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It’s a funny thing. If your friends, parents, and teachers expect you to accomplish something great, you very likely will. Not only do you want to please the people you care about, but their support helps you believe in yourself. And when you believe in yourself, you feel good, you have extra energy, and you can do your best. On the flip side, if others’ expectations of you are low, there’s a chance you will fall short, just as they predicted.

The Biggest Win, by 12-year-old Caelen McQuilkin, is the featured story from our May/June 2016 issue. It’s a story about a friendship, but it also reveals something about the power of expectations. Rachel, the narrator, is best friends with Janina. Rachel is a soccer star, and Janina is good at art. They enjoy hiking together. In Rachel’s mind, this arrangement is perfect. “Opposites attract,” says Rachel. When Janina announces that she wants to sign up for the soccer team, Rachel is shocked. Not only does she think that Janina is not good at soccer, but she’s also afraid their friendship will never be the same.

At first Rachel lies and encourages Janina to sign up. This makes Janina happy and even more eager to sign up. Then Rachel’s true feelings come out. She starts avoiding Janina, and worse. The other girls on the team say mean things about Janina’s soccer playing behind her back. Instead of standing up for her friend or helping her improve, Rachel joins in the negativity (although, to her credit, she feels guilty). Janina senses the negativity and, sure enough, she continues to play poorly.

Luckily, Coach sees what’s happening and tries to steer the team in a better direction. She asks them to think about the concept of ohana (family) and apply it to their behavior as a team. Instead of keeping the ball away from Janina, why not give her a chance? If they are kind and expect more of her, maybe she will rise to meet their expectations. It takes a while, but finally the concept of ohana begins to sink in.

It’s the championship game. Coach wants Janina to do a throw-in. One girl objects, but Rachel sides with Janina. The throw-in is perfect! As Rachel kicks the ball to the goal, her friendship with Janina flashes before her eyes. She realizes she has finally done the right thing. Janina just needed her best friend to believe in her. The friendship–and the game–have been saved.

Friendships are complicated. A good friend is supportive and helpful, even if she’s uncomfortable with a new direction the friendship is taking. Think about your own life. Did a close friend ever step outside the box you thought she belonged in? Did you support her, even if it meant you had to change your own thinking? Was there a period where the two of you fell out of sync, then eventually got your rhythm back? Did you see the power of expectations? A complex relationship is at the core of The Biggest Win. Your own experiences can form the core of your own great story. Give it a try! You can do it!

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