A New Day – Making The World A Better Place

“This is the beginning of a new day. God has given me this day to use as I will. I can waste it or use it for good. What I do today is very important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving something in its place I have traded for it. I want it to be gain, not loss — good, not evil. Success, not failure in order that I shall not forget the price I paid for it.”

This short yet powerful poem was written by Heartsill Wilson. It is said that, upon his death, this simple poem was found on Hall of Fame football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. When I first read this poem, I merely though of it as an interesting piece that a legendary sports figure carried on him. Then I read it again. And again. Eventually, something clicked. This is more than a poem carried by a sports figure. This a simple and powerful mantra of how to live life and how to make our society better.

In our lifetimes, it will seem that we have many days and many moonlights. However, this may not always be so. Time is a finite force and even if we live to the age of 100 years old, we have a limited amount of new days. None of these days are to be taken for granted, for a life can be altered in the blink of an eye – both for the better or for the worse. Many of us have seen enough of life’s undiscriminating sense of justice to know that this reality is so.

When one stops and reads Wilson’s poem again, they will realize that this is a mantra that we can strive to live up to each and every day – a challenge to rise above the storm that life can create and better ourselves and the world around us. Each and every sunrise that we awake to, each and every one of us has this reckoning. We have been granted another day of life, a day in which we will never gain back. Yet, we will leave some mark of our doing – influenced by our being – upon this day that exists in this world. What is up to us is whether we do good or do evil.

Look at the world around you. Look at your family. Look at your loved ones. Look at your community. What mark do you wish to leave upon them? What memory and action do you wish the world to leave upon them? Do we wish to burn a path that leaves the carnage of hate and anger in its wake? Or do we wish to build a future that champions love and compassion? Do we wish to build a world that provides opportunity to those born into it? Equality – of all kinds – is the great human mystery that we have sought to solve in human civilization. The future that we choose as a society begins with the choices that we make as individuals. It starts with how we answer the question of what we are going to do with the day given to us. Shall we use this day to perform an act of selfishness – one guided by the inner darkness of the heart? Or will we have the courage to leave goodness in place of the day we have been granted?

If we shall do the latter, that is how we make this world a better place. If you are a parent, look at your young child. What kind of world do you wish for them to see? How do you want them to see you in that world? If we collectively act to better ourselves and our world each and every day, the light will eventually win out over the darkness. Our world will be built into a better place. We just have to believe it and be that force of change which we seek.

How do we achieve this goal and exact a positive change with the days that we have been granted? The answer is simpler than we think. We achieve this goal being active in our society. We achieve this goal by having moral courage. We achieve this goal by being a source of hope and inspiration.

In our hearts, we each have a moral compass – a sense of what is right and wrong. If we witness a wrong, we must have the moral courage to stand and deliver and do everything within our power to correct that wrong. In our hearts, if we know that we can positively help a collective effort to achieve a goal that benefits society, we must have the commitment to help. We must have the courage to set our hearts free and follow it. By doing so, our positive impact will inspire hope in others.

While some in this world will have the opportunity to make impacts on a large stage – say in public policy or in an event that goes down as having historical significance – most of us will experience these opportunities in more grounded ways. What can you do to make a difference? Do something that makes a positive difference, no matter how small. Be a good influence on those around you. Join a town/city committee. Help someone out. Have the courage to follow your heart and dreams. Have the courage to be a positive force in this world. Have the courage to be someone’s inspiration. Have the courage to be the reason why someone goes to bed at night with a smile on their face. Be someone. We have been given a new day to achieve something each and every sunrise. Let it be good. Make it be positive. Let what you have exchanged for this day be something that leaves the world a little better than you found it. If enough of us do that enough times, we will have a beautiful world.

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

 ~ Robert F. Kennedy

Public Image: What You Mean and Represent Within Your Team and Community

“When you pull on that jersey, you represent yourself and your teammates. And the name on the front is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back! Get that through your head!” This line comes from a great sports movie, Miracle, that chronicles the journey of the 1980 “Miracle On Ice” Men’s Ice Hockey team at the 1980 Winter Olympics under the guidance of Herb Brooks. While the movie is a striking reminder that the United States was capable of fielding a team of amateur players to take on the world-renowned juggernaut Soviet team, the story of how they became a team is the most important lesson from the movie. This quote is the crux of the movie – and really in all of athletics. I will take that one step further and say that in any setting, work and life, this quote is a defining idea.

