My whole life, I have been the good cop. I’ve been described as “too nice” and “a hopeless optimist,” and people tell me that others sometimes take advantage of me because of how nice I am. I am a people-pleaser in everything I do. My co-captain in college and I would joke about how she always was bad cop, and I was good cop when we had to tackle tough situations. It wasn’t something we did intentionally, but we just naturally took on those roles. I’ve been aware of it, yet that doesn’t make it any easier to try to combat.
Recently I experienced being bad cop. We instituted a new rule this semester that if the girls arrive at class more than 20 minutes late, they cannot participate that day. They can stay and watch, and play with us for a bit after class, but they lose their privileges to join in that day. Somehow, I have become the one to tell the girls who come late that they can’t participate that day. At Los Nogales on Monday, three girls showed up more than 30 minutes late.
First, Nohemy, walked into the court and knew immediately that she was late. She dropped her bags and began running the three warm-up laps. I pulled her aside before she could finish her first lap and explained to her why she could not join the class that day. She knew what I was going to say before I said it, and I could see tears well in her eyes. My inner people-pleaser almost couldn’t take it. I told her I was going to talk to Profe Alika to make sure we were on the same page, but even as I started to explain to Alika what Nohemy had told me, I knew what we needed to tell her.
We needed to set a standard and if Nohemy was serious about chicas dinámicas, she wouldn’t let this deter her from coming again. In fact, she would probably be sure to come back early next time to never feel this embarrassment again. Reluctantly, I told Nohemy that, no, there was no way she could join the class today. This time I was met with full on tears and a sniffly, “But I just want to play!” Once she calmed down a bit we brainstormed potential solutions for how she could be on time for the next class. While we were talking, two girls showed up to class and I had the same conversation with them. Like Nohemy, they knew what I was going to say and accepted their consequences with little protest. They joined her on the side of the court to watch class.
While we were working with the other girls in class, I glanced up to see the three girls on the side doing their own version of the warm-up and testing. They were stretching, counting, and watching us to see the correct form before trying it on their own. They were helping each other and adjusting their bodies to be in correct alignment. I almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing. These young girls were taking initiative to stay involved when they could have just gone home or played on the jungle gym. That level of dedication made me so proud to be involved in this program and thankful that I stuck with my gut even though it wasn’t easy. If we had let the girls just join in class, they might not have realized how much being part of the chicas dinámicas team meant to them.
On my sports teams, I learned the value of structure and having strict rules. Sometimes people just like being told what to do and knowing what to expect when they don’t follow rules. If it’s clearly laid out, then you can plan your own behavior accordingly. You can follow rules or not, but at least you know the expectation. I remember that my college coach had a rule that if we weren’t at the field 10 minutes before practice, we were late. The rule was enforced sometimes and other times not. Until our coach began to enforce the rule strictly with sprints if we were late, no one it seriously. Once I knew that she meant business, I always made sure to run from the locker room to the field and get there on time. If I didn’t think that my coach cared, then I wouldn’t have cared either. I have found that this mutual investment of time and respect to shared goals is the fiber that binds sports teams. That buy-in is crucial to the success of any team, but it starts with clear expectations and consequences. The ones that really want to will show up and will show their true character with time.
So, thank you, chicas dinámicas, for pushing me out of my comfort zone and giving me the opportunity to experience being the bad cop. I’ll remember this lesson the next time I need to make the hard decisions, and I’ll try to stick with my gut, no matter how uncomfortable it might feel at times because, in the end, I know that our whole team is better for it.
-(formerly good cop) Lydia