Last Thursday I was honored to deliver the keynote address to the students and faculty of the Department of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond. At the request of Eddie Hebert, Ph.D, and department head of kinesiology and health studies, I was participating in the Annual Ask KHS (kinesiology health studies) Student Symposium.
The Ask KHS event allows the students to hear from and interact with professionals in a variety of fields including athletic training, exercise science, sport management, health education and promotion, health and physical education teacher education, fitness and human performance, nutrition and coaching.
As the event drew closer, I reached out to Dr. Hebert to ask just what I should talk about to such a diverse audience. Hebert responded that I could talk about my life in sports, career opportunities for the students in their respective fields of study and such.
For someone like me who is quite used to speaking before large audiences, in front of the camera, and/or a radio mike, I have been rarely at a loss for words over my last 32 years of work in pro sports and positive lifestyle management.
Recently, when I was in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., working with Serena Williams, the No. 1 female pro tennis player in the world, I visited Barnes & Noble to pick up some reading material. I came across the book, "The Secret," by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller. Blanchard, whose books on leadership have sold more than 20 millions copies, gave me insight on what I might convey to these young minds at Southeastern.
I chose to focus on Blanchard/Miller's talking points that great leaders must "serve" their customers, clients, employees, themselves – I think you get their point - to be considered great. A great leader must "See" the future; he or she must "Engage" and develop others; "Reinvent continuously;" "Value" results and relationships and "Embody" those values.
I was most taken with the "reinvent continuously" point, where the authors state you must do so on three levels – " how am I learning, how can we do it better, and how can we become more efficient and effective," as an organization - all excellent talking points for me to relate to my life and for the Southeastern students' benefit.
Then, I reached back to my third book, "Maximum Energy For Life," with a forward by my former client, billionaire developer Steve Wynn, which said that "passion is a life force that allows us to reinvent ourselves on a daily basis."
Pulling on a quote from the writer Julio Malara in his book, "The Keys to Performance," regarding adversity, I said, "it is not what happens to you that matters. Rather, it is what you do with what happens to you that counts," along with "winners make goals; losers make excuses."
Add some life experiences in pro sports and I felt I was on my way to accomplishing my task of motivating these young minds to the continuous challenges of life. But something was missing, so I decided to reach out to friends that I had encountered in life for advice as to what I might use as additional talking points.
By the way, all of the following people I will reference could not believe that I was at a loss for words. The first person I asked was Serena Williams. Here is short quote from a touching statement as to what I have done for her over the last five years in her life. "It's not what you achieve in life, records you set, but it is more about who you showed kindness and love to......"
My longtime friend Mark Letendre, who brought me into Major League Baseball in 1989, when he was head athletic trainer (the youngest at that time) for the San Francisco Giants. Now Letendre is head of umpire medical services for Major League Baseball Umpires through the Office of the Commissioner of MLB. I have worked with this group under Letendre's direction for 14 years and counting.
Letendre was short and concise. "A good way to remind this generation is to plan their work in order to work their plan. Critical thinking is a missing element as many do not plan first."
A 23-year friend who works with HBO Sports said to tell the young people, "be masterful at your assignment because it will make everyone around you want to achieve the same. That coupled with integrity and righteousness is a recipe for success."
And finally, a female friend of mine who was a diver on the swim team at Tulane when I was on the football team, said to say: "find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life."
Add all of what you just read along with my own unique life experiences with my "kick butt" mentality of training and there you have my presentation.
Before I got in my car to drive back to New Orleans after saying my goodbyes, I received this email in which I will keep the writer anonymous, although she did permit me to share her comments.
"I know that you are extremely busy and probably do not even read these emails yourself but I hope that this somehow reaches you.
"I battled myself on whether or not to even attend your speech because of feeling completely overwhelmed but I have never felt more fulfilled about pushing through that feeling. Your speech, as little as it may seem to you, has changed me. I am a 28-year- old undergraduate student that has just returned to college. I played soccer for Ole Miss 2003-2005, got injured and gave up on myself and everything around me. I lost my mom at 17 and my dad at 20 and the injury completely rocked my world.
"Currently, I am coaching soccer for a club in Mandeville, going to school and training for my first body-building competition in the bikini division. I was feeling unmotivated and lost within myself, my teams and my training. You helped me realize that I'm just making contributions and not commitments and you have inspired me to put more energy into all aspects of my life.
"You've made me aware of how much more of myself I can give. Your passion is incredible and I am going to make contributions to this world just as you have in my own ways. Thank you for your time at Southeastern and thank you for being an amazing individual. We need more people like you in this world and you are a person that has inspired me to be the best version of myself."
Immediately, I wrote this kind, young individual back and thanked her not only for her kind words, but also what an effect she had on me. She made me realize that what I do does count for more than just points on the scoreboard of, at times, the mindless world of pro sports. Looks like my presentation affected at least two people, myself included.
By the way, today is my 33rd wedding anniversary with my loving wife Sandy, who has been and still is the love of my life.