October 29, 2012

It has been a while since I sat down to write a post and so much is going on, not only at Sportable but across the country and world, that it seems fitting to talk about a universal theme–LEADERSHIP. I am sure you all have heard that we are in the midst of an election…one that will determine the next LEADER of our great country. Don’t worry– I have no desire to talk politics here,  but I do think that we often get so caught up in the TV Ads, phone calls, and just general day to day operations in our own work environments that we forget about one of the most important personal qualities and/or positions that someone can have bestowed upon them! One of our former Presidents, Harry Truman, referred to Leadership as “the art of getting people to do what they might not otherwise do, and to like it”.

As I have admittedly been a fundamental part of Sportable’s growth in the past 7 years, I also know that no leader–not even our elected Commander and Chief–has the power or ability to go it alone. I am also so excited for another key member of the Sportable team, Becky Lehman-our Program Director- to start the next phase of her leadership journey as a part of the Emerging Nonprofit Leaders Program!  As Jim Collins writes “The best and most innovative work comes only from true commitments freely made between people in a spirit of partnership, not from bosses telling people what to do. Leadership cannot be assigned or bestowed by power or structure; you are a leader if and only if people follow your leadership when they have the freedom not to“. This is quite possibly one of the most powerful statements I have ever heard and something that each one of us should be in tune to not just in the office environment…but at our schools, in the classroom, on the tennis or basketball courts–opportunities to lead are all around us from a very young age.

A few days ago my 4 year old daughter came home from “school” so excited to tell me about her day– she was the “Line Leader” for her class on their way to the music room. This made me think…What was it about this experience that was so exciting to her? Do all children have the same reaction? I realize personality plays a big role in this AND that a good part of one’s desire to be a leader is completely outside of our control  but, it seems to me that with increased confidence in one’s abilities may directly correlate to one’s excitement about being the “Leader”…right? So, my daughter for example, knew which way to LEAD her classmates to the music room–hooray!!

I then began to think about how sport impacts an individual’s confidence and instantly began running through my head all the amazing stories of Sportable athletes who are taking those steps outside their comfort zone to find ways to play a leadership role. There is Christian who has been training with his Dad to participate in a 1/2 Marathon , who decided to do his 8th grade project around the race…getting individuals to sponsor him  in the race to benefit Sportable, there is Blake who lives and breathes wheelchair basketball…he has his eyes set on playing in college and so he works hard at school, as well as has attends camps across the country to make his dream a reality, and there is David who began wheelchair racing as a means to be part of the one of Richmond’s largest races–the Ukrops Monument Ave 10k…he now has quit smoking, done several other races ( to include 2 Sprint Triathlons) and is David is looking for a new job commensurate to his qualifications ( an MBA)! David said about his experience this year, “[My first 10k] definitely got me out of my comfort zone. [It] helped me realize that anything is possible if you dig deep to reach your goals.” Similarly Mary Catherine Taylor, now on staff with Sportable , began participating in our wheelchair tennis program just over a year ago. In the spring, Mary Catherine traveled to Atlanta, GA to compete in a tennis tournament–her first trip solo since her injury 17 years ago. Prior to coming to work for Sportable, Mary Catherine had been a stay at home Mom for the past 8 years and for her the opportunity to support her fellow athletes has been life changing…not to mention how willing and capable she is to take on more responsibility in running our small ship!

I could go on and on about the amazing stories of our athletes…it is so easy to stay motivated and to continue to create opportunities when you witness lives transformed! Even more importantly, when there are challenges along the way– I believe whole heatedly and have witnessed first hand that Sportable has an important role in our community–as do our athletes. I rest assured in knowing that to be part of Sportable ( in whatever capacity-ED, Program Director, Admin Asst, Athlete, Board Member, Volunteer, etc.) is to be part of something BIGGER!! As we begin to plan for 2013, I am excited about the team that is in place to lead Sportable and I know that my key role is to continue to ensure that we hold true to our guiding principles:
-Freeing our athletes to see beyond their disabilities
-Building peer relationships and reducing social isolation
-Facilitating physical and attitudinal change in our community

Regardless of the opposition or challenges along the way, Sportable’s mission and strong set of values is not only worthwhile in the short term but one that can have long term affects in the next generation of LEADERS!