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Kathys Story

The feeling of no love


Stojanna Hollis

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Description of Experience
While working with youth maybe a challenge for some, I find it to be a pretty
easy task for me. Ive always been able to relate, listen, understand, and
communicate effectively with these individuals to make them feel safe and
protected. However, I began to question myself when my strength became my
weakness at one point and time. When asked the question to identify one of the
most difficult child/adolescent/young adult with whom Ive had to work with, based
on my personal experiences, one name that stands out is Katherine Kathy Becker.
Kathy is the director of basketball operation (DOBO) for the Womens Basketball
program here at Clemson University. Ive known Kathy since I was 18 years old. I
met Kathy when I attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). During
our time at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Kathy was a manager for the
womens basketball team there and I was a student assistant. Kathy was raised in a
two-parent household and was very fortunate. Her parents always provided for her
and she never had to go without anything. Even when she went off to college her
parents paid for her to attend the University of Virginia for all 4 years. During the
time when I met her (at UAB) she was 2 years younger than me. I started to
encounter problems with Kathy because I would notice that she had a bad attitude
and she was very passive aggressive. Because of the lack of attention she received
at home growing up, she did things to be noticed. For example, if I would come up
with a PowerPoint presentation and someone in the office would like it, she would
try to do something better so she could get the recognition instead of me. Now,
because of our positions we had to work with each other a lot to help the team and
the coaching staff. Kathy has an older brother that played baseball so her parents
were always focused on him, because he was like the star athlete in the family. He

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attended Davidson University of a full athletic scholarship. Kathy would miss class,
party all night, and be late to work and I found it very difficult because if she
messed up on something that was a reflection of me. Kathy exhibited this type of
behavior because she was used to doing what she wanted to, because her parents
never focused on her. I was very close with the head coach so I had a great working
environment, but after a while I soon found how my relationship with the head
coach affected my relationship and working ability with Kathy. This type of behavior
can be linked to microsystem in Bronfenbrenners Systems Theory. Being that
Kathy was from a family where she did not feel like she received the proper amount
of love and support she felt like once she encountered people that she was close to
she didnt want anyone else to get close to them or take her place. It took me a
very long time to realize this, but I finally figured it out after about a year of working
with her. I would always tell her that if she wanted to gain her parents attention like
her brother did then she should attend class and make good grades. That way she
could graduate with honors and receive numerous awards for her intelligence. I
would try to encourage her that she had a gift just like her brother and just because
it wasnt in sports didnt mean that her value was any less than his. Kathy would
have moments where she would listen to me and really try to change and improve,
but then there were other times where Kathy would go back to partying and
hanging out to get that attention. This was a very difficult task for me, because I
found myself trying to help someone with their self-confidence and self-worth when
they didnt want to help themselves. I didnt have the support of her family because
they were too busy giving all their attention to her oldest sibling. Kathy soon grew
distant from her family and would barely talk to them. When her parents would call
she would make excuses such as being busy or studying.

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Finally I made the decision to hold Kathy accountable as well as helping her
get her life together. Instead of partying I would call her and we would meet at the
library to study or do work. Whether she had work to do or not I would just quiz her
and ask her to inform me about the things she was learning in class. What I soon
realized is that Kathy wasnt bad, disrespectful, or just a party animal, but she just
longed for attention that her parents never gave her. Therefore, I became Kathys
mentor and we would study together, go out to eat, hang out at the mall, and a host
of other things. Kathy soon turned her partying days into studying days. Kathy
realized that she could get attention from doing things the right way and in a
positive manner oppose to going out and getting drunk. Now Kathy has a job that
pays close to $75,000.
Summary of Family systems theory
Bronfenbrenners bioecological systems theory (1979, 1989, and 2005) is
useful for organizing factors that enhance individual resilience because each factor
can be placed around an individual according to the proximity of the factor in
relation to the individuals ecosystem. Bronfenbrenners development model is
based on the hypothesis that ones well-being is influenced by social context and
the function and quality of relationships one has with others such as family,
neighbors and institutional systems (Bronfenbrenner 1979, 1989, 2005; Sun and
Stewart 2007). Bronfenbrenner uses systems (Microsystem, Mesosystem,
Exosystem,) to illustrate how youth are affected by all systems. Microsystem is
where the individual participates directly (Boon, Cottrell, King, Stevenson, and Millar
2012). Mesosystem is where members from different microsystems interact with
each other independent of the central individual (Boon, Cottrell, King, Stevenson,
and Millar 2012). Exosystem involves entities and organizations that might be

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accessed by the individual or their family (Boon, Cottrell, King, Stevenson, and Millar
2012).

A systems perspective of the situation


Microsystem can be used within this situation because Kathy had direct
interaction with me, her family, and my job. With the leadership and guidance that I
was able to provide Kathy she was able to turn her life around. The relationship with
her family can be understood as the factors that cause her to hang out and party
the way that she did once she attended college. The relationship that my Boss and I
shared had an effect on Kathy. Kathy was already a very protective person when she
felt like she had a friend; therefore, once she would see my boss and me hanging
out and laughing she would get very upset and protective because she wanted me
to be her friend and her friend only. Kathy didnt want to feel like she was being
pushed to the back or the sideline like her parents made her feel. Exosystem
couldve been created and used through her parents. If her parents were to go to
her brother baseball game and lets say her brother played bad or they lost and her
parents brought that emotion home, which could be an example of exosystem.
These are all things that could contribute to Kathys behavior and her emotions.
Application
After analyzing the situation and gaining the knowledge about microsystems
and the different concepts I think there are a couple of things I can do differently if I
ever encountered this situation again. First of all, I think its imperative to advise the
youth/individual to the appropriate people that can help them. For example, I think I

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couldve advised Kathy to go see a therapist and/or a counselor. Once I noticed the
issues that concerned her instead of filling the void I couldve easily talk to her
about going to see a counselor. Maybe one day while we were just hanging out we
couldve made her an appointment at the counseling center at the University. I
dont think she wouldve been opposed to it because she was looking for that one
on one attention and she wanted to feel important and loved. Secondly, I would
advise her to communicate with her parents and express to them how they made
her feel. Through the situation I never advised her to mend the situation, I just filled
that void and gave her the attention and compassion that she needed. With any
situation there are key variable to address and acknowledge. For Kathy, it was the
feeling of loneliness and isolation. This situation was challenging for me because I
couldnt tell her why her parents made her feel isolated or why they didnt support
her the way that they supported her brother, therefore, that aspect was very
challenging to address.
Summary
To conclude, I would like to say that as a Youth Development Leader there will
be certain circumstances and situations that I will encounter that will be challenging
and difficult for me. For instance, this situation with Kathy was very different and
challenging because at times she was looking for answers that I couldnt provide for
her. However, through Bronfenbrenners microsystem theory and the concepts Ive
gained a much broader knowledge of why she felt and acted the way she did. With
this enhancement of my knowledge this will help me encourage, motivate, and
assistant our youth and young adults in a positive manner.

References
Boon, H. J., Cottrell, A., King, D., Stevenson, R. B., & Millar, J. (2012).
Bronfenbrenners bioecological theory for modelling community resilience to
natural disasters. Natural hazards, 60(2), 381-408.
Bronfenbrenner U (1979) the ecology of human development: experiments by
nature and design. Harvard University Press, Cambridge
Bronfenbrenner U (1989) Ecological systems theory. Ann Child Dev 6:187249
Bronfenbrenner U (2005) Making human beings human: bioecological perspectives
on human development. Sage, Thousand Oaks
Sun J, Stewart D (2007) Development of population-based resilience measures in
the primary school setting. Health Educ 107(6):575599