Constantly, in all of the action that defines the flow of athletics, one crucial aspect is often overlooked and taken for granted – the idea of representation. In order for success to be obtained, an individual must have the self-awareness to know their strengths and weaknesses. The individual must use this knowledge to know how to best help their team, for it is the team that has one heartbeat that will be taken to new heights. Their can be no skip and no falter in that heartbeat or the whole machine fails. In a larger sense, just as an individual is a representation and a part of a team, a team is a part of a larger community as well. Teams are organized in many different ways – by village, by school, by college, by company, by community. Just as players are representations of their teams and organizations, organizations are a representation of the community that they participate in. The same holds true for any company, organization or institution in other walks of life. This relationship is important as we rely upon the faces of the entities that we encounter to be the human personification of what they represent. In athletics, where the relationship between fans and players/teams is so ingrained within our culture along with the critical need for a player to be a functioning part of the team, realizing the importance of what you represent and how is critical. The movie Miracle does a great job in capturing this idea through a coach’s words – indeed, the name on the front of a jersey is more important than the one on the back – that team trumps individual. What one should strive for when they keep in mind that they are representing not only themselves, but their team and community as well, is that they should perform at optimal athletic level with integrity, class and skill along with being self-aware of their role so that they can effectively perform as a member of a team that represents themselves in more ways than wins and losses. This is important to remember for when a community – no matter what size – identifies with a team that is a representation of themselves, many different associations occur with that connection. This can include reputation, economic opportunities, social opportunities and community building.

Now, this may seem like a lot to ask of an athlete. In reality, however, there are a few things that an athlete can do in order to fulfill their role in helping be a good representation of themselves, their team and their larger community. Much of it has to do with trying to be a good person and following the keys to success that were laid out in another lesson writing. These lessons do not pertain only to sports, either. Rather, they are guidelines that all of us should follow. Much has been written about the need to be self-aware and know your strengths/weaknesses in order to better know and perform your role as part of a team. This is what I call a self-aware, team based mentality. That is one part of the equation. The other parts that are critical in fulfilling your role is hard work, integrity, class and skill. The first two of these that I will touch upon is skill and hard work. Some athletes naturally have more skill than others and that can reflect in performance. However, to a degree, hard work can compensate for a minor skill deficiency. That said, every individual should work hard and give all that they are capable of giving to a task. Integrity and class go hand in hand as well. Integrity defines who you are and demonstrates your character. If you work hard and do so honorably and are a good role model with class, you will win the hearts of those you represent. Hopefully the other results will follow in time.

In the end, little thought is often given to the public image of an athlete and that of the identity of the team that they represent. Sports fans often hear of team culture and identity when a team is doing well or is doing poorly. It is always an explanation of something that has occurred in the past. In reality, it is the heartbeat of a team. A team lives and dies by those who make up its many parts. Those parts represent not only the team that they play for or the organization that gave them the vessel to perform, but they represent the community that supports them as well. This is why, with integrity, class and skill, it is important for athletes – and, really, any worker in any walk of life – to remember that the name on the front really is more important than the name on the back when it comes to accomplishing an organizational goal. Individual self-satisfaction will follow.

Riddle of Love

Riddle of Love
Matthew Kushi

Small town man, not even six feet tall
But strong and standing on his own two feet –
Standing tall on the ground.
Seen some storms
And I’ve seen days where the sky
Caresses you without a sound.

Now,  I’ve survived the times when the sky was black
And I’ve solved riddles a-plenty.
But there is still a riddle that I haven’t solved.
Ever since the start of time,
Love is the riddle that I never could really solve.

Through it all, still looking for love –
Looking for someone to take this man
Who’s feet are planted on the ground
And turn him upside down.
I’ve lost plenty in this life
But I’m still hoping to find the one.

Well, I guess, when all is said and done,
I guess I’m just an old fashioned square
Don’t know if that’s good or bad that I’m aware.
Just looking for love and a love that’s real,
Oh, give me a chance and I hope that you too will feel
The old fashioned love
From the heart of one who has seen a thing or two.
I’ll treat you like the strong woman that you are
With admiration, respect and love,
If you’ll do the same.

