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Respect is one of the foundational lessons we learn in sports. You respect your coaches by listening to them when they tell you to quiet down, to run laps, and to stop playing with the street dogs. You respect your teammates by trying your best while still being careful of injuries, by showing up on time, and by listening to their thoughts and concerns. You respect yourself by continuing to give your best effort, despite frustration through failed attempts.

We’ve seen glimpses here and there from different kids, but at times it is quite difficult to get a bunch of pre-teen girls to conform to the ideals we’ve had ingrained in us for so long. Yet these last two weeks, we have seen it in a big way.

At Santoni, we have a student named Dana. She is in fifth grade, a natural athlete. and always finds a way to make it to the finals in every drill we do for any sport. We walk her home every Tuesday and Thursday because we pass the entrance to her neighborhood on the way to ours, and we’ve recognized over time that she is exceptionally inquisitive. This girl definitely has a bright future ahead of her, if she wants it.

Yet, Dana has issues with talking back to the referees and not listening to us when we tell her to do something. Every single class, our cheeky superstar likes to cheat the pushups and walk the laps at the beginning of class until we notice and tell her to do them. So we decided to make her run an extra lap for every lap she walks, even if she only walks half of it.

Last Tuesday her disobedience hit its peak.

Dana showed up late and proceeded to walk three laps in a row, despite us telling her the consequences. Still, she wore a smile the entire time as she knowingly disobeyed us. Not only did we start class late because of her, but her actions set a bad example for her companions.

At the end of class, I asked her why she did this every time we started class and she replied with, “I don’t like to run.” I responded, “Well, I don’t like disrespect,” which thankfully caught her attention. Lydia pointed out how three laps is much easier to run than six, especially to a person who doesn’t like running, and the combination of pulling and pushing seemed to have worked. She apologized to us and promised to change the following classes.

When Thursday came around, Dana was on time, didn’t talk back to us, and was the first to run (and finish) all of her laps. When we punished the group for bad behavior in the form of more running, she didn’t complain one bit (though the Dana of two days prior would have) and finished them quickly. In two days, we were able to see that change, and it was lovely.

We started a Chica de la Semana in early September to honor girls who show up on time, attend both classes, behave well, and were good deportistas that week. Dana had the potential to be in the spotlight every week because of her athleticism and attendance record, but her bad attitude prevented her from winning the title. This week we had hope for her.

On Tuesday, Dana showed up a few minutes late, but was just as well behaved as the Thursday before and even asked when the group could start their laps. Thursday she was perfect in running, and only slightly slipped into her ways when she didn’t like the members of her team. However, once I asked her if her remarks were seen as good behavior, she apologized and behaved well the rest of class. We even witnessed instances of her correcting her classmates, stepping into the leadership role we know that she is capable of.

It’s difficult to know how these lessons will carry on outside of class, but the change we witnessed was really exciting and encouraging of what we’re doing here with GSW. Just like with Dana, positive affirmation is an important aspect of encouraging the repetition of behaviors, and we’re excited to see how this will shape our coaching in the future.

So, audience, what do you think? Did Dana win Chica de la Semana this week? Check out our Instagram page to find out!

– Alika