Professional Development

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Sporting Into Life

Every time I hit a tennis ball, my life flashes before my eyes.

That might be a strange sentence to take in, but let me create some context.

As an adult, I often contemplate what it truly means to be a "success." How can you actually accomplish it?

Honestly, there are no objective answers to those questions or that concept; success—what it looks like and how you achieve it are completely unique to every individual. However, what is objective and what individuals can agree on are the characteristics that describe success.

The ideals behind what encompasses a success can carry over into every industry and any category possible. You can hypothetically be successful at anything, whether you are a professional hot dog-eater or a famous scholar.

It is truly awesome that success can be achieved everywhere, so the question becomes: What is holding you back from achieving it? I've realized that there is not a uniform answer to that question, but there are many bottlenecks to the accessibility of achieving success. One major issue is lack of exposure: Too many people do not learn about the characteristics that encompass success; therefore, it is significantly difficult to achieve.

In my personal experience, I learned these characteristics through sports—specifically tennis. Sports were an outlet that I unknowingly used to be the catalyst to learning about what success meant and how to hone the characteristics that create success.

Dedication and Hard Work

The heart of a champion is created before the game. To be the best on game day, it is essential that youth put in the hard work, practice and repetition before all eyes are on them on game day. Everyone is fighting for the top spot; everyone wants to be No. 1; everyone wants to be known as "the best" whether you are on the field or in the office. The only way to actually claim that top spot is by dedicating yourself and committing to the hard work you will need to put in for a prolonged amount of time. Dedication and hard work are key characteristics that lead to success.

Dress for Success

Have you ever heard the phrase, "When you look good, you feel good?" In anything you do, your demeanor and presentation will always be a factor in achieving success. In my experience, I've found that the more professional I look, the more confident I feel. Confidence is key when it comes to sport or any realm of life. Confidence is often something we only feel internally; however, if youth are lacking confidence, it is normally apparent to others and that has the potential to negatively affect them.

Networking and Collaboration

Being able to work and communicate with others is something that many of us begin to learn in infancy. When youth join an athletic team, the idea of networking, collaboration and comradery is typically exemplified in most things they might participate in. Youth learn how to be team players and bond with peers over the desire to achieve one common goal, allowing them to overlook details they may disagree with—an ability that is extremely valuable and will help them excel in nearly anything in life. In addition to that kind of collaboration, networking skills are something youth will develop in the quest to collaborate. In the effort to win, youth will get to know their team better. The relationships youth build in these situations has the potential to grow and prove beneficial in other facets of your life! Collaboration is a key to success!

If You're On Time, You're Late

If you are late to practice, there will be consequences—whether that is extra workouts, being put on equipment duty or not being able to compete on game day at all. Long story short: Being late or not showing up can hurt youth—even if they excel in every other way. This is true in life and in sport. If you cannot be trusted to show up—no matter how talented someone may be—you will be looked over. Being on time will allow youth to be successful.

Never Give Up, Always Compete

Competition is one reason many athletes get involved in a particular sport and most athletes have innate disdain and maybe even a fear of losing or failure. Always attempting to be better than the day before is a tool that athletes and people in business use to excel and focus their energy so that they are able to continuously work at a high-level. I've found that passion for the activity you are involved in will dictate how willing you are to compete and excel at it. Remember: "You miss 100 percent of shots that you don't take." Help youth find their passion, enforce there's no need to settle and they will be on the path to finding success!

Adapt and Prepare

When your game plan isn't working, you may need to adjust, adapt or try something new. In life and in sports, this is a crucial skill that is always valuable. You can never truly know what to expect when you walk on to the field or when you walk into the office each day! It is key to be able to adapt to the environment and this can only be done through preparation. Youth will learn to be adaptable and prepare!

Leadership—Never Lose

Managing people is one of the most difficult things humans do in life—whether it is your family, your team or your colleagues. Sports were a valuable tool that helped me learn how to deal with people who don't necessarily share the same values, ideals or personality traits that I cherish. With that being said, we were always a team whether it was in victory or defeat; therefore, we never lost. Any time defeat occurred, we would use it as a learning experience to build from—which is a win in itself. Achieving that dynamic is never easy and it requires true leadership from everyone involved. Encourage youth to step into their leadership!

Working in youth development gives you the privilege to get to know the leaders of tomorrow, today. Sports taught me what success is and how to achieve it at an early age in life. The mission now is to learn how to package everything I've learned and give it back to our young people.

Sports and tennis have been the way I choose to do that. What's your path?

Written by Ravan McKeithan, Program Coordinator for The Leadership Program.

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