Unscripted with Rachel Wojo

Rachel Wojnarowski is a wife, mom, author, speaker and freelance writer. She has a remarkable story that will inspire you. Even with all of the things that keep her very busy she still finds time to inspire others. Please check out her website for all of the resources we discussed in this podcast. I am so thankful to call her friend and have the opportunity to watch her continue to use her powerful story to impact others. In this episode, we discuss building a brand, her powerful family story, growing your web site, writing a book and raising a family that chases the Lord. Thank you Rachel!

LINKS:

Rachel’s Web Site – https://rachelwojo.com

MPS Organization – MPSSociety.org

Rachel on Twitter – @Rachelwojo

Unscripted with Andy Warnock

I recently went Unscripted with Andy Warnock. Andy is a husband, father, entrepreneur, developer, dreamer, visionary and founder for the Dots Tots Foundation. This is the most incredible 30+ minutes of podcast I have spent so far and that is saying something. Incredible family that is giving back to the community of Hilliard.

LINKS:

Dots Tots Organization: https://dotstots.org/

Andy Warnock on Twitter: @AndyTWarnock

Dots Tots on Twitter: @DotsTots

Unscripted with Coach Dave Richardson

Coach Dave Richardson is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach/Men’s and Women’s Basketball and Women’s Tennis at the University of Arkansas. He earned Registered Strength and Conditioning Coach Emeritus (RSCC*E) designation by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) in June 2020. In this podcast, we discuss COVID impacts on college athletics, re-live some memories of his time in Columbus at THE Ohio State University and review the Ninja Foodi Grill. I appreciate Dave taking the time to be on Unscripted.

LINKS:

Ninja Foodi Grill –

Unscripted with Cammi Prantl

This Unscripted One on One is with my close family friend, my assistant by day and OSU Softball Volunteer Coach Cammi Prantl. Cammi is a former OSU Softball player and current volunteer coach at Ohio State. Cammi was a four-year starter for the Buckeyes and three-time All-Big Ten performer. She never batted lower than .329 in a season and broke Ohio State’s all-time hits (247) and doubles (64) records as a senior. The Ashville, Ohio native became the 11th All-American in program history in her final year with her selection to the NFCA third team. In addition she played professionally in Italy.

LINKS AND REFERENCES:

Cammi Prantl OSU Page – https://ohiostatebuckeyes.com/coach/cammi-prantl-2/

Unscripted with Marcus Williams, PT, DPT

Wide ranging Unscripted One on One tonight with Marcus Williams. As a former Ohio State football player, Marcus developed a special interest in sports medicine and helping the athlete throughout the entire continuum of care: injury prevention, return to sport and performance enhancement. We cover a lot of topics in this podcast from his playing days with THE Ohio State University to his rankings of the top pizzas in Columbus.

NOTE: There were some audio issues throughout the podcast but it is worth the time to listen to.

LINKS and REFERENCES:

THE Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Sports Medicine – https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/sports-medicine

Marcus Williams – https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/sports-medicine/team/physical-therapists/marcus-williams

MARCUS “PIZZA FRIDAY” TOP 5

Number 5….. DiCarlos – https://www.dicarlospizza.com/

Number 4….. Benny’s Pizza https://bennyspizza.com/

Number 3…… 600 Downtown Pizza – http://www.600downtown.com/

Number 2…… Meisters – https://www.yelp.com/biz/meisters-bar-columbus

And THE NUMBER 1 MARCUS PIZZA FRIDAY IS – Adriatico’s – https://adriaticososu.com/

Also mentioned…… Grandads Pizza. Home of the 16″ challenge. https://grandadspizzaandpub.com/

Unscripted with Kelsey Lensman

HUGE podcast with a great friend to me. Miss Kelsey Lensman is a joy to know, to follow and to work with. She is a visionary, inspiration and one of the most life-giving people I know. Kelsey is the founder of KML Movement. She is a certified athletic trainer that has worked with people of all ages to help them live happier, healthier and more fit lives through fitness, injury prevention, nutrition, and mindset training. Take time to enjoy this one today.

LINKS:

KML Movement – https://www.kmlmovement.com/

Kelsey on Instagram – https:/instagram.com/kelseylensman

Kelsey Bio:

Kelsey Lensman, ATC

Founder, KML Movement

Kelsey is the founder of KML Movement. She is a certified athletic trainer that has worked with people of all ages to help them live happier, healthier and more fit lives through fitness, injury prevention, nutrition, and mindset training. 

Kelsey has background in injury rehabilitation, functional neurology, and functional medicine. 

She says she is just a normal girl with an insane amount of passion and belief that people are capable of so much more than they ever think. She wants to help show you that

Unscripted with Coach Tim Congrove

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Hilliard Davidson Head Basketball Coach Tim Congrove. Coach Congrove enters his sixth season with the Davidson coaching staff, and his third as the Head Coach at Hilliard Davidson High School. In this podcast we discuss the incredible 2018-2019 season with a team that had 10 seniors. Rebuilding the next season and look ahead at a preview for this upcoming season. 2020 could be another special season for Hilliard Davidson boys and girls teams. 2018-2019 was one to remember. Thank you Coach!

Links:

Hilliard Davidson Basketball – http://hdcatshoops.weebly.com/

Unscripted with Zach Fleer

Every opportunity to do a podcast has been an honor and this one is no different. I recently completed a podcast with Zach Fleer who is the Co-Owner of 270Hoops, Director of 270 Hoops Fall League, The Intro and 270 Hoops Battle for the City. He is a husband and believer. I met Zach a few years ago and have continued to be amazed at the growth of 270 Hoops. In my opinion, Zach is the most powerful man in Ohio High School basketball. We had so much to cover that we went nearly a full hour. Great interview. Incredible history to get to where 270 Hoops is today. Thank you Zach for sharing the conversation and your time.

Links:

270 Hoops – https://www.270hoops.com/

Zach Fleer Twitter – https://twitter.com/ZachFleer270

270 Hoops Twitter – https://twitter.com/270Hoops

270 Gridiron – https://twitter.com/270Gridiron

Unscripted with Dr James Onate

Tonight I sat down with Dr. James Onate. Jimmy is a friend and educator at THE Ohio State University. We talk sports, science, comparisons, recruiting and THE University of North Carolina. By far I was not the smartest guy on the podcast but Dr. Onate is always engaging, interesting and spends his days doing incredible work. I appreciate his friendship and willingness to always talk about a variety of topics.

LINKS:

“What I’ll Miss The Most” – http://aaronconrad.com/2019/06/30/what-ill-miss-the-most/

Dr. Jimmy Onate joined The Ohio State University in January 2010. He earned his PhD in Human Movement Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2002 with a focus in biomechanics and motor learning. He has been an academic research faculty member interested in all aspects of human movement relative to injury prevention and performance optimization since 2003. 

He currently serves as the director of the PhD program in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, chair of graduate studies in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, a co-director of Ohio State’s Sports Medicine’s Movement Analysis & Performance (MAP) research program, a research scholar for the National Federation of High School Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, and a research consultant to Naval Special Warfare groups based in Virginia Beach, VA.

Unscripted with Emma Conrad

I am not the only one that started a podcast during the pandemic. Actually, I would argue that I don’t even have the best podcast in my own house. Today’s Unscripted One-on-One is with Emma Conrad. Some of you may know her as “Princess 1.0.” What an incredible joy as a parent to see your children pursuing their dreams and their goals. In this brief podcast, Emma and I share her new podcast with my audience. We also discuss the various ways that she inspires me on a daily basis. She also may have given a pretty good clue as to where she is going to attend college next year.

Also Available on Podcast:

Links:

Full Podcast – anchor.fm/emma-conrad

Michael Todd Podcast – https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/transformation-church/id1348831124

Erwin McManus Podcast – https://erwinmcmanus.com/podcast/

Levi Lusco Podcast – https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/fresh-life-church/id214017745

Unscripted with Stacie Raterman

The latest addition to the Unscripted Podcast is a true honor. Stacie Raterman is the Director of Communications for Hilliard Schools. We begin by discussing her early career in local radio and now her role in school leadership during a pandemic. I am thankful for her time and that Hilliard Schools has an open book policy. No question was off limits. This discussion gives us the opportunity to see “behind the curtain” on the difficult decisions that are made and continue to be made. We also discuss how the leadership of Dr. John Marshhausen and his team made a huge difference in the midst of this virus. I have so much respect for Stacie and the entire leadership team from Hilliard Schools. I am thankful for her availability and the time she dedicated to this podcast.

Key takeaways:

The situation continues to be very fluid and tough decisions continue to be made.

Dr. Marshhausen has the health and lives of 17,000 students and 2,000 staff members to consider every night when he puts his head on his pillow.

Resources are available for those struggling with eLearning and mental health.

The schools have no intention of keeping kids overnight, despite what you may have read or heard.

Also available on Podcast:

Links:

Hilliard City Schools – https://www.hilliardschools.org/

Dr. John Marshhausen Blog – https://lifeinfocus.me/

Stacie Raterman Bio:

Stacie serves Hilliard City Schools as Director of Communications and has been with the district since 2013. She graduated from Ohio University with her bachelor’s degree in Communication with a Journalism specialization.  She earned her master’s degree in Communication from Ohio University. Stacie’s main responsibility is to openly communicate with parents, community members, and staff the message of our district.

Stacie and her husband Dan have two sons in the district.  Their family stays busy with hockey, soccer and Boy Scouts.

Contact Stacie – stacie_raterman@hboe.org

Unscripted with Curt Harding

Todays Unscripted guest is Curt Harding. Curt is a writer, speaker, story teller, author, reporter, producer, publicist, DJ, 80’s music fan, Huey Lewis fan, husband and #Girldad to twins. He and his wife Polly live and work in Nashville, Tennessee. What a rich 30 minutes discussing all of that but mainly writing and sharing your story. We talk writing, storytelling, jobs, working for Dave Ramsey and being a girl dad. For the benefit of the audience, we saved our 80’s music until the very end. I am a better man for knowing Curt. He will bless your day.

