The Most Important People
What struck me on Monday as I was preparing to speak to my track team and their parents at our end of season banquet, is that I had the opportunity to say what I really wanted to say to people that really mattered to me. The truth is I always wanted to be a motivational speaker in some way and being the coach of a high school track team gave me an obvious platform to do that. I cherished the moment to be that person to that these kids. It was something that I was so excited to do, and I could not wait to just go out there be my authentic self and deliver a speech for the ages. When I worked in biotechnology, I often had to give talks and presentations about things that really did not deeply matter to me. I had to speak with knowledge and conviction to people that were perceived to be all so important in the world. You know the CEOs, VPs, Directors of Business Development and various departments, Managers of Data Management and the list goes on. But there I was, a few hours before my speech realizing that these kids are the MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE I HAVE EVER SPOKEN TO IN MY LIFE (besides my own family, of course)! Every single day, I was doing something so important for these kids… to be a support system, to care, to encourage and to discuss and teach the sport that I love with young people who love it too.
When I applied for this coaching position, I wrote this paragraph in my cover letter and clearly it was not a line of BS as this is what I delivered this season. “My coaching philosophy focuses on teaching the fundamentals with the proper, tailored training plan, encouragement, and support. I value that every runner is different and has unique capabilities and limitations and that it is important as a coach to listen and adjust to meet the specific needs of the athlete. I believe in coaching with great enthusiasm and taking a methodical, incremental approach to training for building endurance and achieving success. A great coach learns about their team and finds way to instruct and build confidence that can lead to peak performance. I know firsthand how influential a coach can be and how that person can impact your life for many years into the future by showing you how to be disciplined and achieve your goals. I would love to be that person for these kids.”
This season surpassed my expectations. The kids were great, polite, grateful, and made sure to say “thank you” everyday at the end of practice. I was also amazed with their determination to work hard and deliver incredible performances time after time. Several times this season, I compared this “fun work” with my old “not-so-fun work” and frankly there is no comparison. In corporate America, I spent almost 25 years climbing the corporate ladder thinking that there always had to be something better and greater to ascend to or more fun to be had. Although I worked extremely hard for long hours and made a ridiculous amount of money, I left all of that behind to have more time for my family plus I did not feel personally fulfilled despite my accolades and ranking within the company. Now that I have had this experience and privilege of coaching these young athletes, I have realized that climbing the corporate ladder does not even remotely compare to climbing the ladder of self-actualization. That is the ultimate state and frame of mind we all want to achieve in this beautiful journey called life. People go through life never realizing their full potential and using it for the good of others. When you find something you love, you must immerse yourself in it and allow your passion to unearth the best version of yourself. It is easy to be great at something when you are living with this authenticity because your passion and conviction naturally shine through. With passion and conviction come caring and support and no doubt that you can build the best relationships this way. What else could be more impactful in this world than shaping the minds of our young people? I cannot think of one single thing and that is why coaching these high school athletes has been the most meaningful job I have ever had. I do not even really consider it a job because I love it and working for these kids is incredibly worth it. I feel like I am doing what I am meant to do, and this is my way to give back to the world.
What they do not know is long ago, I was one of them. I was a high school kid with little direction from my own family, having lost my mother a week before high school started, and not knowing how I was going to go on with my life. Running cross-country and track and field in high school was something that saved me, gave me an outlet and opportunity to build confidence and serve as something positive in my life. My coaches were significant role models, encouraged me to be my best and believe in myself. This belief in myself and gratitude for my coaches has stayed with me my entire life. It is one reason I reached incredible pinnacles of success in my life. I always believed I could accomplish anything, and therefore being a high school coach of these kids is my way of giving back and now standing beside them while they reach their own successes is one of the beautiful rewards of my life. Success and happiness come in many forms, but the key is when you follow your heart and your passions in life, wonderful things always result, and you find your true purpose in this world. When you find it, you just know because your heart is finally full, and you cannot imagine doing anything else.