Meet: Andrew Wheating
Andrew Wheating, retired middle distance runner, two time Olympic athlete, former Nike professional runner, and current sports marketing specialist, spoke with One Trusted Adult about who was there for him.
1. Who was your trusted adult?
My high school track coach. I didn’t have a grandfather growing up and he fit the build of a soft-spoken charismatic grandfather. We’re still close friends today.
2. What helped you to know that this person could be trusted?
He always suggested ideas that were in my best interest. “Have you talked to the Oregon track coach yet?” Or “Have you stretched? Can’t leave until you’ve done stretching.” It’s funny because at the time you find it annoying and overshadowing but I always knew he cared about my well-being first.
3. How did he build a relationship with you?
He listened. He didn’t force wisdom, only gave it when it was pertinent. And he shared stories that inspired rather than taught. I hated the feeling that I was being lectured to (as all high schoolers do) so whenever he spoke he made sure that what he said was either fun in nature or hidden wisdom.
4. Have you ever thanked your trusted adult?
All the time. I credit most of my success as a track athlete to his teachings and his support.
5. Do you feel that you are a trusted adult for young people? What do you do to foster these relationships?
I like to think so. I was a part of the Big Brother Big Sister club for a bit and a high school coach for two years, I still have athletes reach out with questions about running. What I do/did was listen. So often we try to force the right decision upon kids and in so doing we actually send them down the opposite road. A lot of the time kids just want to be heard, so I listen and ask questions that help challenge their brain, create a different perspective and see how they handle it. I’m also honest and open about the experiences I went through; hard to be a comfortable person to confide in if you’re not willing to put a little of your own skin in the “game”, so to speak.
6. What advice do you have for coaches, teachers, camp counselors, etc. about the privilege and responsibility of working with young people?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with kids that care, that actively want to grow themselves in sport and otherwise, so I’m a little biased. But most kids share similar traits, they think they’re adults and know how the world works so they expect to be treated as such, which is fine. Their knowledge of the world only extends so far, so it’s your job to ask questions that stretch their mind to see the bigger picture. Questions that invoke emotion and help them think about their behavior. I was always a friend first. I had hard conversations only when it was absolutely necessary, I never raised my voice unless in support, and I made everyone feel like they were a part of the team - you quit on yourself, you quit on your team. Lastly, and most importantly, when you show that you care about a kid’s future, they begin to care too.