What I Learned About Success From High School Girls

A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to help  judge drill team try outs at the high school in my hometown. It gave me time to return to something I love – even if only for a little while – and to hang out with my friend Erin, the head coach. I also learned something about success and the people who can help you achieve it.

Judging began at 7:30 on a Saturday night, otherwise known as prime time for teenage girls. Nonetheless, nearly 30 girls between 13 and 17 had been piled into the high school gym for two hours before I arrived, learning and practicing a new routine. They were repeating the same sequence of motions for roughly the hundredth time when I walked in.

A palpable sense of panic slipped in as the heavy metal doors clanged behind me. Laughing turned to nervous twitters, and carefree smiles were replaced with furrowed brows and lips silently moving with the numbered beats. Erin, sensing the change in the room, turned to me and grinned.

“You’re scaring the crap out of them,” she whispered.

That hadn’t been my intention, of course. I was there because I loved being around the music and the movement, because I used to love working with girls at a time in their lives when they’re figuring out who the heck they are. They saw me as the person who could keep them out; I was there because I wanted to enjoy being in for a few hours.

A few minutes later, when the other two judges had arrived, we took our places of honor on the floor at the half-court line. Our judging sheets were set on hardcover children’s books with titles like Walter the Farting Dog. All three of us kicked off our flip flops. We should have intimidated exactly no one.

The girls left the gym en masse and returned in groups of two or three. The music would play and they would perform the routine they’d learned earlier in the day. Most would smile; all would make at least one mistake. When they were finished, they’d march back out of the gym and the five of us – Erin, her new assistant coach, myself, and the two other judges – would go over the notes we’d taken about each girl.

More often than not, we focused on the likelihood of improvement.

We weren’t looking for perfection; we were looking for potential.

We were looking for reasons to put each girl on the team, for reasons to say yes.

For some girls, I admit, I found myself lobbying harder.

The girls that smiled. The girls that wanted it. The girls that slipped up and smiled wider, pushing on instead of stopping to apologize.

The girls that believed in themselves made me want to believe in them, too.

“I really liked her,” I’d say. “I was rooting for her.”

On the drive home, after intimidating and critiquing nearly 30 teenage girls, I thought about what I’d learned from them that night and about how different our perspectives probably were.

I learned that a sincere smile covers a multitude of mistakes.

I learned that faith in oneself is contagious.

But mostly, I learned that the people we often see as gatekeepers stationed to keep us away from our dreams can be the people who most want us to succeed. When we interview for a new job, we’re talking to someone who wants to find someone to hire. The teachers who test us want to see evidence of students learning. And the editors to whom we submit queries want to find new stories to publish.

People want you to succeed.

And they want to see you smile.

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  1. Amanda says:

    This is a fantastic post. What great insight! I had never thought about those “gatekeepers” wanting me to succeed but you’re right!
    Amanda’s most recent post: highlights from vermont.

  2. Laura Mayes says:

    Britt, I love this so much it hurts. It hurts? No, that’s not quite right. But I love it so much. I want to high five you and all those girls. Awesome post. A great way to start the day. Thank you.

  3. the muskrat says:

    Considering we’re having pictures taken today for our firm website, this is good advice!
    the muskrat’s most recent post: seeing someone realize her dream, and how to keep a bookstore manager from ruining the experience

  4. Amy says:

    What a great post and so true about the role of self confidence can play in a teen and an adult.

  5. Megan says:

    When I was taking hot yoga, the instructor would say that falling out of a pose and then getting right back into it was what made you a yogini.

    Persistence, with a positive attitude, will get you everywhere.
    Megan’s most recent post: On Running And Doing What I Never Thought I Could

    • Miss Britt says:

      I am soooo dying to try hot yoga.

      Actually, you know what? I’m putting that on my list to check into this week.
      Miss Britt’s most recent post: Will We Always Be Pursuing Happiness?

      • Megan says:

        I really liked it, but it was too expensive (at the place I was doing it) to continue. One bit of advice: Drink some Gatorade or Pedialyte before and after. I would feel like complete crap – headachy, tired, etc. for the entire day afterward if I didn’t. Also, I had balance issues from the heat if I didn’t load up on electrolytes before and after. If you don’t like Gatorade, they have pills online or you get jellybeans(!) at GNC.
        Megan’s most recent post: Hear Me

  6. Confidence can be the key to success in many things. Its hard to always remember without my don’t worry be happy pills but, it is very much the truth.
    Corey Feldman’s most recent post: General Update on Depression and Egret Series

  7. Nanna says:

    Well, you sneaky little dickens, you. The EXACT thing I needed to read today. Whoa! How fun that I can imagine you girls (ahem – young women) huddling together over this. How wonderful that you learned life lessons from it!
    Nanna’s most recent post: Suicide – It Touches Us All

  8. Lisa says:

    I love this! It’s so hard to remember that when self confidence is low, but it’s true.
    Lisa’s most recent post: Who Finally Published a Life List?

  9. Dory says:

    “People want you to succeed.” How easy it is to forget that. Thank you!!!
    Dory’s most recent post: Ahm Funneh

  10. Marta says:

    Oh Britt I love this. Like writing down some parts of it for my quote notes on my iphone. Things like, “I learned that faith in oneself is contagious.” and “When we interview for a new job, we’re talking to someone who wants to find someone to hire.”

    Marta’s most recent post: High. Higher. Highest.

  11. Nelly says:

    Lovely. Sometimes we focus so much on what we see, we forget there is always another side to look at.

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