Well, now I swear
I’m a man of his word.
You know, a strong handshake goes a long way
And I know when to take a hat off.
But I am human and I am weak
And don’t always know what to say
Or when to turn the other cheek,
Which is why a love
To walk by my side
Is the one mystery I seek to solve.

Through it all, still looking for love –
Looking for someone to take my world
And take this man
Who’s feet are planted on the ground
And turn him upside down.
I’ve lost plenty in this life
But I’m still hoping to find the one.

Well, I guess, when all is said and done,
I guess I’m just an old fashioned square
Don’t know if that’s good or bad that I’m aware.
Just looking for love and a love that’s real,
Oh, give me a chance and I hope that you too will feel
The old fashioned love
From the heart of one who has seen a thing or two.
I’ll treat you like the strong woman that you are
With admiration, respect and love,
If you’ll do the same.

Making A Difference: Why I Write

“One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” These words were once spoken by President John F. Kennedy. We inhabit a world that is filled by billions of souls. Each of us have our own sense of purpose. Our sense of self. Our own sense of self-expression. Our own sense of what we add to the world that we have been born into. This statement is so simple, yet it contains power. We tend to think of the idea of power being derived from the people, of the people and by the people as an idea born of governance. While this is true, it is more than that. It describes how we can function as a society. While not all of us are great or are extraordinary figures, we all have the power to be. We have the power to be through our actions and how we conduct our lives. This, in turn, impacts those around us and the society around us. Just as a stone casts a ripple when it is cast upon the water, the actions of our lives create a ripple around us. I have this ability. You have this ability. We all have this ability. The question is, do we use it? And if we use it, is it for good or is it for evil?

Now, take a step back. Think upon how you lead your life. What is your purpose? By which virtues do you live your life? Do you seek better the lives of others or merely yourself? How do you set out doing this? Hopefully, you have the courage to follow your heart and stand and deliver upon the virtues in which you believe in. Hopefully, your purpose is to better the world around you, starting with yourself.

I stop and look in the mirror at myself. I am reflecting on the same questions that I have just asked you to reflect on. In my mind, I see a question form in that mirror that has been asked me many times by many people. Why do I write? It seems to be a rather simple question doesn’t it? I am writing this now for others to read with some purpose. I operate a writing website and write lyrics and poems for some reason. Why do I write?

As I reflect upon the questions that I opened this article with, I know that I write for several reasons. Initially, it was to spread a message. I wrote about disability advocacy and advocating for the stopping of the word “retard” as a slur. I did this for a family member and I was proud of it. I also wrote because I liked the attention it brought me. I found I could impress people with it. If I could impress a girl that I liked with my writing and my ideas, all the better! *Note: This never did work for me on the latter when that was my goal*

The more I wrote, the more that my reasons for writing became focused. For me, writing is a form of self-expression. Writing is a form of communication. Writing is a way to explore ideas and to spread a message to others – it is a way to inspire others. In the final analysis, I write to make a positive difference in the world around me. I write to give a voice to those why may not have a voice. I write to spread awareness on issues and provide a perspective that can inspire others. I write to tell a story and to spread a message – hopefully one of humanity.

When I write an article, such as this one, I am seeking to spread a message that I believe in. I am seeking to share a story with you that makes you think. I am looking for opportunities to find stories of humanity winning out – the light defeating the darkness – in this world and letting you see it as well. I am looking to make you aware of an issue. I am looking to make you think. Throughout human civilization, man has chased monetary items as their treasure. As has been pointed out in many different ways, money is not our treasure – knowledge is.

Why do I write my lyrics and poems? For many of the same reasons. I am seeking to tell a story, stir an emotion and make you feel something. My writing process is heavily influenced by music and I will often listen to a series of songs and music to set the mood for what I am feeling that I am going to write. I pull from varying pieces of story-telling and personal experiences in order to write and tell the story. The tone and cadence often is inspired by the music that I have immersed myself into. I immerse myself into the music, when I do this, to the point where I can feel and breathe the tone and emotion that the song is giving. I then use that energy in the piece I am writing. However, the end goal is the same – to share something I am feeling and/or to make the reader aware of an issue. The goal is to make you think.

