You Better Make Mistakes (At Least 10 per Day)

by Peter Corbin on November 27, 2009

peter-corbinThe other day I was at a camp fair promoting my summer camp and after school program when a parent peppered me with the usual questions:

  • How far away is your camp from Manhattan? – 25 minutes.
  • How many children per group? – 15
  • How many counselors? – 3
  • How large is your location? – about 50 acres
  • Tell me about your staff…. Etc…

After a few dozen more questions to which I responded, the parent began to walk away and then hesitated and returned to ask one final question:

  • Why do you do it? I mean with all the liability, stress and the level of responsibility why do you work with children in a camp and after school setting?

This was, by far, the most exciting question I have received from a parent in years. Organizing my thoughts I answered him first with the most important thing to me: growth. I love to watch children grow, improve and change. To me there is nothing more satisfying than watching a child improve, even if it’s just a tiny enhancement. The amount of joy that a child experiences from that improvement is truly why I do it.

While training years ago a mentor of mine said something that I tell all of my staff during our orientation program. There is no greater responsibility that caring for other people’s children. You may become the CEO of a large business, a medical doctor, a lawyer, but caring for other people’s children is the greatest level of responsibility there is. I take that to heart every day. I feel that if my counselors strive to understand and grasp that power, their job, like mine becomes more enjoyable.

On the other side of that coin, I had a parent who holds a very powerful position in the entertainment industry come to observe our program one afternoon. He was concerned that an older girl was teasing his daughter and he wanted to discuss it with me. He said, “Peter, in most aspects of my life, home and work, I have the ultimate control. Here, I relinquish a great deal of power in having my daughter in your program. I feel completely helpless and I hope you can appreciate that.” We were able to resolve his daughter’s issues and since then, his daughter thrived in the program and he has sent his children to us for years.

Running a program knowing that parents rely completely on the power and influence of the philosophy of Corbin’s Crusaders and how it affects their children, is invigorating.

A strategic aspect of our philosophy, which enables our staff to facilitate growth in children, is in our instruction. We coach children that it is necessary to make mistakes. It’s not just “ok to make mistakes,” but “you better make mistakes.” If we do not make mistakes, we never learn.

This credo is very effective for the child who has difficulty losing or making mistakes. We tend to set goals for children to make at least 10 mistakes per day. If you want to get better you have to figure out where you need improvement. There is a joy in seeing this methodology become effective in a child who has a hard time losing.

We have many children who just want to play sports and not focus on the fundamentals and drills that we offer. Usually, when a child says that, I give them an opportunity to show a perfect skill that doesn’t need any work (which of course is next to impossible to find). Children love to be challenged and hunger for structure in programs. I suppose that brings me full circle as to why I do what I do, I am still a child at heart, love to falter, to learn from my mistakes, and I hunger for a challenge and structure – primarily knowing that outcome will be positive for both the participants, the facilitators and the observers.

About the Contributor: Peter Corbin is a regular contributor to the NYC Firm Schools Blog in the area of children’s development through athletics.

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