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Mentoring

Off Court Talk: Values

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Off Court Talk: Values

On Saturday at Marcy, our off-court talk topic was Values, which we explored in between groundstroke drills and our usual end-of-class game, breakout. This time, we invited the entire site to talk together, rather than in small discussion groups of four to five kids.

After making sure that everyone understood what we meant by values, we explained that these ideals usually originate within one’s family: While we all have our own personal values, they probably overlap with what our families consider most important.

We distributed copies of a worksheet titled “Rank Your Values” to make the conversation less abstract. The sheet contained a list of 21 common values relevant to kids of all ages: Getting Good Grades; Being Artistic or Creative; Helping Others; Being Healthy; Getting a Job I Really Like; Making Money; Being Accepted by My Friends.

We challenged the students to select and share their top 10 personal values from the list. Leading the discussion, Marcy’s site coordinator, Gary, reminded everyone that there were no right or wrong answers—only you can determine what you personally value! He called on several kids to reveal their value rankings to the group. While most of the kids included similar sets of values in their top 10, they all ordered them slightly differently, reinforcing that we all prioritize values uniquely as individuals.

Below, check out a photo of some of the Marcy students reviewing their Values worksheets while cooling off in the shade!

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Off-Court Talk: Listening (And More Charades!)

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Off-Court Talk: Listening (And More Charades!)

Our tennis players at Marcy had fun revisiting last week’s discussion topic—communication—this past Saturday. This time around, Gary led a conversation about a different part of communication: listening. He asked the students, “When we communicate with someone, what else do we do besides talk or express ourselves non-verbally?” After a few guesses, the kids correctly determined that listening is the other big component of communication.

We all talked about the reasons why being a good listener is important to communicating. Careful listening—not just hearing—helps us to comprehend others’ messages. Unless we understand what someone has communicated to us, we can’t respond to them or have a dialogue. Listening well is polite and respectful, too. It shows that we are interested in what someone else has to say. Finally, listening enables us to have balanced conversations with all participants contributing their ideas equally.

We ended the break with several rounds of charades, everyone’s new favorite game off the tennis courts. We played one big site-wide game that included some more challenging words and phrases. Working together as a team, the kids solved every charades performance from “Eating Spaghetti” to “Riding a Rollercoaster” to “Getting Caught in the Rain.”

Here are some pictures of the discussion and the game!

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Off-Court Talk: Non-Verbal Communication

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Off-Court Talk: Non-Verbal Communication

With an exceptionally large student turnout at Marcy on Saturday, the off-court talks were especially fun and interactive. The topic of the week was Non-Verbal Communication, which we brought to life with charades. Of course, the game of charades restricts the “actor” or “actress” from using words, so this week’s talk had a bit less “talking” than usual!

We began with a brief discussion to inspire reflection on non-verbal communication. First we asked, “How do you communicate with others?” The students described speaking, talking, or using words. Then, we presented a challenge: “How would you communicate with someone if you were not able to speak?” They suggested sign language and facial expressions. We explained that these are two forms of non-verbal communication, and then told them about one more: acting. To illustrate the concept, we organized games of charades.

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Without a boxed version of the game available, we generated original words and phrases and hand wrote them on index cards. Some mystery words/phrases proved trickier than others, but the kids worked hard to solve each performance. Likewise, as actors or actresses, the students were persistent and creative when their audiences were stumped.

“Blowing out candles on a birthday cake” was one particularly challenging phrase. After blowing out imaginary candles on an imaginary cake produced only wrong answers from her guessers, one student, Franchesca, added a bit more detail. She picked up an imaginary knife from her side, began cutting the imaginary cake and passed out imaginary slices to everyone sitting around her. It was only a matter of seconds before her actions registered and her fellow students guessed the phrase correctly.

And where’s the lesson in all of this? Communication isn’t limited to the words we use, and what we convey non-verbally can be even more powerful. Everyone had a blast playing KCTL’s version of charades. We’re sure the kids will be thrilled to revisit the concept with some additional games of charades later in the season!

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Off-Court Talk: Manners & Etiquette

This past Saturday, we introduced off-court talks to the students at Marcy, where we focused on the subject of manners and etiquette. The discussions, which convened in a shaded corner of the blacktop courts with plenty of water bottles in reach, were a relaxing time-out from forehand drills and games. So, it wasn’t surprising that the kids arrived to the water break/discussion station ready to put their racquets aside, take a seat, and–most importantly--talk!

I got to join a few of the conversations and was pleased by how much some of the kids had to say about this week’s topic. Others had to be encouraged a bit, but every kid eventually felt comfortable and confident enough to share his or her individual perceptions. Our site coordinator, Gary, started the conversation, asking, “What do good manners mean to you?”

The kids at Marcy know that saying “please,” “thank you” and “excuse me” is critical, but they quickly acknowledged that actions speak louder than words--offering supporting examples. For instance, one student cited helping her little sister with homework as a courteous action. Another student offered that if a school classmate had taken her assigned desk without permission, she would remain calm, politely explain that the desk is hers, and forgive the classmate for the mistake.

We wrapped up the talks by connecting good manners and etiquette to tennis. Saying “Good game,” shaking hands, and complimenting an opponent on a skillful shot--instead of using profanity or throwing your racquet--are the best ways to speak and act while on the court.

Needless to say, our first week of off-court discussions at Marcy went well! We’re looking forward to picking up where we left off next week.

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KCTL Introduces New Mentoring Tool: Off-Court Talks

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KCTL Introduces New Mentoring Tool: Off-Court Talks

For the 2014 season, KCTL is proud to introduce a new, formalized mentoring component to weekly classes: off-court educational discussions.

As mentors, our volunteers do more than teach the fundamentals of groundstrokes, volleys and footwork. While coaching and playing tennis with the kids is certainly valuable--and lots of fun!--KCTL’s first priority has always been youth development. With that in mind, we’re going to make mentoring a bigger focus this season through meaningful conversations, aka off-court talks. 

Held during water breaks in small groups of three to five, off-court talks are volunteer-led, open discussions to inspire knowledge, critical thinking and positive communication for our students. Each weekly talk addresses a scheduled topic made appropriate for the group’s age level, and all students are encouraged to share their opinions. Throughout the season, we'll be covering topics such as Peer Pressure, Time Management, Family Values, Sportsmanship and more!

We look forward to bringing additional educational value to kids this season through the tool of conversation. Check back each week to see what we covered in our discussions. You just might learn something, too!

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