The subject of mentoring has been on my mind a lot lately. It’s been one of those things that when you hear about it once it sticks in your mind and then you keep noticing it everywhere.
It began in early December when I started a new job and my boss gave me a New Yorker article about a surgeon who was skeptical about the idea of having a mentor (he thought he was at the top of his game) until he tried it, and then realized it helped him become a better surgeon. He likened it to coaching.
For nearly 20 years of my life I’ve coached figure skaters, and 12 of those years were spent with one particular student. I first met Heather when she was 9 years old – a tall, emotionally fragile girl from a divorced family. Heather would cry every time she couldn’t land a jump. I thought, like most skaters, she was frustrated with herself and mad that she couldn’t do it “right.” Years later she revealed to me that she cried because she was worried that she was disappointing me because she wasn’t able to land her jumps correctly. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I was, and still am, proud of her. (Now 21, she skates professionally with a big touring company.)