These are the reasons that I write. Why do I write ultimately? I can sum it up like this – If I can inspire one person, change one heart or make a difference in one person’s life by spreading knowledge, I have been successful. Writing is one of the small ways that I – a small town man – can make a difference. We all have it within us to make a difference.

So, my question to you is “How do you make a difference and why?” Please leave comments on what you do.

Eyes To The Future

Every day, when you turn on the news, you see stories of both inspiration and of chaos. One pitted against the other. We sit at a table and either read our phones, computers or newspaper or watch the scenes unfold on the television screen before our very eyes. “I wish that I could do something that” we say to ourselves in awe as we digest the scene. “How awful! How could this happen? Why isn’t this being prevented?” asks another voice as another scene unfolds. Here is what we, the general public, need to realize – we are the answer we seek to the questions that we ask. We can make that change. We can be that source of inspiration. We can make a difference. We, the inhabitants of the lands and seas of this Earth, have that power. We need to remember to cast our eyes to the future and behold the future that we see and act on it.

Exploration of new frontiers and food sustainability. These are the two topics that I am going to discuss in this article. Why? Because these are two subjects that I can speak about and two subjects that impact everyone. These two issues represent two positive vessels of change in our society – a society that needs to focus more on the bridges that unite us as a people rather than the walls that divide us. We are more than the angry, divisive culture that we have allowed to define our discourse and identities as of late. While a level of division and conflict is inevitable – one need only to look back at the history of civilization to know that this is so – we do not need to let that be our defining culture in this era. Rather, we can look towards the horizon and see a brighter future, one that advances our society, our humanity, our accomplishments and our world.

In the past 50 years, looking specifically in the United States, what do we see? Yes, we have gone through many incidents that have left black scars on our souls. But, look again, and you will see something else. Pull the veil back and you will realize that over the past half century, we have had great advances in human development and the exploration of new frontiers. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy spoke these words when declaring that the United States would land a man on the moon in that decade: “We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people.” Over the past 50 years, we have not only landed man on the moon and explored a small fraction of the vastness of space and the world beyond ours, but we have explored the seas that we have long sailed and come to understand them as well. We have made advances in science and society. Despite the unrest that seemingly marks our times, we have found new ways to make the lands we walk, the seas we navigate and the skies we explore areas where humans of all races can live and prosper. Look around you, we are still making these stories happen. They may be hidden or they may be small – say in a youth 4-H camp – but they are there. We are the inspiration that we seek. We are the changers of the world that we look for. Tomorrow it could be you. It could be me. We can change the world. We can change the world for the better together.

Now that your mind has been opened, turn your eyes once more to the news. What do you see? Yes, we have stories of poverty, inequality and unequal accessibility to food and resources. What else do you see? I know that I see a world full of farmers. Some in the agricultural community have been struggling as of late. Farming is a tough business. I can attest to that. However, in the past century, agriculture has undergone one of the most transformative changes that it has seen in centuries. There is new technology to be used and increased yields to be harvested and more sustainable methods to be utilized. One of the keys to making society more affluent again is to eliminate food deserts and provide more resource hubs. This will require innovation. Perhaps the seas we sail and the stars we navigate hold some of the answers. Perhaps, more diverse business practices and more practical policies are the answers. The thing to remember is this – we hold the power. We, the people, hold the power to make this change. From the consumer to the advocate to the farmer, history rewards those who take chances in the effort to better our world. When I say food sustainability, I do not merely mean the method in which a crop is grown. There are many opinions on that as well. I mean making the resources and food that we produce a lasting resource. Human civilization, as we know it, was started when humans discovered agriculture. Our future depends on that trend continuing. Again, our eyes must look towards the future.

When I look at our current situation as a world, I try to look for the positive impacts that people are having on our society. Yes, we must acknowledge that the pain of our battles exists, but they don’t have to define us. We don’t have to let whatever evil force drives that pain impact us. We must realize this to survive as a race – the human race. In the late 1960’s, Apollo 8 became the first man-carrying craft from Earth to orbit the Moon. As Apollo 8 orbited the Moon, Jim Lovell noted that when he first saw Earth as a solitary object in the vast universe, he could cover the whole Earth up with his thumb. Funny, isn’t it? All of our problems and all of our lives can be covered by a thumb. We are a small force in this universe. Why don’t we work together to try to make it last?