Key Takeaways:

“It’s impossible to hate somebody if you take the time to hear their story.”

“You have to find your way sometimes and

“If you’ve got an idea, just get it out there. Write it!”

“Just write what you feel and what you’re experiencing.”

“A leader does not let gossip in the building.”

Also available on Podcast:

Links:

Curts Harding’s Website – http://curtharding.com

Contact Curt: curt@curtharding.com

Tail of Two Kitties Book: http://curtharding.com/shop/

Dave Ramsey: https://www.daveramsey.com/

Total Money Makeover Book: https://www.daveramsey.com/store

In case you don’t know or wondered……This is Right Said Fred…… Listen to the podcast and that will make sense.

Unscripted with Ryan Grammatico

Tonight I sat down with my good friend and band of brother, Ryan Grammatico. Ryan is the Community Engagement Director for Right Moves for Youth in Charlotte, North Carolina. We met over a decade ago but if you watch the video, you’ll see that this was literally only the third time we’ve talked face to face. I am blessed to call him friend. You’ll hear about the incredible work he is doing in his community both in his job and on his own. We talk race, changing the score and end talking about being a “Girl Dad.” Video and podcast available below. Links to items mentioned throughout the video below as well.

Key takeaways:

“Seek less to be understood, seek more to understand.”

“You can’t just put a black box on your social media and think you changed the world.”

“God stays faithful to those who are faithful.”

“We have 150,000 students in Charlotte Mecklenburg county and one school district”

“My girls shifted the way I view humanity”

Available via Podcast:

Links:

Unscripted Podcast – https://anchor.fm/aaronconrad

Right Moves For Youth – https://www.rightmovesforyouth.org/

Equitas – Equitas.cc

Ryan Grammatico on Twitter – @RyanGrammatico

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz – https://amzn.to/3bFUey6

Discussing Race, Sports and America

I recently had the blessing of hosting a zoom call with 3 guys I have so much respect for. Tonight we squeezed a lot of conversation in a limited zoom allowance. I can’t thank them enough for their time and the conversation. We discussed some important topics and still found a way to smile. May we all treat one another the way these guys have always treated me.

Key takeaways:

“We all talk a different language, talking in defense.”

“”We’ve been fighting this war for a long time. Stuff is just getting recorded now.”

Also available via podcast:

Links:

Beans and Brews in Utah: https://www.beansandbrews.com/

Welcome Back?

Wow it has been a minute hasn’t it? Let me begin by thanking you for sticking with me over the many years of this blog. Depending on how long you have been following, you may have literally watched my kids grow up digitally. “The Boy” is now in college, “Princess 1.0” is in her senior year and “Princess 2.0” is in her sophomore year. We now have 4 drivers in the house and soon will have 5. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you all how quickly time flies. 

You may wonder where this is coming from after the past few years. One thing Covid gave each of us was time and perspective. Now that my kids are older I have at least a few more minutes on my hands. I’ve decided to restore the blog and put some content back on the interwebs. 

Where have I been?
I’m sure you are wondering where I have been the past few years. Posts have been few and far between. The truth is I needed to step away. I needed a chance to step into what I preached and that was family. The clay on my kids lives is drying a bit more each day. I wanted to focus on what was the most important. 

Why now?
I think we might all agree that the world is just crazy right now. The last thing we need is one more voice in the crowd and yet maybe we need one more voice in the crowd. Maybe we need more conversations. Maybe we need to hear from people like you and I that are doing great things in the world. We’re constantly bombarded with the negative. There are so many positives in this world. Everyday people doing extraordinary things. Changing the world and their circle of influence. 

What’s ahead?
I am already working on a list of great conversations I can’t wait to have and record. I’m going to be introducing you to some of the people I mentioned above through recorded zoom calls. I plan on continuing reviews, posts and the other random things as normal but I am most excited about the conversations. This week I am kicking it off with 2 former professional athletes and their head coach. We’re going to talk about race and sports in America. Look for that post soon. Here’s just a few of the interviews that are coming soon….

Zoom call with former Columbus Destroyers – Race in America
Zoom call with Justin Brown – Leadership and Staying the Course
Zoom call with Marcus Williams – Former OSU Buckeye and my personal trainer

Thank you again for being a loyal follower all these years. I don’t know what the future holds but I look forward to sharing it with you in my little corner of the internet. God bless. 

AAron. 

Where We Are

The other day one of my daughters and I were talking politics over dinner. She was asking a lot of questions and I was doing my best to give answers. I mean, how do you explain where we are right now? I am not sure many adults can understand it, let alone children. So, here was my answer…..

I love Nike. I have worn Nike for as long as I can remember. I begged my parents for them when I was a teen and I have shelled out the money for them in my adult years. My kids all wear Nike. I like them. I like how they fit my feet. I like the look, the feel, the style and the variety.

Until the last few years.

While I still like Nike, there have been times when they weren’t comfortable. They didn’t feel right. They were downright ugly.

So because we live in a country where I can look at other options, lets just say there is only one other shoe company out there. Let’s use Crocs (for examples sake). Let’s say I am a the store and right next to the Nike I’m not sure I like there is a pair of Crocs.

Crocs have never been a shoe I liked. They aren’t practical for what I would need them for. They look uncomfortable. There are a lot of people that like them. No matter what I think, people are free to choose them. There is nothing I liked about that shoe. It goes against everything I look for in a shoe.

But it is the only other option next to the Nike that is currently uncomfortable and ugly.

So do I buy the Nike and hope that the same fit, comfort and everything I have liked for as long as I can remember will be right again? Do I hope that Nike gets their act together and returns to where they have been in the past? Do I ignore what they look like? Do I ignore that they’re uncomfortable? Do I buy the Crocs I know don’t click a single box for things I like?

Welcome to 2020.

*Note – this is no review of Nike or Crocs whatsoever. Simply an analogy that helped my simple mind process the decision before us. Also, I am not here to debate politics. Please refrain from arguing or leaving your political side in the comments. There are plenty of other social media sites for that.

Dad Goggles vs Coach Goggles

Honored to share a guest post from my friend and Denison Baseball Head Coach Mike Deegan. I’mm thankful for his leadership, guidance, character and conviction. Iron sharpens iron and Coach Deegan is the best of us.

DAD GOGGLES AND COACH GOGGLES

A longtime baseball scout was attending a banquet when a baseball lifer approached him. This person played professionally, managed, and dabbled in the front office. Tough and rugged- the man had a reputation as being abrasive, passionate and honest.

On this particular night, the ex-skipper cornered the scout and asked him when his organization was going to draft his son. The scout, who thought his son was a late round draft pick at best, tried dodging the question. “Ah Skip, he’s a nice player. I’m sure someone will pick him up.” To this he replied, “Nice player? He’s the best catcher in the draft. He’s way better than that kid from Vegas.”

That “kid from Vegas” was phenom Bryce Harper.

Dad Goggles:

Dad Goggles- “the tendency to think your child is way better than they really are.”

Being a coach, I get to witness this phenomenon regularly. If I’m watching a high school game a dad will ask, “How hard is he throwing?” After looking at the unbiased radar guy I reply, “76-78 mph.” Dad often chimes in, “no way….he throws harder than that.” Ah…ok.

During the recruiting process dads often rave about their sons work ethic. “He’s the hardest worker.” I know dad googles are at play; if their son is the hardest worker there’s zero reason to say it. That type of behavior is legendary. It will speak for itself.

If you are reading this and you are a father there is a 97% chance you have the goggles. It’s ok. In the majority of cases dad goggles are harmless and even endearing at times. Just admit you’re nuts when it comes to your kids. Everyone understands. The condition only becomes threatening when you lack self-awareness and begin putting undue pressure on the child.

Dad goggles are fine. My concern is what I have: “Coach Goggles.”

Coach Goggles:

Coach Goggles: “the tendency to judge and pick everything apart. Being overly critical; lacking appreciation.”

My greatest strength is my obsession with continuous improvement. It’s also my greatest weakness. I think I stink at everything. In my mind, I haven’t accomplished anything. It’s a gift and a curse. It motivates me to keep working and growing. However, it can be damaging to happiness and fulfillment. Luckily, I’ve learned to manage this for myself. What I worry about is how it affects my children.

I have witnessed Dad Goggles so many times that I wanted to make sure I never had them. I didn’t want to be the dad bragging and the person listening going, “Oh boy. What is he talking about?”

You mix being a coach, striving for continuous improvement, and my adverse relationship with dad goggles and you have the recipe for a tough childhood for my kids. I rarely give them credit. They play good….I see 10 things they could have done better. Another parent compliments me on their kindness…they are just doing what they are supposed to do.

Coaching goggles are more dangerous than dad goggles.

Conclusion:

If you possess dad goggles you are fine. Just realize your kid isn’t as good as you think they are. The world likely sees them differently than you do. Don’t worry, you are in good company- even Major League baseball royalty owns a pair.

If you are like me and have the coach’s goggles be careful. Our kids don’t need our judgment and insecurities placed on them. It kills confidence. More importantly, it can kill the relationship. We can’t let that happen.


As a baseball coach, Mike Deegan has won three NCAA National Championships and has mentored numerous all-conference and All-American athletes. As a student-athlete, Mike carried a career .393 batting average, led his team to two NCAA National Championship appearances and graduated as his college’s top scholar-athlete.

While his on-field accolades could surely fill a case or two, Deegan’s proudest accomplishments haven’t been rewarded by a trophy. His greatest achievements aren’t about home runs and he won’t tell you a story about that perfectly timed pitching change or a late inning pinch hitter. For Coach Mike Deegan, it’s all about people.

Baseball teams, like any organization, are successful at the intersection of strong leadership, a team-centric approach and a positive, organically developed culture. This formula of success extends well outside the lines of chalk and, in searching for an avenue to share these strengths in businesses, schools and other organizations, Mike’s naturally magnetic personality and speaking style stand out amongst the crowd.

If you want to talk “X’s and O’s,” it could be arranged, sure, but Coach Mike Deegan’s speaking opportunities are focused on the needs of your organization and he will leave the impactful, memorable mark you seek.

