BOB MAINDELLE: Casting about for careers with Belton ISD | Outdoor Sports
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BOB MAINDELLE: Casting about for careers with Belton ISD | Outdoor Sports

Some weeks ago I received an email from Alicia Ortner, school counselor at Tarver Elementary School in Belton, just north of West Adams Avenue.

Ortner was planning a “Career Day” on the final day of classes prior to spring break and was reaching out to individuals representing quite a number of career paths, and professional fishing guide was one of them.

My wife and I normally reserve Fridays for what we call “marriage maintenance day” — a day where neither of us make commitments to others, except by mutual consent, and simply spend the day with one another. Sometimes we take day trips, other days we go grab a bite to eat together or do more mundane things like weed the yard or prepare taxes.

When this request came in, I bounced it off of my wife, and given her pediatric nursing background and current role as the nursery director at our church, I was not surprised when she agreed this kid-focused event was something we could and should do together. So, I replied in the affirmative to Ortner, and on Friday the event took place.

I know fishing to be a wholesome pastime which always held my interest as a child, and which still does to this day. Being able to introduce kids to this sport, in part to know this outdoor tradition will continue for generations to come, I felt to be worthwhile.

I have been a part of numerous school events involving elementary-aged kids before, and, this turned out to be the single best-organized one of them all in that the agenda was published early on and followed to the letter, the six groups of fourth-graders which visited my station were all on time and sufficiently supervised, and the overall flow of the event was organized and positive.

Although we had hoped to be able to meet with the kids assigned to us outdoors, Friday’s strong cold front, complete with high winds, low wind chill factor and falling temperatures, prevented that. Never fear, Ortner moved us indoors to the school’s gym, where the smooth floor and open area allowed for casting indoors.

As each group arrived, I explained a bit about my own career path, and my dream of retiring early to become a fishing guide. I shared how in my time in the U.S. Army, in industry, and then in ministry, I always did three things with my finances: I never spent more than I earned, I invested 10 percent of my income, and I gave at least 10 percent of my income to support the Lord’s work.

Following these simple steps helped me to prepare to retire at age 47 to begin guiding full-time after doing so on a part-time basis for the previous 10 years.

After sharing this, and a bit about my education, I taught the kids how to cast a closed-face rod and reel.

I then organized the kids into two equally sized groups per class and had half of them cast while the other half looked on.

The kids’ targets were an invention called the Backyard Bass, a flat, plastic fish with a domed head into which a groove is molded. It is in this groove that a plastic practice casting plug catches, thus allowing the kids to “catch” and then reel in the fish across the smooth gym floor.

Of course, competition always spices things up a bit, so after allowing each group to practice a bit, we entered into a competition round. At the word “go,” the kids began casting to see who could hook and land a Backyard Bass the quickest, with the winner being awarded a new rod and reel like the one each was using for the contest.

Each group of 14 to 22 kids visited with us for 20 minutes, so, there was much to do in such a short time. After both groups practiced and competed, we did the presentation of the awards and then closed out our sessions with a question-and-answer time.

So it was in a number of classrooms all over the campus, with kids getting to hear and see pieces of a day in the life of a doctor, a dentist, a soldier, a musician, a food bank organizer, a pastor, a firefighter and more.

At age 52, I have noted that my ability to hang with kids for any length of time has diminished over the years, but our time with the Tarver Elementary kids went quickly. We enjoyed every minute of it.

I would encourage you to pursue one of the many volunteer opportunities that are offered by well-meaning organizations all around us … churches, schools, non-profit organizations and the like. Giving of yourself to invest in the lives of others is truly rewarding.