it was no excuse to fall behind and disappear from the face of Earth. He knew what kind of potential I had and wasting it over a few sob stories was stupid. That moment was pivotal in terms of being able to move on and grow as a person.

After talking to my tennis coach, I regained track of my life. What got to me the most was the fact that my coach was empathetic enough to try to understand my situation but at the same time set boundaries in terms of the extent to which painful experiences affect other aspects of our lives that otherwise don’t have to. I moved on because someone told me to be stronger.

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7 thoughts on “Empathy- Connection at its finest

  1. Its amazing how much a coach can know about you just from the way that you are playing. I have had a few coaches in the past that have done similar things for me and their acceptance in some ways seems to matter more than someone closer to the situation because it shows they care about you as a person.

  2. Sometimes all we need is a little wake up call. Looks like your coach’s comment got you back on the right track, despite what some people may call a poor choice of words.

    1. I agree that to some it may seem like a poor choice of words. At the same time, I feel like people have to hear the things that they don’t really want to hear.

  3. I am really glad you talked to your coach about the problems you were going through. It seems like it definitely helped him understand you as well as get you set on the right track. Sometimes, a common understanding and connection is what it takes to get yourself out of a rut.

    Moving is incredibly hard in high school and it is crazy how much it can effect a persons life. The amount of new things in your life as well as the loss of the old ones can be overwhelming so I am glad you were able to grow and move on from it.

  4. Moving in between junior and senior year must have been extremely tough to handle and I understand how that could have gotten you into a slump. A good coach can tell a lot in reading a players body language and a great coach like that can usually tell when something is off and actually give good support. Glad you got back on track!

  5. Making that transition between junior year and senior year of high school is extremely difficult. I can understand how stressed you must have been, not to mention everything else that you’ve been going through on top of that! It can be easy to get into a funk during this time, and not really care for anything else. I’m glad your tennis coach helped you get through your slump and back on track. Coaches play an important role in our lives aside from just coaching us at a sport.

  6. Great example of what a coach is there for. Coaches are there to be motivators, teachers, and agents of change in young peoples’ lives. Your coach through him not letting you fail picked you up and got you out of your funk – something others couldn’t do. I can’t say enough about coaches who push their athletes to become the best individual they can be. It was good that you had a good coach to do that for you.

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