A father of four, Mike and his wife Lowrie reside in Granville, Ohio, where Mike leads the Denison University Big Red baseball program.

COACH MIKE DEEGAN

10 Things I’ve Learned by Brynn Conrad

Since I am an equal opportunity father and Princess 1.0 got a guest post yesterday, it is Princess 2.0 turn today. The day before her 15th birthday she put this together all on her own. These are her words. This is her creative. This is her work. I can take no credit for any of it. It is powerful and special. Just like she is. Enjoy 10 Things I’ve Learned by Brynn Conrad……

Multi-Sport Athletes By Emma Conrad

“Hey dad, can you read my essay?” That’s the words I heard. When I read it I could not be more proud of Princess 1.0. THAT and it’s my blog and I’ll post what I want to. I’m biased but this is a great read and thoughts from a high school athlete. Good for all of us moms and dads that run everywhere for every league, practice and match. Below are the thoughts of just one of those athletes. So proud of you Miss Emma! 

Professional Athletes at Age Seven

Gymnastics, running clubs, basketball, track, swimming, diving, dance. I’ve seen it all, tried it all. I had been in gymnastics my whole life, spending hours upon hours in the gym. I would wear my leotard under my clothes to school then head straight to gymnastics after school only to get home at 8:30pm to eat, shower, and hit the hay. That was my life. The only life I’d ever known. But physically, emotionally, and mentally I could only handle that life for so long. After 10 long years of this lifestyle I decided to walk away. And because of this I got to try so many other sports and activities till I found the one I loved most: track. But as a child, it always made me wonder: why do we do this? Why do we slave ourselves to a sport to only wear ourselves thin? Is this even fun? After many years of contemplation of these questions through gymnastics, I learned that my passion was diminished when I was placed in the gym for the majority of my childhood, and missed out on life’s opportunities. In most cases, young athletes should therefore not specialize in one sport because ultimately it leads to overuse injuries, burnout and loss of interest in the sport, poor mental health, and poor relationships with authority figures. 

Youth specialization is a very underground term that many people do not hear on a regular basis. Youth specialization can be defined as, “an athlete focusing on only 1 sport, usually at the exclusion of any other and often year-round… select or travel leagues start as young as 7 years of age” (Brenner). As described by this definition, specialization can be recognized as the focus of one child’s time and energy on developing adequate skill sets in one sport. Often this requires multiple hours, practices, and trips devoted to this goal. As stated by Joel Brenner, this can include children as young as 7 (some even younger) and can range all the way to age 12. After age 12, or after a child hits puberty, they are no longer considered a part of the range of “youth” who are specializing. In general, a simple definition could be a young child who spends year round training for one specific sport. 

Firstly, young athletes should avoid specializing before puberty because it can lead to overuse injuries. Many doctors are seeing the amount of serious injuries rise among these young athletes to an unhealthy normality. Author Sumathi Reddy quotes Sports Medicine Specialist Paul Stricker who estimates, “a 25% to 30% jump in overuse injuries in athletes between the ages of 8 and 12 over the past five years” (Reddy). She even explains how Stricker saw a young boy come in for a stress fracture in his shin at the age of 8. This boy had been playing soccer for four different teams, and Stricker explains how his bones cracked under the weight of his constant running (Reddy). This story and these statistics are shocking. Knowing that many young children are developing chronic overuse injuries because the amount of exercise they manage is unsettling. Reddy reasons that specialization is not meant for younger children because their bodies are not developed or matured yet. During the period of puberty, around ages 12 to 14, Reddy clarifies how physical motor skills are fully developed by then, and how their “aerobic capacity” and endurance levels are more prepared for intensive training by then (Reddy). Therefore, through the research exhibited, most children younger than 12 are not ready for strenuous hours and repetition. Conclusively, because children are not fully developed yet, they are at risk of intense injuries if they choose to participate in youth specialization. 

Even so, some may disagree because they argue that specialization allows for the athlete to build strong skill sets for the specific sport, which outweighs the risk of injury. Because children focus so much time and energy on one skill set, they are able to develop adequate skills for the game. In some sports, such as gymnastics, diving, figure skating, and more, it is vital that children specialize from a young age if they want to be more developed than their competition (Brenner). Even some of the greatest athletes specialized from a young age and succeeded, for instance, Tiger Woods (Malina). Although some athletes may need to specialize from a young age to be successful, for most professional athletes this is not the case. Jane Brody displays a study done by Dr. Charles Popkins, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Columbia University Medical Center, which she reports, “his study of 303 college athletes, 98 percent currently playing one sport had previously played another organized sport before college. They didn’t begin to specialize until they were nearly 15, on average” (Brody). This supports the idea that most professional athletes who are successful did not specialize from a young age. Although some have specialized, almost all, 98% even, did not. This is because they are more mature, and they are physically and mentally able to build the same, or even better, skill sets than someone who starts at a more fragile, young stage of life. Ultimately, this suggests that building a skill set can be done even without specializing, which allows for avoidance of the negatives to youth specialization.

Despite being able to build skill sets, specializing can be dangerous because it can cause major burnout and loss of motivation for the specific sport. As described by Sports Psychologist Lenny Wiersma, burnout can be defined as, “‘the long-term result of emotional and/or physical exhaustion’ and occurs when ‘a previously enjoyable activity becomes an aversive source of stress’” (Wiersma). When an athlete decides to specialize, they have hopes of becoming elite and performing exceedingly well in the sport. But when they fall short of these expectations, and when training becomes too much for their bodies to handle, they experience “burnout”. The athlete then stops trying, because they may lack the motivation to push themselves. This lack of performance because of burnout is called overreaching. Overreaching has even reached the point that, “Several researchers reported over-reaching in 30% to 35% of adolescent athletes” (Brenner et al.). This shocking statistic highlights how over one-third of specializing children are hating what they are doing. The fact that these children are continuing to spend their lives participating in something they hate is very disheartening. Moreover, later in Brody’s article Dr. Popkins clarifies, “‘If they lack an intrinsic drive, if they’re not having fun, they’ll likely become frustrated and quit’” (Brody). This builds upon the argument that most children when pushed to their limits are defeated and begin to lose hope in the sport they used to love. In the end, specializing from a young age could be detrimental because it can lead to burnout among these athletes.

Moreover, young children should not be specializing because it is mentally burdening and socially draining. Wiersma expresses how many children who specialize may suffer from “social isolation” because of the burdening amount of time focused on the skill of their specific sport (Wiersma). Due to the excessive amount of training, time spent traveling for competitions, etc, many young athletes miss out on social life and youth living activities, which can be very detrimental for their mental health. For instance, “‘Many student-athletes report higher levels of negative emotional states than non-student athlete adolescents’” (Flannagan). This fact can be very scary because so many children spend their lives focused on sports, and miss other opportunities. This was true for Isabella. Isabella tore her ACL from a lacrosse injury, and unfortunately missed out on a year of her season. Because she spent her whole life focused on lacrosse and didn’t know what to do without it, during this time off she developed an eating disorder (Flannagan). Her story illustrates how many young athletes might develop an unhealthy relationship with a sport, and therefore have an unbalanced sense of life and unbalanced mental well being. Ultimately, young children who specialize are burdened with many different stressors, which can take a mental toll on them. 

Having said that, some people have a different perspective, which is that youth sports can create positive peer relationships within the sports they are involved in, as well as improve mental health. Wiersma writes, “Sport is considered an excellent environment for children to develop cooperative skills, prosocial behaviors, and close relationships” (Wiersma). This outlines where youth sports can be beneficial because it creates positive relationships between athletes, as well as builds crucial relational skills. Another author and co-authors publish the results of a Canadian study of the correlation of positive self-esteem and youth sports. Results showed that, “sports enjoyment, rather than sports participation per se, appeared to predict increased self-esteem” (Brenner et al.). This study supports the claim that sports can actually improve mental health, or how a child views themselves. Yet, it does reveal how in order to do so they must enjoy the sport. To a certain extent, yes, youth sports can be very beneficial to a child’s social reality and mental health. But, when the amount of activity dips into an unhealthy extreme, that is when the effectiveness and morality of youth specialization should be considered. Author Linda Flanagan expresses, “This professionalization has led to overtraining and exhaustion, which is central to the mental-health problems” (Flanagan). This statement demonstrates when sports specialization starts becoming unhealthy for a child. Yes, youth sports have many positive attributes to them, but when they become extraneous work for children it is unreasonable and unhealthy. For this reason, though there are many positives for a child in youth sports, accommodating specialization to a more realistic standard is more reasonable.  

Finally, most specialization cases involve poor relationships with adults, parents, and coaches because of the stressors of youth specialization. The majority of the time, the relationships between adults and athletes are broken and twisted in some way. In the most common cases, parents are internally motivated to push their children to extreme limits because of their past successes, because of scholarships, because of ego, and more. Relationships can even be strained for children because they don’t want to let their parents down. More specifically, Flanagan emphasizes, “Some parents get their ego needs met through their kids. Fixated on their child’s athletic achievements, they can overlook the young person in front of them” (Flannagan). This sheds light on the, sometimes, wrong motives of parents who either want to relive their glory days in a sport through a child, or how parents can use their children to brag about themselves. This can lead to a broken relationship between the parent and their child, as well as the child feeling pressured to keep doing well or keep participating even if they feel burnout. Likewise, “In a survey of 201 parents of young athletes, 57 percent hoped their children would play in college or professionally” (Brody). Most parents push their children from a young age in hope that they would earn college scholarships in the future. This only leads to an unrealistic reality for most kids because they may fall short of this goal. Similarly, sadly some children are even manipulated and become overdependent on authority figures or coaches. As Robert Malina describes, athletes may be emotionally, physically, or mentally abused by coaches, as well as become dependent on them. He portrays how this gives children a broken perspective of life, and how this can affect how they live the rest of their lives (Malina). This sad truth depicts the reality of some children who choose to specialize, and can be prevented if children choose to specialize at an older, more mature age. All in all, authority figures in a child’s life play a huge role in how they perceive sports and life in general, especially while specializing.

