Of Mentoring and Marathons

Jumping Mentored ChildrenThe thought of running a marathon to some feels overwhelming and impossible, while others are energized and excited about the possibility.  Like long distance running, mentoring a child takes proper preparation, agility, perseverance, perspective, and a healthy dose of humility.  In the October, 2012 issue of marathonrookie.com, Brad Boughman highlights the top 10 rookie mistakes in running a marathon.  These “mistakes” have implications for mentoring. too.


#10- Underestimate Stretching- To feel successful in both a marathon and a mentoring relationship, you must be flexible and ready to roll with the changes. Having the consciousness to think on your feet and communicate from the heart keeps your ability to relate with your mentee strong and lays the ground work for a long running friendship.

#9- Lack of Support- Going it alone can result in losing sight of your purpose. Without a buddy or “coach” it is easy to give in or give up. Consider your Mentor Director as your personal (mentor) Trainer, for help with ideas and activities to build a strong mentoring foundation, as well as for wisdom on how to get unstuck when you can’t push through “the wall.”

#8- Lack of Belief- A bad run or becoming overwhelmed about the miles ahead can begin to break down the confidence of a runner or a mentor. Seedling Foundation believes in you as a capable, caring mentor. Because our mentees may be coming to us traumatized or marginalized, it may take time to build trust and to feel like you are making a difference in your mentee’s life. Believe in the possibilities.

#7- Motivation-
While the desire to achieve something might be strong, you must keep fueling the fire to make the commitment last. Building trust and creating the friendship with your mentee feeds your motivation to continue. You are making great strides in changing someone’s world….. maybe everyone’s world.

#6- Wrong Goal-
Like the beginning marathon runner, mentors may have high, sometimes unrealistic goals. Some beginning marathoners have visions of leading the pack or finishing at a certain time. You are running in the same race with your mentee, and you are both working for the same goal: growth.

#5- Wrong Training Program-
Cross training is a very beneficial practice for a marathoner. You must exercise different groups of muscles for overall strength. Mentors should change it up, too. Don’t allow yourself to have tunnel vision when mentoring your mentee, treating each meeting the same. If you like to read books together, that’s great! But don’t be afraid to try alternatives. Ask your mentee if she/he would like to play basketball or jacks. Create a painting together. Teach your mentee something new or ask the child to teach you.

#4- Starting Too Fast-
Like all relationships, building trust takes time. A runner must build endurance and, likewise, the mentor must do the same. Start slow, build towards the relationship. Children who have been traumatized need extra time to build trust. Patience is your mantra.

#3- Lack of Knowledge-
One might imagine that training for a marathon is easy. After all, it’s just running, something we are born to do. True enough, but learning the appropriate way to run is key. The same is true with mentoring. Seedling is a research-based mentoring program. We have resources available for you. The Seedling e-newsletters Mentor Minute and Future Matters both share mentoring information designed to inform and educate you.

#2- Hydration-
Runners must be aware of the nourishment they need to stay healthy when training for a marathon. As mentors, we must also be in tune with what we need to stay fit when mentoring. The Lunchtime Trainings provided by Seedling each month are designed to supply you with what you need to be at your best and ready for difficult terrain.

#1- Injury-
In any sport, injury is a real possibility. An athlete must be mindful and thoughtful to avoid it for him/herself and for fellow runners. Seedling’s guiding principle for mentoring is “Do no harm to children.” Mentors are obligated to take great care to ensure that their mentee is safe physically as well as emotionally.

Finally, it is important to celebrate throughout the process.
A first time runner should be proud and energized by finishing his/her first 5k run, just as you should feel proud and rewarded when your mentee demonstrates trust in you for the first time. In the end, while the results at the finish line may differ, your dedication, commitment, and heart have impacted a child, and that is what it is all about!

And don’t forget about the “finisher medal” — we can’t wait to celebrate you at the May 30th Mentor Appreciation Luncheon.

-Sabra Fugate, Seedling Mentor Director

This entry was posted in Children in Poverty, Children of Incarcerated Parents, Mentoring, Mentoring Metrics, Site-Based Mentoring and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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