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Learning Soft Skills Through Competition

This time last year, I posted a Reflection on Vulnerability. I was hoping with my whole heart, that this year I'd be posting on the power of not giving up and finally achieving the success that you hope for. I'm not. Instead, I'm sharing my reflection on how the toughest moments of competition help our young people learn crucial life skills.


As previous posts have mentioned, I have been coaching mock trial since I started teaching. It is one of the greatest joys of my career in education because it provides me an opportunity to get to work closely with and get to know an incredible group of students each year. We spend four months preparing and then have one weekend of competition at the end of February.

Last year, we graduated an incredibly talented group of seniors after having made it to the finals for the first time in school history. The whole team knew the challenge that this season presented, but were determined to make it back to the finals. Over the course of the season I saw my students grow, not only in the skills needed for competition, but in skills that will last them a lifetime. After an incredible season, they did indeed make it to the finals and I am so proud of them. They did not win the championship they hoped for, but left it all in the courtroom and I could not have asked fo anything more.

Throughout the season, I saw them grow in many areas and this weekend's competition only solidified my observations.

1. Leadership- Preparing a team to compete at the highest levels is not possible without strong, selfless student leadership. This season, I watched as my captains worked tirelessly to build a culture that would support their end goal. Effective leadership is not always easy and requires sharing honest feedback, putting in the time to lead by example, and helping others over yourself. It is even harder to be an effective leader when you are not the only one because you have to learn how to collaborate and work as equals for the betterment of the larger group. I was blown away as I watched my captains navigate these challenging waters effectively and give each other credit for the role each played.

2. Confident Attitude- My students frequently hear me say "it's not what you say, it's how you say it" as we regularly discuss the importance of choosing to portray what you're doing with confidence. Choosing to be positive, effects your outlook, performance, and ability to achieve your goals. This season, especially at competition, I was incredibly impressed with my students' ability to choose confidence and positivity. We had a student come down with the flu and had to make a last minute roster change. The team rallied and it became an opportunity to find confidence in something new, rather than stress over a very last minute change.

3. Resilience- Loss is one of the greatest lessons you can learn from competition, and it is an incredibly hard pill to swallow. After going into the finals undefeated and feeling very confident about their performance, my students did not win the championship. While no part of me wants for my students to ever feel this way, I am doing my best to see this as an opportunity to learn resilience. So many times in life, we feel like we are the most qualified, best prepared, or most deserving and things don't go our way. I would wish the heartache my students are feeling on no one, but am confident that the resiliency that they are learning will help them in future moments of their lives. I hope they will look back and be able to see this incredibly difficult day as a time they felt supported and cared for while learning a crucial life lesson.


When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Today, my team is hurting and I am hurting for them. Watching their hurt is heartbreaking. As competitors, we cannot change results, all we can do is choose how we respond and which lessons we let those results teach us along the way.

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