A couple of decades ago, when I first started coaching basketball, I knew I had no idea what it took to run a basketball team successfully. Sure, I had my own ideas and I had a certain knowledge base and a certain amount of basketball experience, but not the kind that it would take to survive in the world od coaching. But ready or not, after one year of coaching junior high basketball, I was about to be thrown into that arena as the head coach of a varsity basketball team. Although I was excited, I was at least smart enough to be nervous because I knew I didn’t know how to coach at that level yet.
Fortunately for me, the school changed their mind before officially hiring me and brought in an experienced coach. I was no longer going to be the head coach, but the varsity assistant and JV coach. In some ways, that was a big relief for me because I knew I did not know what I needed to know yet and I had the opportunity to learn from a mentor who had been in the trenches.
Many people don’t fully understand the need for a mentor. In The Hunger Games, Haymitch, the only person from District 12 to ever win the Hunger Games, became the mentor to all tributes from his district. Admittedly, in the first few decades of his mentoring, he did not take his job too seriously because he never had anyone to mentor that had a fire to win inside them. At first, he wasn’t too sure about Katniss and Peeta. But after Katniss began to show a fire in her that had not been matched by anyone else he had trained, he began to take the job more seriously and work with his mentees on strategy.
I would argue that had Haymitch not been a good mentor, neither Katniss nor Peeta would have survived past the first few minutes of the game. We know that more than anything Katniss wanted to charge the cornucopia to get the silver bow and arrow. But how many of us believe that she would have actually survived those first few moments in trying to attain that weapon? After her ability to shoot the bow and arrow gave her the highest score in the training, the other participants would have been out to get her immediately – especially when they saw her going for the bow and arrows.
Katniss survived the first massacre because she went against her own instincts to follow the advice given to her by her mentor. Don’t go after the weapons. Run the other direction. As far as you can. Survive those initial blood bathed minutes of the games.
In addition to his instructions to stay alive, Haymitch worked behind the scenes to get sponsors for Katniss. He must have talked enough people into sponsoring her because when she needed medical attention, someone sent her the miracle ointment to heal her wounds.
Even though the story was about Katniss (and to a degree Peeta), Haymitch was the behind the scenes hero of the story. He was their mentor.
Do you or have you had a mentor in your life? If you have had a mentor that helped you along the way in whatever path you have been on, it might be a good idea to tell them thank you for their part in your success. Or maybe it is time for you to be a mentor. Start looking for someone who you can guide towards success.
Part 4 of this series will deal with the lesson Katniss learned about being likeable. Look for it later this week. If you want to read another story that shows a great mentor/mentee situation, try reading The Center Circle. The main character, an 18 year old boy from earth who finds out he is really a prince from another world. He is first mentored by an older general from his father’s army and then later by a younger priestess. Give it a try.