I had the opportunity to eat lunch at a high-end professional office building in NYC the other day. The cafeteria was in the main lobby, and I arrived at the peak hour, so I settled on the last available table in a corner that also happened to be right near the garbage receptacles. Oddly enough, as I devoured my subsidized gourmet platter of food, I couldn’t help but stare at the trashcans, one of which was blue, one green and the other a nondescript grey. What I observed has stayed with me ever since.
Every few moments, a different group of executives would arrive with their trays of emptied bottles, plates, napkins and other refuse. In most cases, they were all conversing as they approached the bins and slowed almost routinely to discard the tray’s contents. That’s when I observed a pattern that I never expected: when the person leading any given group paused long enough to separate glass and paper into the appropriate containers, the others that followed almost unthinkingly did the same. But when the person leading the group dumped all their contents at once into the grey container, the persons that followed DID THE SAME. Almost without exception, everyone followed the leader.
Now, let’s be clear. These were presumably, well-educated lawyers, financial managers, business leaders, etc. If you stopped any of them, they most certainly would acknowledge that recycling is good for the environment. Some might even know that recycling is the law in New York City. Yet, everyone just followed the leader whether that leader recycled or not. It’s that easy to make a poor decision. Even when you have all the education, all the resources and all the knowledge not to.
I remained at my table in that cafeteria but this time I was no longer watching the bins. I was thinking of the millions of kids living in poverty who also follow the leaders. These leaders make it easy to join a gang, become a teen mom, be a bully or just drop out of school. It can be hard for professional adults to separate their garbage, can you imagine how difficult it must be for a child to resist these kind of negative role models when they are surrounded by them and when no one else is there to set a different example?
This is why Coach Across America is so important. We have allowed too many youth in this nation’s communities to be leaderless. The result is the failing schools, the crime, and the bullying that have become far too common imagery on our nightly news.
It’s time to get serious and invest in a workforce of coaches to lead youth to make the “right” decisions. For all children, a coach is someone they can look up to and trust. A coach is a role model who can guide their decision-making. A trained coach helps them to see beyond the easy choices to make the right choices.
Every child deserves a coach. And by investing in one, maybe one day, every child will grow up to be the professional in that office building who approaches those garbage cans and knows exactly what to do.
Paul Caccamo President & Founder