Think about that one person in your life who you turn to for answers. That person who understands the way you think, who helps you make and achieve your goals, teaches you life lessons and isn’t afraid to put you back in line when you make a mistake. Maybe it’s your mom or favorite teacher-- for me, it was my high school hockey coach, Brano Stankovsky. Brano was more than just a coach to my teammates and me. Like any great coach, he loved to win, and was awfully good at it. What he loved even more than trophies and hockey, though, was teaching ‘his girls’ how to live life to the fullest and appreciate all that we are given—whether that meant doing our best in school, saying thank you to our teammates and families, or appreciating our opponents-- he always knew the answer. Brano made sure to attend all of our choir concerts, art shows, graduations and big speeches. To him, we weren’t just players, but young women who had hidden potential in all walks of life. He was the ultimate mentor who inspired us all to transform from a hockey team, into a big group of sisters who still keep in the closest of contact.
When I heard that Brano had suddenly passed away, I was crushed. My mentor and role model was gone. When I look back, however, I can only be thankful to have had Brano to push and pull me along through the good times and the bad. I know that he would want me to pass on the one thing he held so dear, and that's the importance of finding a mentor for yourself, and for those of you who are ready--to be a mentor for someone else.
What exactly is a mentor? Some might look to celebrities like Oprah or Lance Armstrong for their inspiration and guidance, but who says a role model must come with an ‘official’ title? You might not even realize it, but you are probably a role model or mentor for someone else. Maybe you help your little cousin with her art project or tutor a local Brunswick student. To you, the commitment might seem minor, but that small commitment could mean the world to another person. More likely than not, there is someone out there who looks to you as an example, and this is an honor that we often overlook or take for granted. I encourage you all to embrace your role as a mentor and role model. It is a true privilege to help another person, and often what you gain in return is much more than you give.
As important as it is to mentor others, we must also not forget to find guidance for ourselves. For first years who are just entering college, or seniors ready to take on the working world, finding someone to help you navigate these fresh and uneasy waters is incredibly important. In these new situations, we will inevitably make mistakes, or become disheartened. But when we have a someone to turn to, we are able to find sanctuary in a person we know will always have our best interests at heart. This person will let us know what they think is best –regardless of whether or not we might be ready or willing to hear it. Even if it means a bit of tough love, a good mentor will leave us better off in the end.
I’ll never forget how nervous I was on my first day of practice on Brano’s team. I was the smallest one, and didn’t know what to expect. However, when I came into the locker room for practice that afternoon, Brano had left a quote hanging in my locker-- it read “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog” and I knew from then on that Brano believed in my abilities, and in turn, I believed in myself.