However, just as some parents aspire for their children’s futures, specialization can create beneficial opportunities to be recognized by colleges and elite programs. One article states that, “Select or travel teams recruit youth for the purpose of competing at a higher level: they emerge approximately at the 10 to 12-yr age range” (Malina). This shows how specialization is vital in some people’s eyes because it can produce the opportunity to be seen for their possible potential. The same article establishes, “Discussions of talented male young basketball and football players dominate the media… Given the importance of visibility, lobbying by coaches and parents to have a child/player ranked is considerable” (Malina). This reveals, though only mentioning basketball and football, how through media and select programs coaches for elite organizations and colleges are able to view the talent among young athletes. Even though it may be an opportunity to be seen by top coaches, the reality is it is not the end all be all for athletes who want to be successful in the future. For example, “There were 322 athletes invited to the 2015 National Football League Scouting Combine, 87% of whom played multiple sports in high school and 13% of whom played football” (Brenner). This is just one of many examples of how being specialized in one sport year round does not guarantee more opportunity than someone who plays multiple sports. In reality, whether an athlete plays one sport or five, specializes or not, if they are talented, coaches will be able to see this potential, and will do whatever it takes to get the athlete’s attention. Ultimately, though specializing is one way to be seen by coaches and elite programs, there are many other opportunities to do so as well.

In conclusion, specialization can be damaging to most children because of the risks it entails. Because they are so young, children are at risk for serious injuries, as well as at risk of growing to hate their sport because of burnout. They could experience a blow to their mental health and social lives, which is majorly important to a child’s first memories of life. Lastly, they could easily be manipulated or have the possibility of establishing unhealthy relationships with adults. In the end, the child is the most important aspect to specialization. Not the sport, not earning scholarships, not being the best, etc. A person’s childhood is where they learn most rapidly and develop who they are and who they want to be while having fun. When a child chooses to specialize, these important things are stripped from them as they are beaten down by the excessive load of sports. In many cases, specialization can take something a child enjoys, and warp it into a miserable burden. No child should have to experience this type of trauma. Instead, we should let them be a kid. Let them play ball with friends, do flips in the backyard, kick the soccer ball around in the school playground. They shouldn’t have to grow up just yet. They should have the freedom to just be a kid. 

 

Work Cited

Brenner, Joel, et al. “The Psychosocial Implications of Sport Specialization

in Pediatric Athletes.” Journal of Athletic Training, vol. 10, 2019, doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-394-18

Brenner, Joel. “Sports Specialization and Intensive Training in Young Athletes.” 

Pediatrics, vol. 138, no. 3, Sept. 2016, pp. e1–e8. Academic Search Complete, doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2148.  

Brody, Jane. “How to Avoid Burnout in Youth Sports.” New York Times, 08 May 2018, 

SIRS Issues Researcher, https://explore-proquest-com.cscc.ohionet.org/sirsissuesresearcher/document/2263396838?accountid=36444

Flanagan, Linda. “Why Are So Many Teen Athletes Struggling With Depression?” 

The Atlantic, 17 April 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2019/04/teen-athletes-mental-illness/586720/ 

Malina, Robert. “Early Sport Specialization: Roots, Effectiveness, Risks.” Department 

of Kinesiology and Health Education, vol. 9, no. 6, Nov. 2010, pp. 364-371. Current Sports Medicine Reports, doi: 10.1249/JSR.0b013e3181fe3166 

Reddy, Sumathi. “Guidelines for Young Athletes–Risks for Children Who 

Specialize…” Wall Street Journal, 25 Nov. 2014, SIRS Issues Researcher, https://explore-proquest-com.cscc.ohionet.org/sirsissuesresearcher/document/2262511365?accountid=36444

Wiersma, Lenny. “Risks and Benefits of Youth Sport Specialization: Perspectives and

Recommendations.” Pediatric Exercise Science, vol. 12, 2000, pp. 13-22. Semantic Scholar, doi:10.1123/pes.12.1.13 

 

When We Come Out Of This

How we doing? For so many with high anxiety, depression and general fears, this is so hard. There’s no end date. We don’t know the outcome. We’re facing something we’ve never seen before. Businesses small and large are facing challenges they never predicted. Can I offer a word of encouragement and maybe a charge for when we come out of this?

They say basketball is a game of runs. The reality is that we have been on a pretty good roll. Life was cruising with a few bumps here and there. Then it happened. Our opponent just hit us with something we never saw coming. It happened so fast. In just a few moments, we got hit with a run. The gym is loud. We’re looking to one another to try to figure it out. The score is changing and momentum just went to the other team. Every coach (except Roy Williams) and arm chair quarterback at home knows what you have to do and do it fast….

You call TIMEOUT!

You call timeout to stop the momentum.

You call timeout to get control

You call timeout to take a breath

You call timeout to regroup

Across the nation and world, we just reached the huddle. So let me grab the clipboard and do some coaching if it’s okay…..

My hoops coach friends will know what an “ATO” is. It’s known as the “after-timeout” play. When you burn a precious timeout, especially to stop a run, a great ATO can make all the difference in the world. In a close game, an ATO could make the difference between a win or a loss.

If I was facing the nation right now I would use this timeout to draw up an ATO that would be aggressive, strong and take back control of the game. I would look the nation in the eye in the huddle and say that “when we come out of this, WE ARE WINNING THIS GAME!” We’re going to win it because we are going to punch back with everything that got us here. We’re going to work together as a team. We’re going to rely on each other and when we get tired, we’re going to sub in another player with just as much energy.

When we come out of this…..we’re winning this game.

To the small business owner facing an unknown future…when we come out of this, we’re winning this game!

To all those that got let go from their job…when we come out of this, we’re winning this game!

To the students that lost seasons, proms, graduations and so many other things….when we come out of this, we’re winning this game!

To all you on the front lines in healthcare, first responders and in the supply chain….when we come out of this (because of YOUR efforts), we’re winning this this game!

To the teachers using technology to reach students and keep them engaged….when we come out of this, we’re winning this game!

To this nation that is reeling from a run from the opponent, when we come out of this…we’re winning this game!

Friends, we are in a timeout. Be thankful for it. It’s tough. Our team is tired. We’re depleted. In some cases, we’re even in some foul trouble.

But when we come out of this timeout…..

WE’RE WINNING THIS GAME!!

LET’S GO!!!!

 

Also available on the “4 Corners of Life” podcast.

https://open.spotify.com/episode/4BsjA3UFETRVupkdqpNNn7?si=rEHnlGcYS9KvAkZDQB_W9Q

This Time

I’m not sure about anyone else that reads this, but so often lately I have found myself out of bandwidth. There’s only so much time in a day. With “the boy” graduating and off to college and Princess 1.0 not doing a winter sport, you would think I’d have more available time. Actually, I think I had less. Living fast and furious is no way to spend your days. It takes it’s toll mentally, physically and emotionally. So often I just wish for more time. I wish for a chance to just press pause.

Enter Covid-19

A week ago I was watching UNC play what would be turn out to be the second to last college basketball game of the year. I, like everyone else, watched as tweet after tweet rocked the world with cancellations, suspensions, postponements and announcements. The NBA, NHL, MLB, NCAA Tournament, HS Championships and schools closed in a single tweet. Wow. Just wow.

Last night I was sitting in a quiet home and had the following thought…

This might sound silly but suddenly we have all been given a “hall pass” for the thing we can all use and that is the gift of time. Maybe it’s a few more minutes at the dinner table. Maybe it’s time to read that book or watch that movie at home. Maybe it’s time to write a post on your long forgotten blog (fingers pointed squarely at myself). I don’t know what it means for you or your family but I do know that we have it. For such a time as this, we have a gift of pause. Use it!

Read a book

Do a puzzle

Play Guitar (or learn to)

Play Piano (or learn to)

Catch up on the “Honey Do” list

Reconnect with your kids (who are home and not running different directions)

Start a new hobby

Exercise

Laugh

Love

Engage

Be where your feet are

Turn off your devices

Connect

You get the idea. In our busy lives, it’s not often we get a chance to course correct. Re-calibrate. Choose today to not see these moments as distraction. Choose joy. Choose to accept this as a gift and embrace the moments. Before you know it we will all be back to exceeding bandwidth

and wishing we had more time.

I Still Believe – Movie Review

Right about the time that this ol’ blog got started, an artist named Jeremy Camp was just coming on the scene. In some odd way, Jeremy’s career and this blog have grown up together. I have let this site go somewhat dormant while Jeremy’s incredible career continues on. In my imaginary “soundtrack of life,” songs like “Walk By Faith,” “Give Me Jesus,” and “Overcome” will be forever included. When he released “There Will Be a Day,” I was in the process of saying goodbye to a close friend far too soon. It was my therapy and an anchor. I’ve never met Jeremy, but I will forever be thankful to him for his gift and his message.

A few months ago, I received an personal invitation to see a pre-screening of the incredible new film “I Still Believe.” As my time on this blog has become less and less, so have my reviews and the acceptance of these opportunities (I really need to get back to that). There was something about this one that arrested me. I knew the song and I was familiar with Jeremy Camp’s story. Something in me said “I must see this film!” I accepted and requested two tickets so I could take my bride. We don’t get many date nights so this was a welcomed opportunity.

I will repeat that I was familiar with the incredible testimony of Jeremy Camp. I knew how this film would end. I knew this would be hard. I refer back to the loss of my friend. I knew this dealt with cancer. I was in no way prepared for the emotional journey that this film would take me on. I left the theater numb, reflective and yet inspired. The car ride home was quiet. We both needed a moment. For me it was personal. I reflected on the loss, the hurt and the hope. As a dad, I also reflected on the role of his father (played brilliantly by Gary Sinise) and maybe the most powerful words in the film. No spoilers here but you’re gonna want to remember what his dad tells him. I would have saved it in my phone but there was a no cell phone policy.

I don’t want to say much in this review because I want anyone that reads it to go see it for themselves. I don’t want to tell you his real story. I want you to watch and experience it. I don’t want to tell you what his father said because it hits different when you see it in the film.

What I want to tell you is to go see this film. Take tissues. Period. That is the review.

