My own daughter had already concluded after last week’s trouncing that she loved soccer practice, but was not so fond of soccer games. And, by the end of this second game, she wasn’t all that interested in playing, but far more interested in picking up box elder bugs, searching for ants or digging for worms (I think she may be a closet entomologist).
Additionally, she got fussed at (by me) for pushing at another player. Later, when I asked her what she thought of the game, she said, “They aren’t very nice.”
“Well, they played a very good game.”
“Yeah, but they teased us. They kept holding up how many goals they had compared to us and saying “Na Na Na Boo Boo”.
“Well, you are right. That isn’t very nice. But pushing back isn’t going to make it any better,” I paused. “Do you know they only thing that will make it better?”
“Going out there and playing your absolute best—giving it your all and winning a game. Then they can’t tease you about the fact they have more goals than you, because they won’t have more goals. Also, if you go out there and concentrate on playing the game to the best of your ability, you won’t have time to listen to the teasing—you’ll be too busy playing soccer.”
“And one more thing young lady, I don’t want you to ever push back at something like that again. I want you to take the high road and be nice. For one, it will drive the other people absolutely crazy that they can’t seem to upset you. Second, it’s always the second person—the one who pushes back—who gets in trouble. And third, most important, it’s the right thing to do. Take the high road. Be the better person. The only thing that stops that kind of teasing is complete and total unsurpassed excellence, and the only way to get to that is to keep trying your best to get better and better at what you do.”
When I was speaking with my daughter I was reminded of my first year in college. I attended an all women’s college, and during our first semester the focus of our convocation speaker series was outstanding women. Among the many amazing women we heard speak was Shirley Chisholm. Chisholm was an educator and congressional representative, the first African American woman elected to U.S. Congress. In her speech she said two things that stood out for me. First she encouraged us to “be involved”. Second she said the only way to overcome prejudice and unfair teasing is simple unsurpassed excellence at whatever you do.
She also said being twice as good at what you do still might not be good enough, but it’s the only way to eventually silence your critics. She didn’t whine. She didn’t complain. She didn’t pick a fight. She just excelled. She didn’t stand on the sidelines; she implemented her ideas. And she admitted it was hard.
Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, and there are people who probably think I’m a bit daft for asking a five year old to take the high road and try to silence her critics by simple excellence in the heat of battle. It’s a tall order for a child. It’s a tall order for an adult. Most professional sports players fail miserably at the task (just watch a football game), and even I don’t always live up to my own advice.
But, if my daughter grows up constantly hearing that advice, maybe one day it will sink in, and she will simply excel at something—to the point that she will leave all her critics utterly speechless.
© 2012 Michele Arduengo All rights reserved.