Whether we can make it last or not is up to us. We don’t have to read the news or watch scenes develop in front of us and ask how that could be changed and who will do it. We are the answer to that question. Robert F. Kennedy once stated, Few will have the greatness to bend history; but each of us can work to change a small portion of the events, and in the total of all these acts will be written the history of this generation.” Never has this been more true than now. Do not be afraid to dare to dream. Do not be afraid to be the change that you seek. If we all have the courage within our hearts to find the positive things in life and act accordingly, we will make this world a better, kinder, gentler and more compassionate place. It all starts with looking to the future.

As an educational staff member at a University and as a small business owner/farmer, I know what I am going to do to make this world a better place. I will seek to inspire others, educate others and produce for the benefit of others. What will you do? Comments are welcome.

Athletic Development in Youth

Childhood is a time when many of us are exposed to different experiences along with what seems to be endless time and freedom. As we get older and look back through the lens of time, we realize that we did more than enjoy a timeless freedom or survive a confusing era – we learned things along the way. The experiences from which we learned is a vessel through which we learn about ourselves, our communities, our values and who taught us those values. Like any other vocation, sports is a vessel for which these lessons can be learned. Many are exposed to athletics in their youth, either through school programs or through playing. The bond between athletics and youth development can be one of the strongest bonds that an individual experiences. This exposure cannot be understated as athletics can teach and expose us to many facets of life and situations that occur both on the playing field and on the playing field of life. Athletics can expose youth, and anyone who dares to be young at heart, to the importance of health, physical activity, personal and team character development opportunities, life lessons and opportunities in general – so long as the lessons are provided and taught properly.

Why and how can the lessons, exposure and opportunities that athletics provide be so profound and powerful to a youth? There are four areas that I will categorize what athletics can provide into. These four areas are: Physical Fitness, Exposure based life lesson development, Self-Awareness and Character Development along with Opportunity Enhancement. What do these mean?

Physical fitness is one of the most important aspects that a youth can develop. If a youth is taught to be active and how to best to care for themselves, they have a better chance to live a healthier life. Being healthy is the foundation that one’s life is built upon, professionally as well as personally. Athletics can provide a window for the young mind to be educated. Through athletics, individuals can learn about life – how to face adversity, how the bond of a team is stronger than the strength of an individual – and apply these lessons to other parts of their lives. These are Exposure based life lessons.

Self-Awareness and Character Development are goals that we all strive for throughout our lives., Athletics can also lead to an individual becoming self-aware and developing their character. In order to best become part of a team, an individual must be comfortable within their own skin. This means being self-aware – knowing what they are good at and what they are not good at. Self-Awareness also encompasses knowing what your values are – who they are and what they believe in that helps define them.  Athletics also provides an individual a chance to build upon that foundation of values. Hall of Fame UCLA Basketball Coach John Wooden once said, “Sports do not build character. They reveal it.” Our values define who we are and how we have been raised, taught or the situation that we were born into. Athletics provides a window to let the world know who you are and how that affects what happens on the playing field. Sometimes the sight is encouraging and sometimes it is discouraging. But, what has always been stressed to me is that nothing is forever. If you are one who believes in the human race and in the humanity and compassion of mankind, you believe that people can change. You believe that they can change for the better and become a better person. You believe that the good person can accomplish even greater heights if they tap into the lessons that they have learned and enhance their self. By enhancing their self, they make themselves stronger and, in turn, make their team stronger. This is true whether one is talking about a family, a workplace or an athletic team. Sports provides lessons to those willing to open their minds, ears and eyes. Sports gives you the chance to be someone, to better yourself, to leave this world a better place than you found it. For this reason, one of the strongest dynamics in the athletic world, just like in any other area of interest, is that it gives those who participate in athletics a chance to enhance and develop their character. Athletics gives you a chance to grow as a person, an athlete and a teammate.

The final point is Opportunity Enhancement. For those who enjoy and pursue athletics, the door to opportunity can be opened wide for the individual who gives it all that they have. Some find a lifelong hobby. Some find that athletics is their social outlet or their way to lead an active lifestyle. Some find their life’s calling in using athletics to promote social causes. Some, if they are talented enough and lucky enough, find that it is a way to make a living and support themselves or their family. Athletics can provide an individual with an opportunity to achieve things that they have only dreamed if they work hard at it. This does not have to mean making it as a professional athlete. This can simply mean leading a social and healthy lifestyle. However, for any of this to pass, an individual must see the value of the fundamental activity in the first place. As many of our interests are formed and shaped in our youth – our childhood, athletic development in youth is critical. This is where it starts.