Someday, I hope to meet Jeremy Camp. I hope to do nothing more than shake his hand. I hope to place a hand on his shoulder and thank God for his ministry, his message and his music. Life can be so hard yet we walk through these seasons for reasons. When we can realize the reason and impact others with our story, we see the heart of God.

And for that……

I still believe.

“I Still Believe” hits theaters on March 13th. A powerful cast that includes KJ Apa (Riverdale), Britt Robertson (Tomorrowland), Gary Sinise (Forrest Gump) and Country Music artist Shania Twain. Find out more at https://www.istillbelievemovie.com/

Why You Won’t Get Our Christmas Card

Tis the season. Each year about this time, we start to receive Christmas cards from friends and family across the United States. Some send a card. Others send a newsletter with updates on what is happening with their family. All are enjoyed by our family and received with much love and appreciation. We too used to send the annual Christmas card. We did the photos, printing and postage.

Then one year I heard that you could feed and help someone in need for as little as $2.25 per person.

I’m not the sharpest guy in the room, but when I did some 8th grade math and looked at our annual spend for the cards, photos and postage, I knew that those dollars could be better spent. We talked it over as a family and decided that rather than send a card that will one day end up in the trash, or a box, we would dedicate those dollars to provide meals and help through Faith Mission of Columbus. We have kept that tradition going each year and now, thanks to social media, you probably already know more about our family than any card could ever tell.

To those that have sent us your annual card, thank you! We love seeing all that is happening with your family and in your life. Please consider this our annual Christmas card and know it is shared with the same thought and love. Also know that by accepting this token, you were also a part of helping to feed and assist someone in need right here in Columbus, Ohio.

Merry Christmas to each of you and a Happy New Year!

The Conrad Family

I’ll Always Remember You Young

We are just days away from loading up the car and making our way to Mount Vernon Nazarene University for your freshman year. As I stood next you yesterday, all I could think to myself were these simple words…..it’s your time now.

For as long as I can remember you have stood by my side. From the time I carried you to the time you were old enough to stand on your own. Basketball games, baseball games, concerts, church, conversations with everyone from celebrities to our neighbors and friends. You’ve done what you do and quietly observed. Believe me when I say that I knew you were there and each word I said was being recorded in your memory. As they say, it was all “caught not taught.”

As we drive away from the campus I will no doubt hope it was enough. There was no manual. There were no instructions for parenting when we put you in that car seat to come home for the first time. We did what we knew to do. We did the best we could. Your mom was far more influential in your spiritual journey. She taught you early and often to love Jesus. She wrote scripture on your heart. She was and is the spiritual rock in our family. Trust me when I say you will lean on that as you head off on your own.

From the beginning, I have tried to show you the world and all it has to offer. I’ve tried to show you what it means to lean in to every opportunity and experience. We’ve seen it all. I’ve taught you my experiences both good and bad. I’ve warned of the mistakes and shared the joy of a moment. Now it’s your turn. The pages are blank and the pen is in your hand. It’s your time now.

Several years ago we were at a friends house for a cookout. When a frisbee we were throwing went over a rusty, rickety old fence, you insisted that you go get it. I saw danger. I saw a concrete pad on the other side and a fence that would never hold you. I saw a face plant, ambulance and several missing teeth. You saw a frisbee. While everything in me screamed to not let you do it, I did. This was your adventure and I had to let you take it. Needless to say, no face plant. No ambulance. No missing teeth. Just a frisbee and confidence you had done it on your own.

It’s your time now.

This past weekend I stood next to you in your big six foot something shadow. You tower over me now as I once towered over you. In many ways my introverted extrovert personality hides behind you the way you once hid behind my leg. You’ve saved me in large crowds, public places and gatherings. I bet you never knew that. This is your time now.

Hey babies crawling on the carpet
No, you won’t be that little for long
One day you’ll move away but you’re still gonna stay
This innocent after you’re gone
‘Cause no matter how much time goes by
And no matter how much you grow up
For worse or for better, from now ’til forever
I’ll always remember you young
-Thomas Rhett (Remember You Young)
This is the circle of life. This is what our job was when we found out we were having a child. God placed you in our care that one day we would release you to the world to do the same. I can think of no better place for you to begin that journey. It was clear from the start. This is where your journey begins.
As we drive away know this much Austin Armstrong Conrad……this is your time now. All of the stories I told you now become the stories you will tell us. While I could not be more proud of who you already are (Mom gets 99.9% of that credit), I can’t wait to see all that you will become.
This 18 years has been my joy.
The future is too
This is your time now.
Love,
Dad.

Responsible vs Accountable

A few years ago I was invited to a select training for future leaders of the organization I was a part of. We spent an entire week at our Corporate Headquarters learning what it took to succeed in leadership not only within our billion dollar organization, but anywhere you may find yourself in a leadership role. The course was called “Building Successful Leaders” and included some time with the CEO at the end of the week. During a Q and A session, he said something that I have carried with me ever since.

The question – “What do you look for in the top leadership of this organization?”

The answer – “You may not be responsible, but you ARE accountable.”

When we all gave him an odd look, he explained it as follows: “Let’s say that you are the captain of a ship. Let’s say that you put someone in charge of commanding the ship while you go take a nap. While you are asleep, the person you put in charge of the ship slams it into an iceberg and it begins to sink. Here’s the thing I need each of you to know – you may not have been responsible but you were accountable. It’s your ship. You will answer for what took place. You may not be responsible, but you are accountable.”

Those simple words have shaped my entire leadership philosophy ever since. No matter your area of leadership, it is important that we understand that we are accountable for the department, area, team, group, and the people that are under our leadership. Good leaders delegate. Great leaders understand that they are accountable for the results (good or bad) of those that you delegate to. It goes hand in hand with one of my other favorite leadership qualities –

“Own it”

As you lead your team, do so knowing that you are accountable. Accept that accountability when it goes well or when it goes wrong. If you “own it”, you can step forward to accept the consequences as much as you can accept the applause. Accountability also forces leaders to make sure that all details are covered before they release the control. So many want the title but won’t accept or own the responsibility that comes with itStop blaming anyone and everyone else. It’s your ship! OWN IT!! 

When it comes to leadership, you may not be responsible, but you are accountable.

*originally posted March, 2013

What I’ll Miss The Most

I see you travel baseball mom and dad. I’ve been there. You’re currently in that 2-3 week insanity that starts about a week or two before the season ends. Maybe it’s a text or an email. Could be a phone call or a cryptic comment around the fence at the game. “What are YOU doing next year?” I have worked in Senior Leadership at a fortune 500 company and been the Director of Operations for a 114,000 square foot dome. I’ve always said that this was the most stressful 2 weeks of my life. NOTHING compares to this 2 weeks. You become an agent for your travel baseball playing son. It’s insane.

I have news for you…

You’ll make it through it.

I have more news for you….

Just wait until the 18u year.

I tweeted that a week ago. Today I just watched our BJE 2019 team win another tournament. Last year it was about showcasing each player. Now that every player on the team is committed to play at the next level, this year is about staying ready and having fun. I’m not sure who is having more fun – the boys or the parents.

This is the end of the line.

This is the last run through long weekends in the sun.

and I’m gonna miss it.

I’m gonna miss the laughter

I’ll miss the meals and drinks after the games

I’ll miss the inside jokes and cutting up while our boys are playing their hearts out

I’ll miss opening up our home to a family driving a long way to play and spending the weekend in hotels.

I’ll miss the community we’ve developed

I’ll miss this circle of friends

As I thought about this driving home from another successful weekend, I couldn’t help but think of how exciting the next four years will be. While our boys will be competing for various colleges, I will watch each one with great interest. I’ll celebrate their success just as I have this summer and when they played for their various high schools.

What I’ll miss most is knowing that next summer we won’t all be back together again on some field for some tournament. We won’t get to cheer these players on and enjoy the gathering of all of our friends one more time.

There’s 2 more weekends and then we close this chapter. I want to thank the players and kids for giving us so much to cheer for. I want to wish each and every one of you nothing but success as you play in college. I also want to thank you for welcoming in my son to your team and our family into your circle.

It’s been our honor.

It’s been our joy.

It’s what I’ll miss the most.

P.S. Travel dad and mom…… I hope you make it to the day where you know exactly what I mean when you read this. I hope you make it to the same finish line. You will. Give them the best opportunity you can give them, no matter what that is. Enjoy the summers no matter how stressful. They’ll be gone before you know it.

 

These Eyes

Tomorrow these eyes turn Sweet 16. It doesn’t seem possible. I originally wrote this a long time ago. It’s still true today. Happy Sweet 16 Miss Emma. You’ll always be my Princess 1.0. I love you.

These eyes captured me the first time I saw them

These eyes ushered in being the father of a daughter for the first time

These eyes teach me about compassion, joy, sensitivity and courage

These eyes scan the room, the court, the gym to make sure I’m watching and approve

These eyes have seen me fail as a dad but extended grace over and over again

When these eyes lock mine, I melt

In these eyes I see so much potential and promise

These eyes are intelligent and silly and know how to balance both

These eyes welcome a stranger and make them a friend

These eyes are so similar to her mamas

These eyes can bring tears to mine with surprisingly little effort

These eyes will one day change the world

How do I know?

Because these eyes forever changed mine.

I love you Miss Em.

Remembering Mom

*Repost from May, 2016

I was standing in the grocery store a few minutes ago, looking at Mother’s Day cards. What a sobering moment that turned out to be. Tomorrow, I will pause to reflect and remember my mom. Maybe you too will “celebrate” their life while mourning the loss. When I returned home, I pulled up this excerpt of the speech I gave to honor my Mom at her memorial service. I can’t think of a better time to make it public. To all of the Mom’s out there, Happy Mothers Day. Never under estimate your impact, your role, your touch on your family. To all of the spiritual mothers that have stood in the gap since my mom stepped into eternity, thank you. Happy Mother’s Day.

