A male mentor and mentee playing a game of mancala

Caden and Ben

December 2019 TeamMates of the Month: Competition and Conversation

The first thing to notice about TeamMates Caden and Ben is not the differences in their size or age or the fact that Caden is a child of the digital age and his mentor Ben is analog. What you notice is they share a quiet energy. Asked if that was a fair assessment, Caden, an eighth-grader at Irving Middle School, replies with a solidly confident, “Yes.” Ben, his mentor of three years, agrees:

“I think that’s a good way to put it. Our energy is very similar. Our personality styles are very similar and laid back.”

Laid back until it comes to playing board games, an activity that is often the linchpin of their meetings that began at Beattie Elementary School when Caden was in third grade. Now a seasoned match, they were asked if there might be a theme song for their meetings. Caden quickly suggests, “Fuel,” by Metallica.

“Our games get pretty intense. We have some pretty good battles,” Ben says. Caden hunkers down so his eyes graze the table top, like a crocodile submerged in water. “I would be looking at the game very intensely, like this.”

The intense competition is all in good fun. What’s more important to the match are the intangible benefits.

“I like a challenge. A lot of things are easy and he pushes me,” Caden says.

“For me,” Ben says, “playing games is fun, a part of what we do. But hearing about his week and having a conversation is a part I enjoy equally. He’s super good at listening…listening and being intrigued.”

Caden also has a dry sense of humor that Ben clearly appreciates. When asked to describe what their match might look like when he enters high school, Caden says, “I think I’m taller.”

“Do you think we’ll still be playing board games?” Ben asks.

“Maybe,” Caden jokes, “we might start playing video games.”