How can this be done? The answer is really much simpler than it seems. Many times, the structure is there for us to use, we simply have to know how to use it. There are several items to note when it comes to how to best enable youth to use athletics as a means to happiness. The first is exposure and opportunity. The second is good coaching and a good infrastructure. The third is proper education of youth and having an understanding of how to best enable youth to succeed. The fourth point goes hand in hand with the third point – understanding that there are different levels of success and opportunities.

What is meant by exposure and opportunity? The answer is in the question. Giving youth the chance to get involved in athletics. The important part of this step is understanding that there are different levels of exposure and making sure that the avenues are there for one to fall in love with the world of sports. For some, this is school-sponsored gym class. For some, it encompasses neighborhood pick-up games with friends. Others thrive on the chance to compete in town or regional leagues. Others fall in love with athletics by watching and reading. There are multiple avenues to achieving this first step. The critical part is understanding that not all sports lovers are the same and ensuring that the opportunity exists for that love of sport to develop.

The second step is the most important in athletic development – good infrastructure and good coaching. Logic says that if you have a bad experience in something, you will likely not gravitate towards in the future. For youth, this means an avenue of education and development lost. What we often forget is that are youth are simply what they are – children. Youth sports does not carry the monetary or life-defining burden that professional sports do. While the intensity and expectations of sports does increase the higher up the ladder you go, for youth, it is still a game. A game that can provide life lessons if implemented correctly and in a manner that the kid is having fun learning and playing at the same time. This is what is meant by having a good infrastructure. In order for that infrastructure to work, there must be a good leader. If the athletic event is a coordinated affair, having a good coach is critical, much as it is at any level. As John Wooden once put it, “No written word, no spoken plea can teach our youth of what they should be, nor all of the books on the shelves. It is what the teachers are themselves.” A good coach will encourage and teach players Not just about the game but about life as well. They will be firm but fair and never make it so that the fundamental core of the event – the game – is made into a monster rather than a fun, educational experience. Unfortunately, bad coaches are the ones who make the news. The ones that play favoritism games, the ones who treat these opportunities as life and death experiences. This approach helps no one in the long run. It damages the integrity of sports and hurts the youth for whom it is designed for. Even for those who gain from the favoritism, the damage is done. By creating a false sense of entitlement, an athlete is allowed to skip the important self-awareness step due to the fact that they are being fed false-awareness from a third party source. The stories of bad coaching need to be changed. We need to see more stories about the good coaches, the ones who enhance those under their guidance and allow them to become not only successful athletes but good men and women as well.

How is this accomplished? By finding coaches who promote the third point – education and an understanding of youth. Those are your good coaches. Those coaches also practice the fourth point – understanding differing levels of success based on differing ranges. For many, the model proceeds as follows: Introductory, Basic/Youth, Transitional/Semi-Competitive, Competitive/Amateur, Professional. In the introductory stage, a child is introduced to the sport and taught to love the game for what it is. From this, they will attach different values such as the sport being a social outlet or some other fulfilling achievement. Youth then transition into the Basic/Youth stage where they learn the fundamentals of the game and develop and understanding of what it means to play the game. The next stage is the Transitional/Semi-Competitive Stage, where you play the game for fun but also to achieve the goal of the game. This goal is usually to emerge as the victor. The next stage is the Competitive/Amateur stage. This is where most people end their careers on a serious level. This equates to High School area ages. You play the game because you love it, you have fun playing it and it fulfills a competitive drive. College Athletics can also fit into this stage. The final stage is for those who are talented and lucky enough to try and make a living in athletics. Many who do not make it as players can make it to this stage by working in the field of Sport Management. Those are the people, next to the players, whom the passion and love for athletics flows strongest through. If a youth coach understands this differing level of athletic development, they will know how to best enable and enhance youth to make athletics a positive part of their childhood life. Through his style of incorporating life lessons to his athletic coaching, John Wooden had two good sayings about athletic youth development. “Basketball, or any other sport can be great fun to play and entertaining to watch. However, it offers something more important. The lesson it provides – taught properly – apply directly to life. Many of these lessons are usually taught by a good mother and father, but sports can help make them stick and add a few more.”