When I was 5 years old, about the age of one of my children, I was running and tripped over a sidewalk. The result was a trip to the emergency room and ultimately stitches and a scar on my chin. What happened in those hours in that emergency room was the coordinated efforts of my parents. My Dad, our protector, did what he could to get someone to help us as the wait for assistance went much longer than it should have. All the while, my Mom, the comforter, rocked me back and forth and sang the words to a Helen Ready song called “You and Me Against The World.”

You and me against the world
Sometimes it feels like you and me against the world
And for all the times we’ve cried I always felt that
God was on our side

And when one of us is gone
And one of us is left to carry on
Then remembering will have to do
Our memories alone will get us through
Think about the days of me and you
You and me against the world

Today I remember my Mom. I celebrate that she is in the place she most longed to be in the presence of her King and her Savior.

Remembering is what we do. 

I remember things like falling down (notice a theme here?) and Mom putting ointment on our knees in the form of a smiley face.

I remember working in the garden in our old house on Randolph Road and my grandfather sneaking up behind my Mom and I to scare us. He had parked his truck down the street so when he said “Boo”, my Mom jumped up so high she literally split her pants.

I remember a time when they renovated my bedroom on Woodrow. Mom spackled the ceiling by hand and with her fingers. I have never been the best sleeper at night and often would sleep on a foam fold out chair next to my parents bed when the fears of life and nighttime would wake me up. In an effort to combat those fears, Mom wanted to create a room where I would be comfortable. Within the swirls of the ceiling, she wrote messages I would find while laying in bed at night.

When I didn’t communicate much as a child, she found that playing Atari Pac Man and Pinball were a way to get me to open up. We spent hours playing those games, breaking those joysticks and creating a mother and son relationship. I can’t tell you who won a lot of those games, but I would imagine the time spent got me through the years of growing up.

I remember the many times Mom would work at the Alexanders Flower Shop at Southgate so her son had gas money, prom money and money for whatever the latest fashion was I just had to have (parachute pants). Even though there was something in that flower shop that gave her migraine headaches. She never complained.

From as early as I can remember, my Mom spent regular moments in her prayers dedicated to my future bride…wherever she was. I stand here today a man overwhelmed by the answer to her prayers. My wife and three children are more than I can ever be worthy of. I believe God answered those prayers so frequently prayed by my mom.

I remember the Bible and a Bus Ticket Home. “One will get you going when you haven’t got a prayer and one will bring you back son if you’re dreams aren’t waiting there.”

It was almost providential that “You and Me Against The World” was our song. The memories indeed will see us through.

While I could spend hours telling stories, I feel it almost necessary to speak of the other thing that my mom loved as much as her family and that is her Savior, her King, her Jesus.

It goes without saying that my mom loved Jesus. She shared Jesus with everyone. Our front porch and home at 83 Woodrow was a testimony to her heart for others and her compassion that everyone know her Savior too.

To the mailman that was lemonade on a hot day and a present at Christmas.

To our neighbors it was listening when no one else would

To many the front porch was a place to lay your burdens and receive a comforting word. It was a place where broken hearts were mended and the problems found solutions.

My mom knew no stranger. Our home was your home. Our door was always open. She was in her glory at Christmas when the house was full of people, the piano top was filled with food and hearts were full of love.

When the summers came, it was retreats to Tuck-away Lake for prayer, fellowship and friendship. No matter where, no matter the season, Mom was teaching Jesus, sharing Jesus, being Jesus.

As Tina and I grew up, Mom would often say that our accomplishments were their diplomas on the wall. I always envisioned the long hallways of our home on Woodrow Avenue with framed pictures to signify our accomplishments, most based on Mom and Dad’s sacrifices.

Each time I had any form of success (job promotion, special honor or a unique happening), I would call home to say “I got another diploma for your wall.”

Mom didn’t have a college degree. She didn’t have a Masters in theology or a degree from a prestigious Seminary. She couldn’t tell you the greek meaning of the second word in the 5th verse of Matthew. What Mom had was a heart full of Jesus and a passion that each person she had contact with would too. She loved Jesus and she loved people.

And when one of us is gone
And one of us is left to carry on
Then remembering will have to do
Our memories alone will get us through
Think about the days of me and you
You and me against the world

I love you Mom.

*Originally posted May 10, 2014

You’re Ready. I’m Not

I can’t lie, this has been one of the harder posts for me to write. 18 years. It went by way too fast. Wasn’t I just watching Barney more times than I can count? Weren’t we just rushing out the door because “Clifford The Big Red Dog” was on TV meaning we were late to the sitters because mom left me in charge of getting you ready? I swear we just moved you from the crib to the car bed that seemed way too big at the time. Yet here we are. 18 years. Gone in a blink.

The first born son. The carrier of my middle name. In so many ways, we’ve grown up together you and I. I’ve learned to be a dad and more than once had to ask your forgiveness because I’m new at this parenting thing too. From the car seat to the booster, back seat to the front seat, the conversations we’ve had and the places we’ve gone. So many memories. So many miles.

I’ve often heard it said that you’re supposed to be a parent to your child and not their best friend. I would argue that maybe, just maybe, you can be both. While you’ve always respected the authority, I have cherished our relationship. Sports, texts, decisions big and small. I’m so thankful I was given this opportunity.

I told you last year that you would love seventeen. By all accounts you have. Just one week ago, you announced the first of so many adult decisions you will make now. I hope all of the times you stood by my side you caught more than I taught. I hope all of the twists and turns, lessons and moments have created a foundation and place to launch from. As is always the case, I give your mom 99.9% of the credit for who you are, whose you are and what you’ve become.

Today marks a major milestone. You’re ready to leave your mark, cast your shadow and be your own person. Eighteen years of being ours has prepared you to be what you will be from this time forward. This world, no matter how crazy it can be, is full of opportunities.

Our job was to raise you. We are here to give you all of the tools, wisdom and instruction for adulthood. I think this post was hard to write because I’d like more time. It went too fast. Feelings and emotions aside, this much is clear….

You’re ready.

I’m not.

Happy 18th Birthday Austin.

Love, Dad.

 

Full Circle

I was never and will never be the smartest guy in the room. I got a 13 on my ACT. Truth be told, I didn’t know or care the importance of this test I had to take. I didn’t visit colleges, take a big tour or get recruited for a sport. My parents weren’t even 100% sure I would go to college. Classes and tests were never quite my thing. I applied to Mount Vernon Nazarene College (now University) because my sister went there. I attended MVNC (now U) because they accepted me. No big drama. No cool story. 13 on the ACT and an acceptance letter.

When I walked that campus, I never imagined one day I’d return as the father of a student there. Nope. Not once. On September 28th, 2018 that all changed.

And with one tweet, the course of the next four year is decided. The road ahead is unknown but the starting point is not. All of the games, trips, hotels, teammates, practices, wins and losses have led to this one decision.

And it didn’t come lightly.

We began this summer with a quick change of plans on what team “FiveO” would play for. Originally scheduled to roll with his team of friends from the year before, an unexpected phone call and invitation suddenly placed him on the big stage with another team in the same organization. 6 of his new teammates were already committed to Division I colleges to play baseball. Several others would begin being courted our very first weekend of games. We were in uncharted waters and waiting for his number to be called too.

But the calls didn’t come immediately.

Throughout the summer, a few Universities would be in touch. They would watch him pitch. One would go silent and another one would emerge. It became a roller coaster of “what if” and “what about” different locations, mascots and logos. Nothing ever too serious. No baseball offers. Throughout the process, as is his nature, “Five-O” stayed humble and quiet (he gets that from his mama).

Getting passed by can feel like a great injury. But it’s not. It’s people like us who can be secretly incredible and get the most done. That’s the way Jesus’ reverse economy works. God loves the humble ones, and the humble ones often don’t make it as first-round draft picks for the jobs with big titles or positions. But they always seem to be the first-round picks for God when He’s looking for someone to use in a big way.

-Bob Goff (Love Does)

Then one day we heard that MVNU had been at one of his teams games and asked when he was scheduled to pitch. The life of a “Pitcher Only” means you show up for your game and hang around for others if you feel like it. We weren’t there that day so we missed them. Then at another one of his starts, a familiar Coach from my days at “The Naz” walked by. Interestingly enough, there was another competing University there that day too. That was the one we thought was beginning to really become an option. After the game Coach Veale from MVNU said “we’ll have to have you up sometime this Fall.”

The summer continued on with other texts from coaches, showcases and scouts. When it all came to a close our next course of action was to begin “official visits.” By now our list had been trimmed down to those that continued to show an active interest. We set the dates and hit the road. Just mom, dad and “the boy.” Like back when he was the only child 17 years ago. We enjoyed the visits. Never too high, never too low. I compared it to buying a home. Did it have everything you were looking for? How was the location? Is this where you want to put down roots? We started a list to rank a 20 or so different things about each one.

I’ve never purchased a wedding dress (that would be awkward) but I’ve heard you often purchase the first one you find. I also know that, like purchasing a home, when you see “the one” you will know. Our first official visit was to none other than that same University that accepted me and my 13 ACT. The campus that built me. I learned so much more than what they taught in the classroom. I made forever brothers and friends. Those friends became the guys in my wedding and I in theirs. I also lost two of those friends to an auto accident our senior year. So many memories on a visit that should have been all about “Five-O.” After the visit we went to Chipotle. It was odd. We didn’t know if we should be excited, upset, happy or frustrated. We just knew that there was a fit. I was surprised just how perfect the fit might actually be.

The visits continued but all roads appeared to lead to MVNU. While we enjoyed each campus, there was always a “but.” Then it happened, we found another University that we all loved. It was like that house you find that has it all but you know the bank will never approve a loan that high. You try to convince yourself you’ll never eat another meal and sell whatever you have but deep down you too worry about how you’ll cover the costs. You ignore these thoughts and even begin to talk as if you’ve found the one. After a prospect day, we even went to the bookstore to buy some gear since we thought we would some how “figure out how to pay for this place.” I commented “this is the first of many dollars we’ll spend here.” Now we just had to wait and see what the Government thinks we could afford (FAFSA form).

