that time an 8 year old beat me in a battle of wills (and why you should hug a teacher)

December 1, 2015 By Tom

I lost a battle of wills to an 8 year old yesterday.

Let’s call him AJ.

It’s the first time in four years of Nine13sports that this has happened.

I’m not used to coming up on the wrong side of something….maybe a little bruised and bleeding, but usually victorious.

Instead, AJ put me in my place. Hard.

It’s not unusual to have a student be a little skittish around the bikes, for a lot of them, they’ve never been on a bike before and especially for younger students, our equipment can look pretty intimidating. However, normally it takes about 30 seconds of conversation to put their mind at ease and then they’re tearing the pedals off with their speed in no time flat.

one of these bikes was empty thanks to AJ

Not yesterday. Not with AJ. I’ve been pretty defeated about this for more than 24 hours now and it’s been gnawing at my gut. I was bummed yesterday and my staff and work wife were feeding off my bummed vibes and knew where I was coming from. Partner In Crime tolerated me unloading about it last night down at Chatham.

So, AJ….he refused to get on a bike. I came over to talk with him and give him some personal attention to reassure him there is nothing to be afraid of. “I’m nervous, I haven’t ridden a bike in a long time, as I kept growing my bike kept shrinking” he said. When I encouraged him to get closer to the open bicycle as we were standing 10 feet away, he refused and froze up like a cat near water.

My team was running the show with the seven other students and allowed me to continue to try and get AJ on a bike. When I showed him the bikes couldn’t fall ovef, and how the electronics work to make it a video game, I thought for sure I had won him over.

AJ quickly told me, “I’m scared. But it’s okay. I’m scared of everything. So is my mom. I just am too scared to ride a bike.”

I tried every approach known to man to encourage him, telling him of the many times I’ve been nervous or scared to try something new. But, over the course of almost 15 minutes, he stood strong and didn’t buckle. I stood strong and delicately pushed on thinking that victory was right around the corner.

It wasn’t.

Soon enough his classmates were done and they headed back to the other side of the gym to rejoin their class. Another group came over and operated as smoothly as possible.

Determined, after the entire class had gone through, I circled back to AJ and asked if he and his best friend wanted to ride alone, just with the Nine13 coaches. No other classmates or peers around. Secretly I thought, “THIS HAS TO WORK, WHAT KID DOESN’T WANT TO RIDE THESE BIKES?!?”

AJ. AJ is the answer to who doesn’t want to ride the bikes.

Now, to be fair, AJ is somewhere on the autism spectrum. However, we work with dozens of students every week that are on the spectrum, have special needs (both physically and mentally), and I’ve never been stonewalled like I was with AJ.

I’ve been bummed and moping around for the last day. I know there is absolutely nothing else that I could have done and that I gave him my total attention to plead my case and it didn’t work. I now have a glimmer of an understanding of how a teacher feels when they struggle with a student, when they pour their passion and energy into a student and come up short. When, the battle of wills goes in an unexpected direction.

Sometimes, the best laid plans and efforts don’t pan out…it’s been a while since I reminded of that.

Do me a favor and thank a teacher who took you under their wing, who made you realize your potential. Who won the battle of wills that you might have waged as a kid? Email them and tell them. Let me moping turn into something positive.