The idea of a mentor is an ancient one. In Greek mythology, when Odysseus, King of Ithaca, went to battle in the Trojan War, he put his friend, Mentor, in charge of his son and his kingdom.

Today, "mentor" has become synonymous with someone who imparts knowledge and wisdom with a less experienced person. However, before you dive head first into problem-solving as a mentor, take plenty of time first to get to know each other as people.

On the SouthCoast, I know many wonderful mentors, one of whom is my son-in-law Manny DeBrito, who's been coaching, fostering, and giving direction to youth for decades.

"A big part of growing up and maturing is having a village of people to look up to, qnd it doesn't happen overnight, either," DeBrito said. "Like they say, it takes a village, and this isn't a slight on anyone's parenting skills that we need mentors and role models to echo your message, because our kids tune us out when they hear the same thing from us, over and over again."

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DeBrito has "hundreds of personal stories" that inspire.

"I had this young man in his 20s come to me and said, 'I always wanted to tell you that when you were teaching us how to be basketball players, you were also teaching us to be men,'" he said.

DeBrito understands the kids who may not have a father around.

"My dad was out on the road nine months out of the year, and I could have used a mentor in my dad's absence," he said.

Mentoring is a win-win for both people involved.

"I had a former player who called me and said his girlfriend was having a baby, and he wants to be a father just like me," DeBrito said. "That meant the world to me. He still calls me for advice, and I learn from him, too. We're still in each other's lives."

DeBrito still checks on his former players because he'll always be their coach.

"Kids are amazing! Lots of times, we sell them short and tell them they can't do this and they can't do that, but they can do it. They just need an opportunity to prove it," he said. "But if everyone keeps telling them you can't, you can't, you can't because you're too young, then we're limiting their opportunities to go out there and do it."

What about the future?

"We need new coaches and new role models to step up. I'm getting older," DeBrito said with a laugh. "I can't do it forever! The next generation will start stepping up. I always love seeing the players that I coached, now coaching themselves."

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