Why I'm Doing This

“Mary” was a student in my Emotional Support class. That’s a classroom for special needs students who don’t necessarily have a learning disability but have other negative factors that impact their ability to learn at the same pace as other students their age and their grade level.

Mary came to class every day with short shorts on, and on both thighs, she bore many vertical scars from her knee cap back to the top of her shorts. The scars were from Mary “cutting” herself. There was a time when she intentionally inflicted these wounds upon herself. It was difficult for me to look at those scars. There were too many. Actually, one would’ve been too many.

My teaching assistant told me that Mary would take a while to warm up to me because she didn’t trust men. I was told that her father was abusive, but I was not given details as to how.

After about a month, I felt that Mary had seen and heard me enough to know that I only had her best interests at heart. She was always the first one to the classroom in the morning, and she would bring in her free breakfast and eat quietly at her desk. Some days, if she was behind in any of her work, the TA would help her catch up on assignments.

Mary was doing well in all of her classes, except for Spanish. I asked her what her thoughts were on why Spanish was such a challenge for her. Her response stopped me in my tracks.

She looked at me and said, “Mr. Salter, my father told me that I’m too stupid to learn Spanish and he doesn’t give a {Bleep} if I learn a foreign language.”

For one of the few times in my life, I didn’t know what to say. My mouth hung open, but no words came out.

As the father of three daughters, and as a coach of young ladies for 22 years, I thought, how could a father say that to his own daughter? The man that every little girl should be able to count on, look up to, receive encouragement from…and he told her she’s too stupid to learn…

Unfortunately, through my role as an educator, and as a coach for more than two decades, I do encounter young ladies, all the time, who receive negative feedback from various sources, sometimes from family, sometimes from friends, sometimes from teachers, sometimes from the television shows they watch or the music they listen to. Sometimes from their own brain.

I’ve spent my entire parenting life and my entire coaching career trying to convince young ladies that they’re capable of accomplishing more than they, themselves, believe they can achieve.

That’s why I’ve created the “Don’t Say I Can’t” Project.

Words have tremendous power. The words that you speak to yourself. The words that someone else speaks to you. Words that you read on social media. Words you read in books.

Most experts agree that the words that you speak to yourself, and the words that others speak to you can, and will, make a significant impact on your daily routine, on how you feel about yourself, on your plans for the future, on your dreams and ambitions. That impact can be positive or negative. Too often, it’s negative.

We are going to change that with the “Don’t Say I Can’t’ Project.

My Mom told me, often, over a long period of time, “you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.” I believed that for a long time. Until I discovered that her motivational verse was only partially true.

So that’s the other part of the Project: you can’t just speak positive words to yourself, and you can’t just expect a teacher, a coach, a parent, etc. to tell you nice things. So, we’re not only going to continuously tell you that you’re not permitted to say, “I Can’t,” but we’re also going to SHOW you how to take consistent positive steps in order to achieve your goals.

I’m going to provide three things to you, my loyal subscribers, on a consistent basis: a) short articles of my interviews of ladies from all walks of life who’ve overcome some type of obstacle to accomplish their goal; b) researched articles that I’ll write about things that can have a positive or negative impact on your life, and c) short inspirational thoughts (Bulletin Board Material) that you can Scotch tape in your school or sport locker, the refrigerator or your bathroom mirror. I want you to look at this space as your place to be inspired, to be informed and to be motivated, and an occasional reality check to keep you in balance.

The “Snickers Bar Rule.”

I tell people that I have the best high school coaching job in the state because my boss, my head coach, doesn’t put any demands on me as far as wins and losses. His directive to me is that he wants our players to improve their skills and to develop their understanding of our systems and of our program. That works directly into my love of coaching. I’ve been working with the same age group of girls, junior high and freshmen, for a decade now, and I love to teach. Player development is my passion.

What tends to happen in my practices is that I introduce a variety of drills and skill development exercises. Several years ago, I had a group of girls who had not been exposed to some of the drills that I utilize, and they were having difficulty with the skills we were trying to develop. Their frequent comment, when introduced to a new drill, was, “I can’t do that.”

This phrase, from anyone, makes me bristle, but coming from the players that I was trying to help made it even more frustrating. In professional sports, players can be fined for a variety of infractions either by the league, or by their team or by their coach. They have to pay cash out of their paycheck.

I wanted my players to have some accountability, so I came up with the Snickers Bar Rule, and it carries through to this day. If one of my players says, “I can’t do that,” or any facsimile of that phrase, they owe me a Snickers bar. Certain teams during certain seasons have caused my waistline to expand because of it, but it’s a fun way to remind my players that they are never to say that phrase… any time about anything. My hope is that 10 years from now, when they are faced with a difficult situation at a job or in graduate school, or in a relationship, they’ll remember their old coach’s Snickers Bar Rule.

The cool thing about it is that once all the players understand the rule, and after I’ve enforced it a couple of times at the beginning of a season, the girls begin to hold each other accountable. Not only will they tattle to me that ‘so and so’ owes me a Snickers bar, but they also start to tell each other, “you’re not allowed to say that.”

My hope is that they always remember that message.

This is YOUR space too…

While I will do all the heavy lifting, I want you to think of this as your space too…please tell me what you’d like me to write about; please make recommendations of people you’d like for me to interview; and, always, let me know how I can help you.

This space is not about religion, sports or politics, although there might be a person that I interview who might be in one of those areas. I also want you to understand that you don’t have to have a major challenge or huge obstacle in order to appreciate this blog. It might be as simple as passing a major exam in school, accomplishing a big project at work or graduate school, or preparing for a job interview or taking the SATs.

Please type in your name and email address to become a FREE subscriber. It doesn’t cost you a penny to be a subscriber. But it’s crucial to the Project. So please take two minutes to sign up, and then please encourage as many of your classmates, siblings, relatives and friends to subscribe as well. Thanks for being a part of our community!

And remember, Don’t Say, “I Can’t.”