I had the privilege of visiting my old college campus and presenting to a Feature Writing class on blogging.
It was a beautiful fall afternoon in Omaha, Nebraska. The air was crisp and led my mind to leisurely untangle itself from daily distractions.
As I walked down the same brick path I had traveled over 15 years prior to make my way from class to class, I reflected on perspective that only comes with age. A wisdom that reinforces something I had always known, but never stopped to fully appreciate. I was blessed beyond measure to have had the opportunity to walk this path, both literally and figuratively.
During my time on campus that day, I visited with both my former softball coach and my academic advisor – two people who helped me pave my way when I wasn’t yet old enough to grasp the weight that adulthood carried. Both pushed me beyond where I had falsely assumed my potential peaked.
To see those two influencers after all these years and have a chance to absorb the enormous roles they played in shaping the person I am today is something I won’t soon forget.
I followed up that memorable day with an equally gratifying evening later in the week. Since launching my own GiveTheGameBack movement in January, I have watched the work of international speaker and best-selling author John O’Sullivan. His organization, Changing The Game Project, has positively impacted athletes, parents, and coaches alike, through education and training on how to accelerate positive youth development experiences, as well as critical life lessons along the way.
He wrote a book titled Changing the Game, which was released in 2013. In it, he talks about how adults are taking over today’s youth athletic experience. “We stream 10 year old baseball games to our offices, we buy $400 bats and $300 shoes, chasing the myth of scholarships and guaranteed high achievement. At a time when popular culture is promoting numerous self centered values, our children need sports more then ever to teach them about courage, discipline, commitment, and humility. Yet 70% of kids are dropping out of sports by the age of 13, most of them because sports are no longer fun!”
Let that reality absorb in. Three out of four children are done with sports before high school. As parents, do we not owe it to our children to attempt to understand why so many drop out? As a former athlete who knows how much sports impacted my life, I want my own kids’ experiences – no matter how long those experiences last – to be positive.
I do not believe having a positive experience is synonymous to having a winning record; rather, it is in the athlete’s capacity to recover from setbacks and stretch their own personal potential beyond what they believe is possible. As John so eloquently puts it, “In the real world, the most successful people are the people who are willing to fail (and try again) the most.”
John spoke to a room full of coaches and parents and delivered messaging that I know to be true, but see so many people (including myself) easily forget. According to him, elite athletes need three things to succeed, i.e., make the leap to higher levels of competitive play:
- They must love what they do.
- They must be allowed to own their experience.
- They must be intrinsically motivated.
Here’s a wonderful Tedx Talk featuring John speaking to a group in Bend, Oregon.
The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be. -Reid Hoffman, Founder of LinkedIn
It’s been uplifting to hang out with so many great people as of late, men and women who have had positive impacts on me and countless others.Thank you for hanging out with me, by taking time out of your day to read these words. Have a wonderful week ahead and never forget about those in our world who are suffering. May we never take for granted how lucky we are to live in a country where we can share our thoughts freely.
Written by Heidi Woodard