I have been a soccer player for twelve years and my mother’s daughter for twenty. This means that I have spent the majority of my life as a subordinate to adult authority figures: soccer coaches and parents. My parents learned early on that I was willing to challenge any rules they set for me. A professional artist, my mom would not let me play soccer in my youth because she feared I would get hurt. Instead, she threw me in every art activity imaginable. My niche was not in the arts. I begged her to let me play soccer, but she refused. I went to my friends’ teams’ soccer practices anyway. I proved to my mom that I could survive the sport without injury. She finally let me join a team at age nine.
Soccer became a life long passion. I played throughout high school and continued at the Division 1 level in college. My junior year in college, I butted heads with my next authority figure: the head soccer coach. My teammates repeatedly confronted me about how the coaches were treating them. Some explained they were depressed, and I realized this was the popular sentiment on the team. Hearing that my entire team was glum precipitated me to take action. After practice one day, I confronted my coaches about the low morale of the team. What followed was not a productive discussion. The coach claimed I was lying and had no right to challenge his authority. As a result, he took away all my playing time. Later, I quit the team because the coach refused to play me.
I ended up quitting something I loved, playing college soccer, in order to deal with the consequences of challenging my coach’s authority. But I do NOT regret my actions despite the fact that I wish I were still playing college soccer. I believe in challenging authority. No authority is absolute, and challenging authority in a respectful manner is the only way to keep people in positions of power in check. As humans, we must realize that we are not perfect. Because we make mistakes, we must constantly remain open to other’s ideas, opinions and questions. We must listen.
How a person handles power is a great character indicator. To listen to a peer is but a simple task compared to listening to an “inferior,” perhaps a member of the generation or rank beneath you. It takes patience and humility: two virtues every leader should aim to have. People who are in positions of authority—parents, teachers, officials, coaches, older siblings, mentors— should be respectful and listen to the thoughts and ideas of those below them. We learn a lot more from listening than we do from talking. We need to give respect in order to get it—no matter who we are and what our title is.