Ask any child to say one thing he or she would like more of, and the answer will most likely be ‘confidence’. It is probably the number one desire of most children today. Unknown to them, confidence and resilience are intrinsically linked. Permit me to demonstrate with this real-life story; and please be sure to get your children to read this, as they will learn a great deal from it. Indeed, this article is more for your child/ children than it is for you. So, I thank you in advance for having them read this. 

During a Summer Holiday Club at Hillingdon Sports Centre in 2018, I decided to reward the kids with a twenty-minute free play session in the track and field area. They had been working so hard in preparation for performing a drama play, and I wanted them to let off a little steam. I should point out here that they had written and scripted the drama play themselves, with minimum guidance from me. I usually get more involved once they start rehearsing, giving them directions on stage positioning and encouraging them to rehearse over and over again in order to perfect their performance. They had been preparing for two days, and after a particularly intense morning of rehearsal after rehearsal, I rewarded them with an unexpected but very much appreciated extended period of fun time after the forty-five-minute lunch break.  

At the end of their free play time, I called them over. Unknown to them, I had a mini task in store for them. 

“Right, guys, have you had fun?” I asked.

“Yes,” they shouted gleefully. 

“Great stuff! Now, I have a mini challenge for you,” I said.

“Yaaaay! What is it?” they shouted excitedly. 

“Who thinks they can run 800 metres? Eight hundred metres is twice round this running track. Who thinks they can do it?”

“Me, me, me, me,” they all shouted, each one in absolutely no doubt that he / she would win what was undoubtedly now an official race. 

Just before the race commenced, one of the kids, an eight-year-old boy named Ali, walked up to me and said, “Segun, I’ve never ran eight hundred metres before, and I’m not really a runner, so I’m definitely not going to try and win the race. I just want to prove to myself that I can do it,” he said. 

I could tell from his physique that he most definitely wasn’t much of an athlete, but I was very impressed with his attitude, as he conveyed a willingness to challenge himself. But in truth, I didn’t think he would make it round the track once, let alone twice.

And so, I asked them all to…. actually, you know what, I think it’s best I simply relate this story exactly the way it happened. 

“Right, guys, get to the starting line and get ready,” I shouted. There were fifteen of them in all.

They all proceeded to the starting line.

“Okay, is everybody ready?”

“Yeeeeeeeeeees,” they shouted.

“Sorry? Not sure I heard you. I said is everybody ready?”

“Yeeeeeeeeeeeeees,” they shouted, even louder.

“Huh? So sorry, I didn’t hear you. I said is everybody ready?”

“Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees,” they screamed. I’m fairly sure the whole of Hillingdon may have heard them.

“Huh? What did you say?”

“Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees,” they screamed, most likely causing the whole of the UK to quake in shock and excitement.

“Ahh, now I can hear you. Right, on you marks, set,…….. no, Charlie, get back. ……go!”

And they were off, with several of them sprinting off as though they were running a 100-metre dash. “Guys, slow down! You need to pace yourselves. Go easy on the first lap,” I shouted.

Did they listen? Of-course not!

Ali, however, didn’t sprint off like the rest. He simply ran at his own pace, and by the two hundred metre mark, he was a country mile behind the others. Again, I had zero confidence in him even completing the first four hundred. But on and on he went, chugging along like a slow but ever reliable old Maurice Minor. By the four hundred metre stage, several of the others had already run themselves into submission. By six hundred metres, there were just five runners remaining, including Ali, who by now was over three quarters of a lap behind the race leader. But he didn’t give up. He kept going, determined to accomplish his personal mission, until finally, he finished his race. 

Only three kids finished that race. The winner, a ten-year-old boy called Tom, was already an accomplished runner at his school and running club. Second place was a young girl by the name of Keegan, also an exceptional athlete for her age. 

Guess who came third?

Yes, you’ve guessed it – Ali.

He finished half a lap (yes, he even caught up a little) behind Keegan, but he not only achieved his objective, but came third!

Isn’t that incredible? Amazing what determination can get you!

After the race, I asked him how he felt, and he replied, “I feel totally exhausted! It was so tough. I didn’t think I could finish, but I was determined to do it.”

I was so impressed with his refusal to give up.

There are two ways in which Ali demonstrated resilience in that race.

1. Despite being so far behind the others, he focused on what he wanted to achieve and kept going. 

2. Despite wanting to stop, he kept going.

It is the same resolve and resilience which enabled Ali to complete the race that will help him to succeed in whatever he does in life. 

You see, the only difference between success and failure is the refusal to give up, no matter how things look, and no matter how you feel.

Upon seeing the other fourteen runners so far ahead of him by the first two hundred metres, Ali could have understandably decided to call it a day, and quietly step off the track. Nobody would have thought much of it. But the sight of what the others were doing didn’t deter him. He focused on the mission he had set himself, and kept going.

Ali’s determination to achieve his personal mission is an excellent example of one of the most important ways of building confidence and resilience.

1. Set yourself a personal target. The target is yours, and nobody else’s; meaning that you do not compare yourself to others. You simply focus on your personal goal, and keep going until you achieve it.

2. They great thing about achieving personal targets is that the knowledge of having done so, and the experience of getting through those tortuous moments in which you desperately wanted to give up, is the fuel that will help you get through other challenging times. Once you’ve experienced the satisfaction of getting something done, no matter how painful the process, you become that little bit stronger and more confident to achieve other personal goals.