Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny."
I have spent a lot of time avoiding facebook lately because, even though people can post what they want on their pages, I don’t want to read people’s negative posts. I have recently spent a lot of time asking complete strangers not to use inappropriate language around young children. I don’t find it cute in the slightest to have a toddler curse at me or sing all the crude lyrics to the latest rap song. I have spent a lot of time asking why people feel the need to curse excessively in public. I just want to use the symbols from a Looney Tunes cartoon to blank it out. I have asked friends and colleagues why they feel the need to publicly bash their friends, significant others, family, or activities. Its just angry language. Then I think about my amazing high school students. I think about the 2 Paradigm clinic full of great students I have taught this summer and how much I am looking forward to this weekend and all those new amazing students I will teach this Saturday.
Lately, I have thought a lot about the right words to use.
There is an old cliché phrase that goes “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Yes, giggle. Just typing it brought back childhood images of myself wiggling my finger at some other kid in 2nd grade who just called me a name. Many of us in our early days were taught this phrase in some form or another. Parents taught us that this was the best defense against name calling. After all, words are better used than fists, right? But the truth is, words hurt a lot more than physical pain. Vicious words and phrases, even in jest, can leave scars that cut much deeper than any blade ever could. So why is it acceptable to use such weapons and the majority of people let others get away with it? Why do we turn a blind ear to such an obvious attack or insult? Especially when the attack or insult can be so easily averted. When did we stop watching our words?
From birth, we babble. We scream and cry and make cute noises. It’s the first steps to strengthen our lungs and developing speech. As we grow into toddlers, we are taught simple words like “mommy”, “daddy”, “cookie”, “juice”, “please”, “thank you”, “puppy”, and “potty”. As we continue to grow, we learn how to put these words into complete phrases. We are taught the right and wrong things to say as we learn the meanings of each word. All of this training brings us to our daily speech. Daily speech that is as constant in our lives as breathing. As we hit middle school, our teachers, parents, and coaches are now simply role models of the do’s and don’t’s of language. Because at this point, they should be just examples or reminders. We, as teenagers, now know better.
We have all been victims of some sort of verbal abuse or negative comments. So, why in a sport that is probably one of the most open and accepting activities for young adults of all backgrounds, do we allow this?
Now, before you all start jumping on me, and begin calling me a hypocrite - yes, I can be negative and yes, I have strong opinions. But I constantly work hard to keep my negative or strong opinions reserved for the privacy of my closest friends and fellow staff members. Its usually over a strong drink after a long day or at dinner and never in front of the membership or other teams’ staff members.
Let’s do another childhood flash back! Ever heard of the telephone game? Whatever you say will be changed and worsen as the message gets farther down the line. You start off saying “I don’t like the color blue in that flag”. Seems simple right? You don’t like the shade of blue, but people talk and 100 people later, by the time it circles back to you, you are being rumored to say “I don’t like that stupid show by that (insert staff members name) because the incompetent flag line can‘t figure it out.” Ugh! What just happened??
Make good choices.
Let me tell you a story:
Dayton Ohio - Nutter Center - SA Prelims
We, staff members, brought our students into the arena and sat in the stands prior to our show. We wanted the girls to get used to the lights and review how the sound was, where the judges were, how high they needed to perform, etc. Nerves were high.
As we watched several groups, I noticed something rather disturbing. Some of the girls were watching the other teams respectfully but most were not. Some of them were chatting, playing around, and whispering. I even saw a few of them laughing and pointing fingers.
As the new group came onto the floor and were setting up, I called for their attention simply stating “Hey! If you see something you like, clap! Remember how it feels when you are out there! Everyone loves applause.”
More girls started clapping and paying attention at this point.
I love Dayton. I try to show love for all the shows I see and while we sat there, my team heard me praise each and every performance and they could hear how loud and proud I was about it. I made sure I was clapping and supporting everyone that walked onto that floor.
One of my girls eventually turned to me and asked, “Come on, Ms. Heather! Do you REALLY love every show you see?”
My mental reaction: Um. No.
My actual response to her: “It isn’t about if I like every show or not. Everyone likes things differently. It’s about respect. They’ve spent all their time and energy in a gym like you have. They have made sacrifices and paid their debt to be here. We don’t know how many hours they have worked. Or what difficulties they have had on their journey. Or if they have had the best of seasons or the worst experiences ever. But they are here - at WGI - and they have earned our applause. When you go on later today, do you want them clapping for your hard work and efforts or whispering and pointing?”
At that point, the entire group showed more appreciation for the teams.
It was that simple. They needed an example of positive words.
Nutter Center - SA Semi-Finals
After an amazing semis performance, we couldn’t of been happier or more positive. We all were sitting in the stands after our performance watching and supporting the remaining programs before retreat. A few good friends/staff members sat down with us and we staff members all started chatting. We discussed our group and how proud we were of their 2 runs then we talked about their group and their stresses going into their semi-finals that evening.
I would turn around to watch the shows and behind me I could hear many others, including my friends, getting caught in the negative chatter. “Girl - its Dayton. Catch it!” “There is a catch tape for a reason.” “That show was boring as hell” “Opps. It’s a hotdog guard” “How did they make semi-finals?” “That girl has the solo? Bad choice.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. All this negativity! What was bad was I also got sucked into it by adding in my own comments here and there between shows. I had completely forgotten where I was and who was there and the influences I was making. I just listened and chimed in. The worse part was all my girls were listening to everything we were saying too. All their energy changed. And all I could think of was …. Crap! All my positive talk might be destroyed as quickly as I tried to fix it. Once I realized this was happening, I immediately asked for my friends not to talk like that near the girls.
I think the hardest part was even from my friends, there was eye rolling, a bit of huffing and puffing at me, and a few inappropriate comments sent my way, but the conversation eventually did change. The girls seemed to stay positive for the rest of the trip.
My point to the stories - there isn’t enough staff members in the world that teach their students these moral values - these positive words. There isn’t enough captains telling their teams not to listen to the negativity around them. We ALL need reminders of what is right and wrong some times. Nobody is perfect, but we all need to be better role models to each other. We aren’t each other's parents, but we are incredibly influential in each other's lives and we are responsible for what our students do and how they are perceived.
On so many occasions, I have seen present and former students walk up to their World class idols and praise them and tell them how much they love them and how one day they hope they can spin/dance/perform like them. On too many occasions, those “idols” give this easily impressionable performers this holier than thou attitude and prance away. They don’t give words of encouragement, words of wisdom, or words of friendship. They just gave them words of self-righteousness or words of insult if they use any words at all. This isn’t the words we should be using. It’s not helping our youth grow up to be great role models. On one too many occasions, I have brought this issue up to their staff members and get the same treatment their students gave to my students - rudeness and eye rolls.
It also doesn’t helped that social media in every format allows people to see negativity from all over the world, not just in their own backyard.
So as the new season is about to start and we embark on this new journey, think twice before you speak. It is everyone’s responsibility to watch the words you use. The new team is coming in ready for a fresh start and full of positive and uplifting energy. Let’s all keep in mind that everyone is working hard. Everyone is in the heat and sweating and sacrificing and giving and pushing!
Remember: Watch your words!