Last month, I began interning at Character.org as a way for me to gain independence and a sense of professionalism in the workplace. My father worked here before I was born and currently works as an elementary school principal, so he knows firsthand how character influences student academic achievement and development. Because of this, my dad instilled in me the importance of treating others the way I want to be treated.
Now, I know what you're thinking. Everyone and their grandma says this all the time, and you’ve heard it since you were born, but it's completely true. Being able to have compassion for others is what creates good relationships and strong communities. Character eventually leads to individual success.
Sports: Hard work and perspective leads to success
I play varsity tennis at my high school. I have worked hard to reach the position of a singles player. In my early days, I enjoyed the sport but was horrible at it. A majority of my teammates were more adequate than I was. Furthermore, I had lost a few matches. I'm not going to lie and say that this didn't bother me because it genuinely did. I did not like the fact that everyone else was winning, and I was losing.
However, instead of making my situation about winning, I made it about improving my skills as a tennis player. This turned my negative energy into positive energy which helped to eliminate the doubt I had placed in myself. The idea was, assessing my current situation, and developing actions to take so I could change the circumstances. This helped me to execute actions geared towards achieving my goals.
One thing I remember is that I never got too frustrated when I lost. I did, however learn not to repeat mistakes. Additionally, I made sure to support my teammates in their matches because:
a.) we were a team, and a team should have good sportsmanship and
b.) I knew I could learn from them.
With these steps, I grew more skilled and eventually achieved my goal. Remember, it is what we do in situations that define our character, not the situation itself. In other words, just because I wasn't a good tennis player, didn’t mean I should not have tried to improve. Instead, I ameliorated my circumstances.
Honesty is Essential in High School Tennis
I have also learned that honesty and reliability are key components of character. In high school tennis, there is no line judge to ensure that everyone is being fair. So the coaches rely on the athletes to call the shots fairly. This means that everyone has a responsibility to uphold.
When a ball goes out, or is on the line, you have to call the shot accordingly. This does leave an opportunity for people to judge whether they call a ball in or out. In tennis, a ball is considered in as long as it is touching the white boundary lines. Unfortunately, some people value wins more than the integrity of the game, but when everyone is honest, it makes for a fairer match and more accurate results. If you are really good at something, don’t let judgment errors tarnish your record. Play, work, live with honesty and integrity. It is hard to improve and be honest as a student athlete, and even harder in a negative environment. If the atmosphere is negative, cruel or contains bullying, it makes it very hard for anyone to improve.
I decided to join Character.org partially because validating good character gives me a better sense of direction. Their message pertains to me personally, and they focus on promoting ethical behavior within the community and all areas of life. I want to help other kids reach their full potential in anything they put their mind to, and that's even more difficult when they feel they lack support. At my school, it's very competitive, but it's a good competitiveness that allows me and my peers to have a strong sense of determination and work ethic—two key aspects of success. So, when my dad showed me Character.org’s website, I knew that this was a good place to start spreading positivity and kindness.
Katie Miller is a high school tennis player and summer intern at Character.org. Her father, a school principal and former volunteer with Character.org, has instilled in her a passion for character development.