**Written after Regional Competition; finally published after State Competition.
Direct and Indirect
How does my work in Educational Kinesiology and Brain Gym® align with coaching horse knowledge bowl teams? Drawing out is a key concept in both fields.
One junior team comes out after their first match. Coaches shared how they got beat bad. They didn’t score a point. Some tears. Some head hanging. Some smiles to have persevered. Mixed emotions was an understatement.
Older team comes out. With age and experience, their perspective is slightly different, “We got whipped, too! We better study fast and hard! What’s our come-back strategy?”
Modeling. Peers teaching peers. Indirectly and directly. Hugs and words of encouragement were direct. Sitting down to focus and study was subtler and more indirect. However, I observed those 4th graders carefully watching the 9-12th graders move on with humility and grace. Yep, the young‘uns were absorbing it all.
I must say taking three teams ranging from 4th to 12th grade to a regional competition for horse knowledge bowl is A LOT. While I am the primary coach, each team requires 2 coaches and 2 volunteers. We had 13 youth on 3 teams; 6 of them were competing for the first time at MN 4-H Regionals. There are rules to cover and strategies to review. Nametags and table tents had to be tracked all day. Have you sipped water? Followed by, have you used the restroom? Is your phone tucked away and turned off? Have you eaten anything remotely healthy today? Who brought which approved resources?
Team work makes the dream work. Special recognition to the parents who helped transport youth to Foley. Big kudos to the parent who brought me peanut M&Ms! Thank you to the one who purchased water for all when we competed 3 matches in a row without a break. Hats off to the dads who rubbed backs and held space for daughters to emote (energy in motion in the form of tears) after a hard match. Salute the moms who run to find the one who’s at the snack bar, who check that shirts are tucked in, who pick up constantly around our tables, etc. There’s the parent who is willing to do anything BUT be scorekeeper in front the room. Guess which parent stepped up to score keep in front??? Thank you to each adult who showed up and was present with these youth—it’s not easy to spend an entire Saturday with 80 teams in a loud and hot cafeteria as waves of stress come and go.
Brain Based Strategies
Adults weren’t the only ones. These kids are out there—they are not confined to competing as one county. Nope. Youth were visiting, networking, and hanging out with youth from other horse teams and youth competing with other species (dog, wildlife, general livestock, poultry, rabbit). Kids were bopping around supporting others with high 5s, fist pumps, hugs, and words of encouragement. They shared snacks, snap chats, and photo opps.
Perhaps most endearing to me was seeing the youth teach one another brain-based strategies to be at the top of their game. Some brought essential oils along—Stress away, Tranquility and talk of Lavender and Thieves. Water bottles were lugged all over. I heard invitations to eat protein, “Here, have some venison summer sausage.” And then there were the “warm-ups”—how fast can you say, “red leather, yellow leather”? I joined in and that one is hard. I saw cross crawling (skipping in place) to get both hemispheres awake. They were crossing ankles and wrists and reaching down to their toes to relax their spinal cord and muscles for improved focus. Self-Directed. All. On. Their. Own.
The constant reminders to breathe were important. One person didn’t feel well while waiting to enter the competition room. There weren’t many options other than invite her to breathe deeply. After a particularly rough challenge, my team was very ramped up. The coach, known as Momma Cindy, called a time out and told the kids in no uncertain terms to LET IT GO. Breathe in and breathe IT out! The judge’s decision is final. We are still in the game. Reset. Focus. Breathe! Eventually, everyone followed directions. Breathing was restored. And we went on to win that round.
Drawing Out Youth Potential
Through it all, whether it’s fun and playful or seriously stressful, others are watching. Youth model themselves after other youth. It is such an honor to be a 4-H volunteer and have a medal placed over my head. Like another coach said today, “Why can’t volunteering be a paying job?” It is. It’s just the payment isn’t in financial terms. It’s in setting an intentional environment for learning, holding space for growth, and celebrating the baby steps that happen. The rewards are in drawing out of the youth what already exists within them. I learn alongside them—Momma Cindy is paid in full! Thank you!