My son Ro, who is four, just started in a soccer league. Four year-olds don’t know attention is a thing that can have a span– their coaches have to mix it up to keep them engaged. When their sweet Coach N explained, “Now I am a shark, and you are fish crossing my ocean, and if your ball gets away from you, I’ll eat you!,” they took him very seriously. They didn’t want to get eaten on the first day of practice. Who does? Also four year-olds excel at being literal.
When It Comes to Sports, Love (and Writing), Mix It Up!
The lead coach, who has been coordinating community soccer leagues since I was four, watched from the sidelines, and played rapturously with my 1 year-old. He was chatty, and did not stop talking if you were within reaching distance. At the end of the clinic, while he watched Ro eat peanut butter and honey, he waxed on about the league he started in New Jersey for Orthodox Jewish (OJ) kids on Sundays. They couldn’t play on Saturday, regular Soccer Day, because of observing the Sabbath.
Turned out local Seventh Day Adventists (SDA) kids also couldn’t play on Saturdays because THEY also observe the Sabbath. So eventually some SDA kids migrated onto the OJ team. Then parents showed up to watch. Turned out a number of the parents were widowed or otherwise single (the divorce scene is opaque). Slowly, mutual romantic interests developed–“mixing” between the adults.
The kids didn’t get eaten by sharks, made goals and dirtied knees across religious lines, and god didn’t smite anyone. Meanwhile, the parents flirted and paired off.
A Good Story is Still Good the Millionth Time!
I could tell the coach had told this story a million times before. But Ro didn’t mind, because he was eating ALL the peanut butter and honey and admiring his shin guards. And Aria didn’t mind, because she was busy trying to pick up the cones that marked the sidelines and cigarette butts on the astroturf (really?). And I generally like people telling stories (hello, my job).
Make Space For Something That’s Never Happened!
You want to know what this has to do with writing an admissions essay and I’m going to tell you. But first, the head coach told me that the Jewish Rabbi called him to tell him he was going to hell (and threw in some F-bombs and Yiddish). Then the SDA priest called him to say the same thing (with some F-bombs and Caribbean slang0. And then– he politely hung up on both. All Coach had done was create space for something new to happen.
10 Things you need to do for a great college essay
- A) Don’t get eaten by a shark, or B) if you do, survive with enough of your body in tact that you can still write (remember, voice-typing is a thing).
- Leave a wide open space where unlikely things can come together and connect.
- Don’t be afraid to fall in love.
- Mix it up– if you always go to the same places, and do the same things, with the same people, it’s possible you’re missing something world-altering.
- Definitely eat peanut butter and honey, or sun-butter and honey, and admire your shin guards. What I mean is: it really is the small things.
- Listen to people, and learn from them.
- Tell a story, even if you worry no one is listening.
- F-bombs don’t belong, but energy they represent might.
- Imagine someone who might tell you not to write what you’re writing and…write in a way that makes them regret their caution.
- Move your body, like, a lot. Ideas are often circulated with the blood. In fact, I’m pretty sure in 10 years as science advances they’ll find that ideas are cellular and the heart pumps them round like anything else we need to survive.
Want to Mix It Up, But Having Trouble?
Stuck in the same old routines, needing new connections? We’ve got you covered. Send us your draft. We promise not to get peanut butter on it as we help you find your sweet spot and new routes.