May 04, 2023

Teaching our Youth to Keep Trying

By Rachel Cardwell, Executive Director

I’ve always loved the moment in A League of Their Own when Tom Hanks looks Geena Davis straight in the eye and says “It’s supposed to be hard. If it was easy everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” I can still remember seeing that movie in the theater with my mom. The feeling in my stomach watching an actor who was and is at the top of his game have a moment on screen that he’ll be remembered for forever, it still still hits home.

Perseverance isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s the road less traveled, in fact. And for our kids, especially the ones in a regular state of crisis, it’s a lot to ask and even the Great Tom Hanks can’t inspire them to keep on trying.

I joined youth David* on an outing at Bend Rock Gym a few weeks ago. I’d heard stories about his natural ability on the climbing wall. He was fast, and often challenged his Friend, Aaron, to a race and won. He was all smiles that afternoon, confident in his skills and happy to be in a place where his talents were always recognized.

What David didn’t know was the day before the routes on the wall had been reset. They were new, more challenging, and David probably should have taken a closer look at them before jumping in and climbing without thinking. Ten feet up the wall was a ledge. He paused here, looked up, looked back down at Aaron and said “Wait, this is different. Why did they change it?” You could hear the anxiety in his voice. This was his warm up route, the easy one that he had solved weeks ago. But today, standing on the ledge, David was stuck. He didn’t know which hold to grab next, where to place his feet, or how to reach the top. This shook him, and in an instant we watched his confidence fade into fear and embarrassment.

Aaron tried to talk him through it, off the literal ledge, to see the spot to start at and what to try next. But David was frozen and soon in tears.

Aaron jumped into action and joined David on the ledge. On the ground it was difficult to make out the exact words Aaron was saying, but after a few minutes David had calmed. Aaron came back down and called out “You got this, bud. Just because it’s newer and harder doesn’t mean you can’t do it.” David sniffed, wiped his hands on his pants and refreshed his climbing chalk, and tried.

Aaron May as well have been Tom Hanks that day. It was his words that calmed David down and off the ledge. David stayed on the route for a long time that afternoon. He didn’t solve it that day, was up and down many times, but the moral of this story is David didn’t give up. He listened to Aaron, they problem solved together, and kept going.

Life is going to throw David a lot more curveballs. Thank goodness he’s got Aaron to remind him that just because it’s hard doesn’t mean he can’t do it. Eventually, we hope, David will realize that the hard is what makes it great.

More Youth Stories