In truth, I was a little sceptical when my new mentee announced that he wanted to be a Premiership footballer. This was a prime motivator in his coming to the UK to study, but I had previously tried to support a student who was football-mad and it hadn’t gone well.
This new student seemed different. I was impressed that, after just five weeks in the UK, he had booked himself in for a West Ham trial, and joined a soccer club and a gym. He seemed quite determined. And a quiet determination has been a characteristic of our mentoring.
Most weeks, he surprises me. He is very disciplined and studious—both in his school work, and his personal health and fitness. I check whether his diet is some freaky thing he picked up off the internet and whether his extensive training interferes with his homework—but no. He has a well planned approach to life.
Mentoring hasn’t been so much about working through struggles, but more about coaching and affirming him in his focused ambition. We’ve tended to spend time looking at things like mindsets, emotional intelligence, and attitudes to success and failure. I went with him to a college interview, guided him through the follow-up process, and went out for cake together after a second West Ham trial.
We were both delighted when he got confirmation that he has been accepted into the West Ham Football Academy, where he will continue in further education while having access to top-flight football coaching facilities. It has been a joy to meet my student each week and although he has shown great capacity for self-development, I believe my weekly encouragement and conversations will have played a small part in what could become a big career for him in the UK. His focus and quiet determination has certainly been a great provocation to me.