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Of Course You Can’t (if you don’t try)

By Wendolynn L. Allen


                 I’m wondering, Who is my youngest reader?  If there are any teenagers or preteens reading this article, this is for you.

                 Part of what I do, involves a great deal of cheerleading.  Not necessarily the jumps and cartwheels part, but the projected enthusiasm, the hand holding (so to speak), and the pulling of another along side of me in which I carry them until they are able to carrying themselves.  None of this do I mind, in fact, I greatly enjoy every moment of it, however, there comes a time in everyone’s life when the training wheels must come off and one must try to succeed without them.  Otherwise, how will you know how much you have grown if you refuse to allow yourself to attempt to fall?

                 During the springtime, I have the extraordinary opportunity to devote much of my time to my younger audience in the form of coaching.  What better way is there to stay young than to participate in various activities and team sports with youth?  Much of this coaching is volunteer because I am so attached to my desire to see a young person succeed that I do not have the heart to impose my typical fees upon them and their parents.  If I don’t get paid, I don’t get paid (there have been some opportunities I have been forced to decline due to a lack of time and the inability to sacrifice financial compensation). The momentary reward of knowing that I provided a beacon of hope or a pathway of light to a quite impressionable soul is oftentimes more than enough to pay the bills.  Besides, I know I will reap the rewards and benefits at some other time and in greater abundance (Luke 6:38).

Many times, though, en route to the construction of this beacon, I hear two little words that possess the power to sink even the greatest of ships and, at my choosing, could even discourage me from doing the one thing I really love.

“I CAN’T”.

We have all had a brief and unfulfilling love affair with these words in which we have allowed them the opportunity to control our destiny, but I am living proof that rejecting the enticing temptation to grant victory to this phrase is increasingly more rewarding with every passing day.  Those of you who have been following my articles over the past couple of years can attest to my overcoming tenacity (those of you who haven’t, call me, I’d love to tell you about it).  Every day presents a challenge of its own and I am forced to make the conscience decision that today will be more rewarding than yesterday.  Never certain what the day will bring, I must determine, at the exact moment my eyes open for the day, that “I CAN” (Philippians 4:13).  It is not easy.  I never said it was.  In fact, I was in my early twenties before I understood the power of this phrase and my choice to overcome or be overcome.

It is very disturbing to me that “I CAN’T” is such an everyday and nonchalant comment in the vocabulary of anyone, especially youth.  How can they know what they can or cannot do, if they don’t try?  Nobody said they had to be perfect.  They were not born into the world with the expectation that they know everything, if they were, then why do they have parents to teach them and schools to educate them.  Childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, life altogether is a sequence of events in which uncommon opportunities and interactions arise.  People do themselves a great disservice when they reject these uncommonalities in favor of staying the same.  Change is a very integral part of the growth process.

I have heard so many young people tell me they can’t do something even before they try.  When I ask them why they can’t their answer is always, “because it’s different.”  In one case, I was teaching a small group how to throw the shot put.  I explained to one young man that he showed great promise and now it was time for him to move to the next step.  “I can’t”, “why not”, “it feels odd”, “but if an oddity could get you to the Olympics, would you try it”, “sure”, “then do it”, “okay”, and he did. 

So, what’s your motivation?  For this young man, the Olympics were not a far-fetched idea.  I don’t know if he had ever thought about it, but, after observing his athleticism for many weeks, I knew that he was a gold mine waiting to be tapped.  I considered myself as one of the miners on the first expedition, paving the way for others to follow.  And so many of our young people are, gold mines waiting to be discovered, but maybe there hasn’t been anyone around to begin the mission.

Parents, teachers, coaches, anyone with possible influence in the lives of young people, let me encourage you to put on your mining gear and begin excavating.  How can they know unless you tell them? – They can if they try.

Summer is here.  Now is the time to get involved with the thousands of youth across our city.  Help make the summer a fun, exciting and educating opportunity for as many as possible.  In an effort to facilitate growth and athleticism in our youth, I am sponsoring a summer conditioning camp for youth ages 12-17.  Please call me for more information.  I will also be teaching an adult introductory nutrition and fitness course through Austin Community Schools, for more information and to register for the class please call 414-2871.