STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 06/25/2012

Mentoring: Going Deeper Than "How Can I Help You?"

Before beginning her soccer career at Gordon, Rachael Bailey treated the idea of mentorship as a casual truism at best—even a cliché. When she met her coach and her team captains, however, the cliché became a wonderful network of relationships.

by Rachel Bailey '12

August 25, 2008: I exchanged hurried goodbyes with Mom and Dad, then stepped into a classroom full of strangers. I was on my way to a four-year assemblage of the two things I failed at most: leadership and spirituality.

Yet at that same moment, I was tossed into the hands of a mentor I would grow to consider a grandpa, and into the arms of those I now call sisters.

Before my college soccer career, I treated leadership as a casual truism. This is simply due to the rare exercise of my own leadership skills and the lack of being challenged to identify what a true leader exhibits. As part of a Christian institution for the first time, I knew this team would be like nothing I had ever been part of before. We sing worship songs in the locker room? We pray before and after practice? We pray for other teams?

"You have to buy into what this team is about," said the captains.

In my sheer naïveté, I wanted to, but felt too young.

Four years later, I was all in—and not just because I was older. I was slapped across the face by these daily rhythms because they were the arrangement of something great—a remarkable integration of mentorship and what I now believe are its very origins. As sisters commiserate, so did we. As we were led by Coach Marc Whitehouse to compete with tenacity while seeking a deeper understanding of faith, mentorship started to mean more than "How can I help you?"

To think that there is an author and originator of mentorship (yes, I mean the first mentor who ever lived) may be a stretch for some. Yet, what better prototype to use than someone who is known to have lived a perfect life—regardless of belief in him or not? With that, I’d like to invite anyone to consider—if only temporarily—the simplicity of integrating spiritual and professional mentorship from a Christian’s perspective.

Spiritual mentorship differs substantially from the goals of professional mentorship. Yet, aside from some core values, their steps for success are uncannily similar.

Writer and motivational speaker Debra Moorhead highlights six qualities that make a good professional mentor. Though her language speaks more to a secular audience, readers may notice her advice is naturally anchored in the core teachings of a spiritual mentor guide, or even the Bible.

"A good mentor will genuinely listen to your concerns and not be eager to get the conversation over," says Moorhead on her website.

Simple. Everyone listens.

But the Bible also gives a one-sentence explanation of what I’ve discovered to be the engine behind this relationship. "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow
to speak and slow to become angry" (James 1:19).

The verbal exchange whenever I entered Coach’s office to voice my stresses with playing time, boy problems, injuries, loss of loved ones—helped me better understand why people listen to good mentors.

He listened. And while he listened, he told us his life’s trials, offered a prayer, and then boldly gave advice we may not have wanted to hear. He inspired leadership in every single player who approached him.

And what happens when leaders lead by example? For me it built up a blazing desire to be like Coach and our captains, and someday lead like them—mostly due to sharing our spiritual and emotional journeys with each other. With such transparency, I couldn’t disappoint them.

From there, mentorship went beyond asking what one could do for the other. It was an expectation that each should just do it. Prayer was a given and hugs too. And one by one, players jumped on board because Coach made it clear that we were learning more than how to be soccer players.

Most of our teammates come to discover worth in bearing the weight of Coach’s accountability and reciprocity, and in the process, battle as one for the same champion prize and spiritual growth. When playing for a coach who has unreserved faith in his player’s attitudes and abilities, disappointing him makes us utterly sad. We were grounded in a shared commitment with Coach and player and one another. We took criticisms. We gave them. And we wanted to win from the day we bought in till we took our last step on the field in 2011.

Now the doors are closed on my soccer career, one that began four years ago with 25 malleable young women and a man who chose to care for them. I now have a little more than enough time to reflect and to look ahead to another career. As I do that, I cannot think or dream up a more perfect vision than taking the skills and confidence I developed on the field into the workplace. This vision is so clear to me: that wherever I exercise these newfound skills, leadership and spirituality will inevitably intertwine.

Rachael Bailey is a communication arts major and psychology minor and was a Fall 2011 Fellow in the Gordon College News Service (see sidebar). With a strong affinity for families and cultural differences, she hopes to explore both avenues after graduation. In the meantime she is eager to cover a wide range of relevant feature stories for the North Shore. Aside from writing, Rachael enjoys playing soccer for Gordon College, snowboarding in the winters, and dining out.

About the Gordon College News Service
Whether reporting on the scuba diving culture of the North Shore, tracking down statistics on local nonprofits and food pantries, or covering mass transit public meetings, Fellows with the Gordon College News Service (GCNS) have a nose for news. They write a variety of stories (one a week!) and get real journalism experience and clips through the semester-long internship program. Because the GCNS was designed specifically for aspiring reporters and feature writers, the selective program helps the next generation of “truth tellers” put into practice their scholarship and training.

Since the GCNS began in January 2010, 13 Fellows have written (as of March 15) 117 stories that have been published in some ten media outlets, reaching a potential combined readership of over 150,000 in less than two years.

This year’s five Fellows include Rachael Bailey, author of "Mentoring: How Can I Help You?"

Of the 13 GCNS Fellows, four are now working professionals in some communication-related field, including a local newspaper. Two more work as writers for nonprofit organizations in Washington, D.C., another works in publishing, and another is currently in graduate school. Five will graduate this May.

In short, the recession and the changing landscape in journalism have created an opportunity for a win-win partnership. Gordon receives name recognition, students receive professional experiences/clips, news organizations receive good stories, and communities receive continued coverage. Democracy—with a free press—prevails.

Jo Kadlecek is founding editor of the GCNS, and Journalist in Residence at Gordon.

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