Have you ever said to yourself, “I wish I knew back then what I know now?” or “What am I Leaving on the table?” Growing up I was always interested in learning and gaining knowledge. As I grew older I learned it was much more important to be able to apply that knowledge. For me, looking back and reflecting has always been a part of my learning process. To me, it was a way to not just avoid repeating mistakes but also learn how to improve. I’ve also been very competitive, so having information and learning from that information always seemed to fit with my quest to be the best that I could be.
I’ve heard a lot of people talk about what sports taught them. A mentor of mine, Dr. Rick McGuire, told me that athletes learn from coaches. This book is a resource for student athletes in high school or college as well as professional athletes. The purpose of this book is to inspire all athletes to take full advantage of their opportunities as an athlete. What are you leaving on the table? This is a metaphor for the opportunities we all have when we have a seat at the table of sports, or any situation for that matter.
I grew up in Detroit, Michigan, where it was all about the survival of the fittest and where violence and distraction were becoming the everyday norm. Despite the external environment, my parents did a great job, and I also had good teachers, which gave me an advantage in the classroom. I always wanted to be the best that I could be in the classroom and be a good student. I enjoyed being in class as this was usually a safe place to be. I was always encouraged and challenged to improve and be better. I believed I could become whatever I wanted because of the strong foundation I was provided. Looking back, I was privileged to have really good parents and teachers.
I talk about “CHOICES” in this book as the first theme. Another word for choice is autonomy—the ability for one to make choices for oneself and by oneself. Having been a College Strength and Conditioning Coach I learned the importance of autonomy when trying to develop self-determined and self-motivated athletes. The ultimate goal of coaching is getting athletes to apply what is being taught. If a coach can foster an environment that allows athletes to make choices, it creates a team full of self-starters. This is important because athletes will spend more time away from coaches and with their teammates and friends.
The second theme in this book is “CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT.” The chapter on Personal Development was written by Coach Akeem Robinson. Coach Robinson is currently a Director of Athletic Performance at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. Personal development is about the steps one takes to become a mature person. It’s about knowing your identity because you’ve made many choices to develop it. I follow up Coach Robinson’s chapter on Personal Development with a chapter on Leadership Development where I highlight being put in a position or an environment that allows the traits of a leader to be taught, encouraged, and affirmed.
The third theme in this book discusses “MONEY AND WEALTH.” This topic is very important today in athletics, whether high school, college, or professional. There are many sobering statistics (i.e., bankruptcy) as to what happens to the majority of professional athletes the years after they are done playing. I believe with the right information, awareness, and resources, many of these negative statistics could be diminished, reversed, or altogether avoided. In this book I am discussing the importance of making the right choices fostered through character development. I believe if athletes have the right information and the ability to make the right choices, it will lead to better decision-making regarding their money, which can positively impact their wealth. The two chapters in this theme are written by Dr. Starla Ivey and Derek Lege.
The final theme is “LIVING LIFE.” In my opinion, sport and coaches provide a great opportunity to teach young people and prepare them for life. The three chapters under the theme Living Life are entitled “Life after Sports,” “Focus and Family,” and “Pass the Baton to Teach Others.” I believe in order for our society to continue developing we must teach the young what we know and prepare them for a life worth living.
Over the years, I’ve learned what matters most in my life—my faith, my family, and my friends. One day, you won’t be able to play sports like you did when you were in high school, college, or in the pros. Make sure you’re learning something every day that you can use now and later in life. My dad always told me “Never go one day without learning something.” This book is me passing the baton to my peers and the younger generation. I hope you take it and get across the finish line.