Just like any other interest or hobby that an individual can pursue, the world of athletics can give youth the opportunity a chance to become the best that they are capable of becoming. This is done through a good infrastructure, good coaching and ensuring that there are opportunities for youth to participate in some form of athletic development. Athletics, if chosen, can expose youth to life lessons, opportunities and give them the chance to develop themselves character wise and physically. Ultimately, athletics can be a vessel for youth to start the journey to becoming the best that they capable of becoming. As I have oft-quoted, John Wooden’s statement rings true. ““Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”  Nothing is more critical to our future, as athletes, society and people, than the success of our youth.

A Long Time Coming (A Long Time Gone)

We were born to a great country that fights day to day.
We’ve got learn that we are better
When we help each other with a strong, steady hand.
The wind is blowing
And a change is coming to this land.
Good things are coming our way.
You know, it’s been a long time coming
And our worries will be a long time gone.

I’ve seen times get hard
When all you have is time to punch your card.
You can get lost in the crowd
And you wonder if it is time to move on,
Until you say, “It’s been a long time coming
And I’ll be a long time gone.”

I’ve seen the farmer tend to his crops
As he looks to avoid a loss.
Still has to put food on the table.
As he harvests his cucumbers and peppers,
Things are looking a little better.
He’s hoping those hard, hard times
That were a long time coming
Will be a long time gone.

At a home, the lights are dimmed;
They used to be bright.
Inside is a love that just isn’t right.
She made a promise – a vow
She won’t let his anger beat her down.
She’s leaving and taking off her lover’s crown.
She’s a long time leaving
But she’ll be a long time gone.

I have seen troubles,
Seen a fellow man down on his knees
Questioning what he believes.
But our flag still holds true to freedom
And our spirit will wash away the gloom.
Good times are coming soon;
It’s been a long time coming
And our worries will be a long time gone.

One Last Time

Looking back, calendar pages on the floor,
I wish that I had said more
Instead of watching you walk out of that door
For the last time.

Didn’t know that you would be gone so soon –
Left to touch the moon.
My love for you was always there.
Did I tell you how much I cared?

Did you know how much I loved you?
I loved you more than you would know
And my lone last wish is that I had let it show.
Tears in my eyes, you’re gone forever.
I’d give everything I own to see you one more time.
I want to tell you that I love you again
And look into your eyes one last time.
I am forever haunted
Knowing that I didn’t call you and tell you
That I loved you
One last time.

I want to pick up the phone
And call you one last time –
Hear that sweet and tender voice
Once more.

When you love someone,
Love them with all that you have
And make sure that they know
Just how much you care.
Let your love show
For you never know
When it will no longer be there.

I loved you more than you would know
And my lone last wish is that I had let it show.
Tears in my eyes, you’re gone forever.
I’d give everything I own to see you one more time.
I want to tell you that I love you again
And look into your eyes one last time.
I am forever haunted
Knowing that I didn’t call you and tell you
That I loved you
One last time.

One Last Time

No Place I’d Rather Be

Look, here comes the sun.

A new day has begun.

Out on the river, the water shines

and it ripples in mighty lines.

 

Let’s walk under the sky so blue.

That’s all I want to do with you.

Far off an eagle cries

Followed by the sound of your pretty sigh.

You look into my eyes

and there’s no place I’d rather be.

 

We walk through the grass so high

and watch a hawk as it takes off to fly.

Listen to the stream as it flows.

On and on forever it goes.

 

I just want to lay here with you

and watch the sky turn an emerald hue.

Hold each other as the sun goes down

and feel the silence all around.

Days as perfect as this are so few.

There’s no one I’d rather share it with than you.

 

A day so pretty I can’t recall.

Guess it’s that way when you fall.

The katydids are singing

and in harmonic rhythm our hearts are beating strong.

 

The world’s at peace,

I hope you can feel it too.

Soon day will be set anew

and the morning will be fresh with dew.

In all of nature’s beauty, there is nothing I would rather do

than share this with you.

Lyric/Poem – No Place I’d Rather Be – YouTube Spoken Word

 

Inspiration – An Educational Journey

As you begin to read this article, I want you to close your eyes and think back. I want you to think back to a time where you accomplished something. I want you to think back to what caused you to start dreaming of accomplishing whatever task you have just thought of. I am asking you to think of what has inspired you.

