Diving into the Unknown...

Four years ago, the swim team at a local high school in Arlington Texas was the “bad news bears” of swimming. They only had 4 people on the team when their coach, Alex Weideman, took over, and they were considered a laughing stock among other teams. The coach said the goal of the team was to finish the race and not get disqualified. That opened the door for an athlete by the name of Gerald Hodges to make the team – someone who was a successful athlete out of the pool, but with no clue on how to swim. He almost drowned at tryouts! Eventually he was able to finish some races, although that was long after the others had finished the race and toweled off.

Credit: The Musial Awards

Credit: The Musial Awards

“I felt like if I couldn’t handle not being good at something, then how could I consider myself a successful person. Setting yourself up for failure is actually a key for future success.”

By Hodges’s senior year, with a lot of practice and determination, he had improved tremendously and swam the last leg of his team’s 200-yard medley relay. The team was in last place when he dove in and won the race, sending his team to state. At this level of competition, making up that sort of time is rare – but so is Hodges. I was so impressed by his courage, his willingness to try something new, and his comfort with failing when so many people were watching.

Hodges’s story reminds me of our students and teachers in Zambia. For many of them, going to school or teaching is a dive into the unknown. Our teachers mostly come from the local villages and are not teachers by trade. Our program, paired with an eLearning tablet, trains and coaches them with weekly feedback and professional development. Similar to Hodges, they decided to try something they had not done before and perhaps were scared to fail. But with hard work and practice, the majority of our teachers succeed and some even grow within Impact Network to more senior positions.

Imagine being the first in your family to go to school. It is an unknown place and you are not sure what to expect. Many of our students have to overcome several obstacles just to attend class. But they rose above those initial fears and roadblocks to attend our schools. They learn to read and write and develop their own aspirations of what they want to be when they grow up. It just takes that first step of courage to try something new and be okay with failing, knowing that with hard work and dedication, the unknown can become something great.