I spent many years as a skate instructor for the City of Toronto. One year as I greeted my first class of the season, I met a 6-year old that was new to Canada and brand new to skating. As soon as I skated over to him, he began to cry. I was taken back for a moment until my HIGH FIVE training kicked in and I put myself in his shoes. Here I was, a 6-foot stranger looming over him and asking him to try something completely unfamiliar to him. I tried to smile and be friendly, but by the third week, he still hadn’t made his way on to the ice.
“I tried being friendly and smiling to get my participant join the class, but it wasn’t until I remembered my HIGH FIVE training, that I realized I had to put the child at the centre of my efforts to get him to participate.”
The next week, I found out from the child’s parents that he liked Mickey Mouse. As I skated back to the rest of the class, I started brainstorming. What could I do to make him feel included and welcome? Then it hit me. I was going to learn how to speak like Mickey Mouse. I rushed home and perfected my impression.
At the next class, I approached the boy and his parents. Once again, he started to cry, but before he could run to his father, I called out that we had a special guest. Summoning all my courage, I began to conduct the class in my very best Mickey Mouse impression. My class (and their parents) looked a little bewildered, but for the first time, the little boy smiled and took a step on to the ice.
This experience has stayed with me for years because it really drove home for me how important having a Caring Leader is. For many kids, having a Caring Leader is the difference between sitting on the sidelines and getting in the game. Since then, I always remember the importance of my role, and work my hardest to incorporate the principles of HIGH FIVE to ensure my participants are cared for, mastering new skills, and most importantly, that they are playing.