Before we could officially make any announcements, there was one more visit on the calendar. “FiveO” was invited to attend a prospect day at MVNU on our original visit. We loaded the car to go back where it all started (for me and for him). As we drove off I said “this is where the road ends. One last trip.” I don’t think we ever knew how the rest of that day would unfold. He did what he does on the mound. He pitched first and did well. From the dugout he sent me a text a few minutes later…..

“We can probably go now.”

I thought about it because I didn’t properly dress for the autumn weather but then said “we paid for it, we might as well stay for lunch.” Once the other players had finished their workout we all gathered and headed towards the familiar cafeteria I spent so many days in. We got our meals and one of the players waved us over to a table where several players were already eating. What happened the next 45 minutes was like going back in time to the days when I sat in that cafeteria laughing, eating and cutting up with all of my friends. I watched as he was more at home than I had seen him on any visit. He laughed. He talked (which is a lot if you know him well).

Something was changing.

After a group presentation from the coach, we decided to go by his office. This was just as a courtesy and follow-up. Each recruiting trip was an opportunity to teach about how to handle yourself as an adult. On the way, we talked through what his approach with the coach should be. This wasn’t a scheduled meeting. Remember, we nearly left a few hours earlier. It was just a chance to shake a hand, thank them for their time and give an update on our plans (we were going to wait on the FAFSA). That’s when the coach said the words….

“We would like to offer you a scholarship to come play baseball at Mount Vernon Nazarene University.”

What happened after that is still a bit of a blur. We didn’t go in expecting anything more than a handshake and an update on our visits. We were just offered a generous scholarship that completely changed the narrative. After leaving his office, all I could do was pat my son on the back and say “Congratulations, you’ve earned it!” On the way home we talked through a few things but I didn’t want to begin to fill his head. This was his decision, not mine. This next 4 years will be where he decides to spend them. All I could tell him that this might be the first of a lifetime of adult decisions he needs to make. Gather your data. Pray. Think about scenarios. Pray some more. Make your decision and never look back.

I began this post with a brief history of how I landed at MVNU. There are enough stories of my time there to fill many, many more blog posts. This isn’t about me though. Today is about “Five-O.” Today is about years of uniforms, tryouts, workouts, dugouts, groundouts and strikeouts. Today is about wins, losses, giving up a bunch of runs and no-hitters. He’s done it all. All of the work. All of the sweat. I just got to be his biggest fan along the way.

This decision was hard. There are 3 other coaches that wanted him as a part of their team. They saw value in him. One in particular, is a well known leader of men. He is respected between the lines, outside the lines and in our home. He is also the coach at that other University that we all loved, making it even tougher to decide. In the end, every door was open at MVNU. It became too obvious to deny. This is where God was leading him all along.

What began in that coaches office a few months ago came full circle today. The same University that built me, shaped me and taught me so much will now do the same for him. In August he will head to his new home for the next 4 years. He will earn a degree (if all goes well, a Masters in 4 years) and make lifelong friends. He’ll put on the uniform and compete like he always has.

And I’ll always be his biggest fan.

Wide Open Spaces

I had the benefit of being the second child. Parents, you know what I mean. My sister was the first and therefore, had the added protection that every parent places on their first born. By the time the second child comes along, I don’t want to say parents stop caring, they have just learned to relax the rules a bit.

When it came to riding our bikes, my sister had limits placed on her adventures. I don’t remember the number now, but there was a certain number of sidewalk tiles that she was allowed to travel. Once I started riding my bike, I was allowed to pretty much rule and reign over Woodrow Avenue in Bedford, Ohio. I made ramps. I attempted wheelies. I traveled to friends houses and the playground. This kind of freedom came with mistakes too. I once had a horrible wreck the day before school pictures. Not good. Not good at all.

“She needed wide open spaces. Room to make a big mistake.” – The Dixie Chicks

Our teams are no different

I just quoted the Dixie Chicks because they said it best. When we lead a team, they need to have wide open spaces. They need room to be creative and innovative and feel the energy gained from both. Our job as leaders (and parents) is to set the parameters. Communicate the non-negotiables. Cast the vision and “let that pony run!”

One of the worst things we can do is create a culture of “no” and limit the amount of sidewalk spaces they can travel with their creativity. This doesn’t mean you agree with every idea. It also means you’re giving them room to make a big mistake. Sometimes they will.

This is where you can shape and architect the thought into so much more.

I spent a portion my day meeting with 2 of our team members. We were discussing some new programs we’re getting ready to launch. Together we wrestled with every angle of the opportunity. We had some ideas but not quite what we were looking for yet.

One of the two called me a little while ago so excited he could barely contain himself. It turns out they continued the conversation after I left. Together they had created a new idea that brought it all together. With the vision in mind and the non-negotiables in place, they let their creativity take off. I loved their new idea. I appreciated their creativity even more.

They just needed wide open spaces.

I Won’t Forget

This image. Of all the images of 9/11 that are out there (professional and our own), this is the one I’ll never forget. I was a new dad. He was just weeks away from his first birthday. Those eyes. The innocence. What kind of world would we raise him in now? Everything was about to change.

For awhile it did.

We were just getting familiar with “high speed” internet. Social media and the keyboards we hide behind didn’t exist yet. Our cell phones were dumb. Our TV’s were fat and we were all maybe a little thinner.

Not long after this picture was taken, I grabbed a dust covered bible and walked out to the deck at the first house my wife and I built. Not having a clue where to start, I opened up to psalms and began to read.

There were no planes in the sky. There was a slight breeze and I remember it like it was yesterday. I didn’t sleep well that night. The fear of protecting my wife and my small boy kept me up most of the night.

This year that little boy walks across a platform to receive a High School Diploma. Next year at this time he’ll be in his first week of his freshman year at a yet-to-be-determined University. I still can’t sleep some nights wondering how I can protect my wife and now three children.

Because our TV’s are thinner and we’re all a little bigger. Our cellphones are smart now and we hide behind keyboards on social media and say horrible things to one another. Actually, we don’t even hide behind keyboards anymore. Now we shout our beliefs so loud that our targets can’t even hear us.

And I think back to this picture

And the world we’ll raise him in.

And I won’t forget how for a moment we all pressed pause…..

To love our neighbor as ourselves. To open doors and show kindness. To hold those we love a little bit tighter.

The world changed that day.

And I won’t forget.

 

“I Was Fixable”

My Mom passed away in March of 2010 leaving an incredible legacy. My parents relocated to Houston a few years before that so we felt like it was appropriate to host a memorial service in Cleveland for the many lives she touched there. During the service we had an open time of sharing if anyone felt led to.

One women stood up and shared her story with us. She shared that she was broken and how my Mom reached out to her at a very low point in her life. She said that it made all of the difference to her and her faith and now she is well on her way to recovery. Then she said words I will never, ever forget.

“Your Mom looked at me and saw that……I was fixable.”

I love that.

“I was fixable.” The more I reflected on that in the hours that followed the service, I couldn’t help but think about how we’re all broken and for that reason, we are fixable.

“We’re not broken, we’re just bent.” -P!nk

What many of us need most often is someone to care. We need someone else to see that we are fixable and show us the way. We need to be that someone to others as well. Think about that today.

If you’re broken……know that you’re fixable

If you’re not broken….find someone that is.

Let them know….they are fixable.

*Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. For a full list of resources, please visit – https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

Someone Else’s Belief

“At some point in our lives we were the product of someone else’s belief.”

-Inky Johnson

I love me some Inky Johnson. If you aren’t familiar with him or his story, do yourself a favor and visit his Youtube channel. He and Simon Sinek are two guys that seem to hit me with every video or quote they put out. Just incredible clarity of purpose and inspiration.

Earlier today I was speaking with someone whom I have tremendous respect for. We were talking through a large deal that is in the works and I felt like I needed his “air support” in case we got close to ultimately closing the deal. His words on the other end of the phone were powerful.

“I don’t need to be on a call with them. I can, but I have full confidence in you and that you will come to an agreement that is best for us.”

I was reflecting on that tonight when I heard those words by Inky Johnson quoted at the top of this post. How true is that? How true is that not just once, but throughout our lives? We ARE the product of someone else’s belief in us. Not only that, we ARE the believer for someone else too. So, a few things to think about –

Who believed in you?

Who have you believed in?

Have you told them?

Earlier this week we were on another recruiting visit with our son. I’ve never been shy to say how proud I am of all three of our kids. When you hear a Coach of a University filled with a tradition of winning baseball say:

“We’ve seen you. We like you. We want you in our program.”

Something inside you smiles. To hear someone confirm not just him, but what you believe about him too is a powerful thing. All the hours. All of the hard work. All of the times you won and even the losses. Someone you respect speaks powerful words of belief. So think about this today….

Who believed in you?

Who have you believed in?

Have you told them?

Ponytails, Scrunchies and Lessons in Leadership

I’ve had the fortune of building more than a few teams in a variety of areas. From inside a Fortune 500 company to a 5th grade girls travel basketball team. Some were teams that just needed a new voice. Others were an idea that was literally drawn up on a napkin in a bar. I don’t claim to be an expert. More than once I’ve thought we built a winner and had to go back and re-evaluate. Here’s what I know – I love building teams and I love coaching them once they’re built. My favorite team ever was the one that taught me the most about leadership. I’d love to tell you more about them.

Our first year coaching a 5th grade girls travel team, we really struggled. We knew there was talent but we just never found a rhythm. Before the next season, I met with the other coach and we both agreed, something had to change. We evaluated what we had and realized most of our girls also played soccer. They were aggressive. They were well conditioned. We just struggled to score.

So we pressed.

We pressed a lot.

By the end of the season we had 9 different versions of a press, traps and half court defenses in our game plan. That was my favorite team. They fought. They competed. When they got tired we subbed and the bench crew would fight and compete too. We had a team goal to force the other team to burn all of their timeouts trying to figure out how to beat our press. During the timeout, we would change it up on them. With the exception of a few teams that were just more talented, we had a really good season.

We didn’t change the team from the first year to the second. We just figured out how to put the team in a better position to succeed. We evaluated what we knew were our strengths and then pushed every ounce of energy we had into letting them maximize those strengths. Each player had a role and an understanding of what was expected of them. The goals were clear. It was a joy to watch and a joy to coach.

