Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Power of An Encouraging Word - A Lovely Story by Eashwar

Eashwar shared this beautiful story on how we could 'lose them young'  - our children and our wards, by discouraging them and giving them thoughtless feedback. Many times we make their success or failure about 'us' and are unnecessarily harsh on their efforts. Any effort is an effort and deserves appreciation - and if you have the understanding - feedback that grows them. There's a way to give feedback and I feel teachers, mentors, parents and coaches must be necessarily taught the why, when and how of giving feedback. Given well, it could make a difference for life.
Cricket match - For representational purposes only (Pic Sunnie)
Eashwar's real-life story is about one such incident. Enjoy reading.

Lose Them Young 

- K.P. Eashwar

I am used to a routine task that presents itself with prior notice. Once in two months. It’s nothing but accompanying my lovely wife to a nearby mall to buy household things. Well, even after 22 years of our marriage, I find this a tough and boring task, especially when it is all about being a remote-controlled worker pushing a half-full trolley. She walks ahead of me and tosses/throws things perfectly inside the trolley with the mastery of ‘a la’ Jonty Rhodes. Yes, sometimes I become a Dhoni too by moving the trolley a bit here and there to make it happen for her and I smile and clap to make her feel good about her accuracy – the only challenge and job satisfaction I have. True to the age-old phrase “This too shall pass”, the duration of this ordeal lasts only 2-3 hours max. Knowing this fact helps the unpaid ‘workers’ and ‘Dhonis’ among us to stay calm and focussed.

It was during one such session recently that I stumbled upon this boy. All of 16 or 17, he came running up to me with a big smile and asked:
“Uncle, do you remember me?”
For a few seconds, the worker job looked a lot easier to me as compared to unlocking my memory cells. The smart boy that he was, he quickly relieved my uneasiness and said:
“I am Prashant; you came to watch a school match and gifted me your cap.”
“When was it?”, I asked.
“About four years ago”, he quipped.

Good Lord! How on Earth am I to remember something that happened that long ago! I must have watched about 100 school matches in Chennai in the interim. My routine was like almost every Sunday morning, I wash my Royal Enfield Bullet and go for a ride, mostly to the 5-6 cricket grounds around where I live. I always preferred to watch young boys play as the energy and passion levels were a lot higher compared to the big boys. On top of it, it is sometimes hilarious to watch the passionate reactions of parents who come to watch their sons play. The less I talk about some of the ‘hyperactive’ young coaches – who shout, scream, and get into the act of ‘instant’ coaching from outside the field – the better!

Coming back to the context, Prashant didn’t trouble me much as he explained about the match and why I gave him the cap. I appreciated his common sense from inside as it would have taken ages for me to recollect that specific match.

Now, take this. Prashant has stopped playing cricket after that match! His dad apparently told him that he was not cut out for cricket! I felt sad when he said that to me. Since then, he has moved on in life with much more focus on his studies. I wished him well and we parted that day. But I could not leave him from my mind and so went back in time to replay that match. I did succeed in that with relentless effort. Here is the gist of what happened on that day.

It was an Under 13 or 14 match between two schools. I don’t wish to take the names of schools, so I call them School A and School B. Both schools had decent players and hyperactive coaches too. In this 20-over game, School A batted first and scored about 90-odd runs. That’s a pretty decent total for that age group. School B began the chase with our friend Prashant as one of the openers. Although Prashant was rock solid in his approach to batting, his run-scoring ability was found wanting. He was a real ‘Khadoos’ in the cricketing parlance of Mumbai. Come what may, he wouldn’t give away his wicket.

Till about 10 overs into the chase, his coach was quiet. His coach couldn’t call him back and send in another batsman because wickets were falling at the other end every two or three overs. Like water slowly boiling in a kettle, by the 15th over, the coach started shouting at Prashant to up the ante of scoring runs. But Prashant was like not even looking at the coach or paying heed to what his coach was saying! Exasperated, the coach asked for help from Prashant’s dad to tell him to score faster. Prashant’s dad also jumped into that chaotic environment and made things worse for Prashant’s team. But not Prashant! He became more resolute than ever! He was still content those occasional drives that fetched him one or two runs.

While this was happening, I had already moved from the other end of the ground towards where Prashant’s team and coach were sitting. Basically, I wanted to politely tell the coach just to leave Prashant free and not put undue pressure on him. But then I decided not to interfere as an outsider.  
Eventually, Prashant’s team lost the match by about 15 runs or so. And Prashant remained unbeaten on the lower side of thirties. The general conclusion of School B was that they lost the match due to Prashant’s slow batting. Rightly so, to some extent.

I could see and hear Prashant’s dad and coach scolding and advising him as he was removing his pads. I thought to myself here is a young kid who carried the bat through the innings and showed a lot of grit and determination. Instead of appreciating for what he did, he is being made to feel that he is good for nothing. I mustered some courage and walked up to him and said “Well Played, Prashant” and gave my cap to him as a token gift. I did that deliberately to save the boy from his dad and coach. He looked up, with his eyes swelling; he wanted to tell me something, but couldn’t.

As I walked back towards my bike, Prashant came running to me and said “Thank you” for the cap I gave him. He said he forgot to thank me at that point as he didn’t know what to do. Seeing him a lot calmer, I bent down a little to get eye contact with him and asked him softly as to why he was not going for runs towards the end. His response had a stamp of clarity of thinking.
“Till now, I have practised only the drive shots. Whenever they pitched the ball up and on the off-side, I got runs with drives.  Other balls, I just defended.”
“Fair enough, and I liked your ‘Khadoos-like’ batting”, I said ruffling his wet hair. I bet he didn’t understand the word Khadoos, but I left it there for him to figure it out later.

To me, he displayed the mental ability and discipline of a professional cricketer at such a young age. And I started wondering about a lot of things. Is coaching young cricketers all about ‘winning’? Isn’t it more about imparting different skill-sets at least till the age of 14, 15, or even 16? At the same time, is it all about skills that help a cricketer succeed? Isn’t it about finding out the different inherent mental and physical dimensions of a young cricketer? Forget cricket, isn’t it about developing a set of attributes that would help a young cricketer to face the challenges and solve the riddles that life will throw at him or her at different stages? What is the role of parents in developing his or her child into a sportsman?
As in this case, surely, it is not for the cap that Prashant remembered me after four years. But for appreciating him for something (the positives) that he believed he had. If coaches and parents find this common ground surrounding the positives of their ward/s, the strength of the relationship between them will go up several notches. Once that happens, both grow as communication becomes a two-way process.
Best wishes.

Thanks Eashwar. I am sure many more Prasshant's will take heart from your article  The important thing that is they are doing nothing 'wrong'. We are all doing things with various levels of expertise and intensity. If we wish to, we will learn. If not, whatever we have learned is fine - and certainly deserves acknowledgement and appreciation. 


Mony said...

Nice one Eashwar..... in corporate life also, I have come to realize that when we take the effort to say thank you or well
Done, the motivation the other person gets is something seen to be believed and has much more value than any monetary reward

K P Eashwar said...

Thanks, Mony.

Savithri said...

Excellent thoughts Eshwar. Even one word of appreciation in adver
se circumstances can boost one's self esteem greatly.

K P Eashwar said...

Thanks Savithri!