Inspiration. Where does it come from? All of us who walk the land and sail the seas of this Earth have been inspired by something. We may come from different cultures and different backgrounds. Our experiences and perspectives on life are wholly different as well. However, we are all bound by one thing on this planet – the human condition. One experience that we all are exposed to is inspiration. Think about it. No matter the road that we have traveled, we have – at some point – dared to let our hearts dream. We have dared to believe that we can be someone and accomplish something based on something that we witnessed or people that we have met. It does not matter if you are reading this in the United States or in Africa, the concept of inspiration unites us. Inspiration is universal.

Why am I speaking of inspiration and the power that is has to unite the inhabitants of our society? I speak of this concept for several reasons. First, in a day and age where what divides us tends to be what we notice, it is important to notice the small things that unite us – as we are a race and a species united in the final analysis. Second, I want you to think. I want you to think of what has inspired you in life and why. Once you understand yourself, you can begin to understand others. When we understand others, we can realize the bonds that unite us rather than the ideas that divide us. We can understand other entities of this life and we can understand the perspectives of our fellow humans. Recognizing inspiration only benefits society when we realize these points and when we use our inspiration to better ourselves and the world in which we live.

To illustrate what I mean, I would like to share what has inspired me. Those who know me know that I am deeply inspired by my family and my brother. I would like to share what else inspires me – education and a historical figure named Eugene Sledge.

While I am deeply involved in agriculture and athletics, my “day job” is in higher education. Why education? I work in education because I feel that it is my purpose, whether it be in business, agriculture or athletics. I was inspired by education. How? “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” These words, spoken by Nelson Mandela, are simple yet powerful. Receiving an education is a part of life that many take for granted, yet it is one of the most powerful things we will ever receive. In the movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, there is a line at the end that the states that the gold that the Native American tribe was looking for wasn’t monetary – it was knowledge based. In a world where our actions and public affair decisions are based on our knowledge, education is worth more than gold. Whether formally or informally, traditional or non-traditional, education is the key to many doors in life once we realize it. It is that purpose and that value that inspires me to work in the educational field.

So, who – you may ask – is Eugene Sledge? I never met Dr. Eugene Sledge, who passed away in 2001, but he is one person who inspired me to follow my heart and go into the field of education. Eugene Bondurant Sledge was from the southern United States and was a Private First Class in Company K, 3rd Battalion, Fifth Regiment in the First Division of the United States Marine Corp – known as “The Old Breed”. PFC Sledge was an ordinary man save for one thing. Sledge served in World War II in the Pacific Theatre and saw combat at Peleliu and Okinawa, two of the most intense battles that took place in the Pacific during World War II. In his later years, Sledge wrote a book on his experiences from notes taken in his Bible. His book With The Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, is widely regarded as the finest memoirs of a common enlisted man in combat. However, this is not what inspired me. It was the fact that after enduring the experiences that he did, he did what so many other did and returned to make a contribution to society. Eugene Sledge went on to obtain advanced degrees after attempting to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. Dr. Sledge became a beloved Professor at the University of Montevallo. His journey into education and the purpose that he found in it inspired me.  I will leave a few links on Dr. Sledge below:

Eugene Sledge Biography – Encyclopedia of Alabama
Eugene Sledge Biography – YouTube

Eugene Sledge’s story helped me find direction. His story inspired me. I was inspired by a value system – education – and a story of a life, just like every other human who walks this Earth is. It has been a positive inspiration and I seek to better myself and the world around me by using my source of inspiration for good – not evil. So can we all. By bettering ourselves, we put ourselves in position to better the world around us.

Inspiration. Where does it come from? It comes from us – it comes from within. We all have it. We all have the ability to be inspired and to inspire others. It is a trait of the human condition that unites us. The end results of positive inspiration can bond us. Our moment of inspiration can help us discover who we are and help us find success. It can help us learn about ourselves. Hall of Fame basketball coach John Wooden once stated, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” By recognizing what has inspired us, we can truly understand what we are capable of becoming – both as individually and as a society. It all starts with an inspirational spark – a spark that we have all had ignited within us. What has inspired you? How do you hope to inspire others?