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” —Ronald Reagan

  1. Evaluate Today – One of the first things you must do is see where you are today. What’s the health of the overall team? How is the culture? Is this team positioned for success or frustrated by lack of production? Before you can begin to assemble the game plan, you have to take an honest look at where you are today.

2. Know Your Personnel – You have to get to know your players or those you will lead. What motivates them? What drives them? Which ones will need the most coaching and which ones are naturally gifted? Will you need to add more to the team and if so, how will they fit into the culture?

3. Cast The Vision – Before you can move forward with a game plan, you have to set the sights of the team on the bigger picture. Success will take every single person understanding their role and embracing it. If they can’t see the vision, they can’t give all they have to it. This is one of the most difficult parts of getting momentum started. Don’t get stuck here but take the time necessary to get 100% support of the greatest goal.

4. Practice, Practice, Practice – We spent hours learning new presses and defensive schemes. It didn’t come easy. This is the frustration phase but when you break through, the momentum really starts going. Your team is no different. Once you’ve set the process, work the plan over and over and over again. Take the time necessary to make sure everyone “get’s it.” Remind them of the vision. Practice some more. Corporate teams and 5th grade basketball are no different. The process must be clear and the execution is critical.

5. Enjoy Game Day – When game day comes, bring the energy your team needs before you even take the field, open the doors, gather in the meeting room. “From the Jump” as I used to tell our girls. We had goals within the game (burning timeouts) and would celebrate the success of achieving it. Then we’d do it again. There were days when some players just didn’t have it. We picked them up and someone else stepped in. You won’t always fire on all cylinders but each time is an opportunity for someone else to shine. Enjoy game day. Enjoy the wins and learn from the losses.

“If you do what we ask you to do, the victories will belong to you, and the losses to me.” -Dean Smith

6. When it’s All Over Keep The Relationships – To this day, I still keep up on the careers of most, if not all of the former players. While the games were fun, the relationships are what mattered. Something special happens when you work together to achieve your goals. If done well, you’ll still be friends long after you’ve parted ways.

In one of the most memorable games of the season, we beat a rival team by 1 point on a last second layup. There was still time left on the clock but they couldn’t get off a clean play because, you guessed it….

They were out of timeouts.

Find the strategy that fits the team you have.

Then put on the full court press.

Her Name Was Dorothy

I read this story from Jim Tressel a few years ago and it has stuck with me ever since. I’m terrible with names. To be honest I will forget it before we even finish shaking hands for the first time. The other day I heard someone say “I’m bad with names but great with faces.” I never thought of it that way but regardless, as Dale Carnegie once said – “There’s nothing sweeter to someone than the sound of their own name.”

During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions, until I read the last one: “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?” Surely, this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired, and in her fifties, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank.

Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade. “Absolutely,” said the professor. “In your careers,  you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say, ‘Hello.'”

I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.

-Jim Tressel (Life Promises For Success)

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”

-Ann Landers

The Easy Silence

I’m going to fall on the sword here. Guys, this is something we need to be aware of. I’ll be honest and say that I am NOT good at recognizing this. It’s not that I don’t have massive amounts of respect for all that my lovely bride does and who she is, it’s that I don’t often express it.

Shame on me.

It’s hard to put in to words but because of WHO she is and ALL that she does, I am able to be who I am and do all that I do. She is the CEO, CFO, Accounting and Human Resource Manager for the Conrad household. One small example is I don’t have the first clue how much we pay for groceries each month. I don’t know how much our gas, electric or water bill is. If you ask me to do something this weekend, I’d have to check with her. I don’t know our schedule or the kids schedule or the carpool schedule. Without her…I am LOST! Literally.

Far more important, she is shepherding our kids hearts. They text me memes and funny videos, they text her questions, schedules and needs. Any credit we get for great kids goes straight to her. THAT much I am sure of. Last, and certainly not least, I am thankful for the “Easy Silence” she creates for me. I got that phrase from the great philosophers “The Dixie Chicks”.

In the easy silence that you make for me
It’s okay when there’s nothing more to say to me
In the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay

Her ability to “keep the world at bay for me” is remarkable. A recent increased role with my employer created the need for some long weeks. It’s temporary while we get process and improvements ironed out. There is no coincidence I’m popping Nexium and blood pressure medicine every morning. We run a pretty crazy pace and this is just a part of it. It’s chaotic and makes all that she does even more important. She keeps the world at bay. She allows for me to be a father to my kids and a husband to her because details have all been taken care of. It takes someone special and I am married to that someone.

I need to create an easy silence for her too.

I really need to say it more often.

Especially When They Don’t

We’re nearing the finish line. A marathon summer of insanity. I know you’re thinking it. I’ve even thought it. Why in the world do you do that? Why does your family get so involved in travel sports? Defensively I might respond that it’s not just us. Actually, there is a major trend in the United States and it’s alarming…and our family is a statistical number in that trend. I like to think it’s more than that. We’ve never done things because others did. Quite the opposite really.

So why do we do it?

Why would we log over 5,000 miles since April between us traveling to sports for three kids?

Why would we juggle hotel points, find the cheapest rates and sometimes fit 3 in a queen bed on the road?

Why did we go to the grocery store in each town and stock up on food for meals, get rolls of quarters at the bank for laundry on the road and cash for parking, entry and fees?

Why ignore the advice of our College Financial Planner, some friends and even a Pastor?

Why trade a relaxing week at the beach for the expenses incurred on multiple road trips?

Why steal 30 minute walks with your bride during the week to get caught up and plan out the next weekends schedule?

Why burden neighbors and family members with feeding and letting out the dog? (Thanks Tom! Sorry Wubzzy)

I can’t speak for everyone. I can only speak for us. Here’s what I would say.

I once read a quote by Rick Reilly long before any of this travel stuff. It stuck with me. I was a young dad at the time and didn’t really understand it but I do now.

We’re here to be there when our kid has three
goals and an assist. And especially when he doesn’t.
-Rick Reilly

We do it for the friends they make in the dugouts, in the bullpens and on the teams.

We do it for the friends we make on the fence lines and in the bleachers. We can’t be in a small group at church but I would argue we’re in one every weekend.

We do it for weekends like this one when social media is filled with parents who are doing it for the last time and knowing we are just a blink away from making those posts too.

We don’t do this to puff our chests or promote our kids. Any pride you may hear or read isn’t to make anyone feel bad. It’s simply a joy in their adventures, memories and moments.

We do it for Sunday nights around the island in the kitchen when we’re all back together again sharing stories of our latest trips.

We do it for the hours of “windshield time”  discussions or complete silence.

We don’t do it to chase scholarships or pro careers. We do it to build character, camaraderie and work ethic. Those things last longer.

“Understand when you’re playing sports it’s a blessing because you’re in a controlled setting. It allows you to build character.” –

We do this to be there when our pitcher son can’t find the plate or throw a strike in the pitching debut with his new team. We also travel all of those miles for the day when he throws a complete game gem and the umpire shakes his hand afterwards and says “it was a pleasure to call your game.”

We do this for the moment, with tears in our eyes, that our freshman daughter, qualifies for the Regional track meet in 100 meter hurdles. We also do it for the day she misses the cut for the State track meet by hundredths of a second.

We do it so we can put our arm around her, wipe the tears, tell her it’s okay to mourn this moment but when she’s ready, to put that number on her mirror as a goal for next season.

We do this to watch our swimmer compete, over and over again and cut her times. We do it for the weekends when she just “doesn’t have it” and wants to give up.

Back in April as we laid all of the potential travel schedules (baseball, swimming, diving and track) out on the calendar I told my bride “We’re gonna blink and it will be August.”

Today is July 22nd.

We blinked.

We were there when they won and especially when they didn’t.

It Takes a Village

I used to hate this time of year. If you’re the parent of a travel baseball player, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s that time of year when you turn into a sports agent for your child. It’s the season that makes Lebron James picking a basketball team seem like a walk in the park. The most stressful weeks of the summer. Every summer. Before I go any further, let me set some ground rules for this post.

  1. I am writing this 100% as a parent that has been through the battles from t-ball to now. I may work at Bo Jackson’s Elite Sports, but I’m not wearing that hat as I type this. Just sharing the knowledge we’ve gained in the past 10+ years.
  2. Each and every one of us have different goals and dreams when it comes to why our kids compete in travel sports. For some it’s fun in the sun with friends. For others it’s dreams of continuing their career in college somewhere. Here’s the important thing for all of us, both are absolutely okay. There’s not a right or wrong or bad or good. Choose the opportunity that helps you achieve what you and your child are aiming for.

I have said this and will continue to say this as long as I have breath….The best advice I can give any parent of an athlete is this – You give them the bike. Where they go and how hard they work to get there is 100% up to them. Give them the best bike you can afford to give them. Give them the tools they need. Then, let go of the handlebars. Cheer them along the way, but let go of the handlebars.

Several months ago we were meeting with our College Financial Planner and his tone got very serious. He said “you need to have a talk with your son. You need to find out if college baseball is a goal he has. If it is, then continue doing what you’re doing. If it is not, then our planning and conversation needs to change.” Wow. After all these years of playing on travel teams and “going where the stream takes us,” we were now at a point where we needed to put some structure and planning around this whole thing. We had the conversation and he said “yes, I want to play baseball in college.”

Thanks to the hard work (much on his own), our son has put himself in a position to potentially pursue one of his goals of playing baseball at the next level. He doesn’t currently have dreams of playing in the Major Leagues, but 4 more years in the sun while chasing a degree does sound fun. This is where we get to the meat of this post and story.

2 years ago, Austin joined the Black Sox travel baseball team from Bo Jackson’s Elite Sports. We knew going in that there would be significant benefits for playing for the Black Sox. They practice year round inside the dome. He would have membership to the facility and could continue to work on his craft. He would have access to former players and coaches. He would have access to the OSU Sports Medicine team located right inside The Dome. There were a number of other appealing features that made this a no-brainer. What I never anticipated is what would come a year later after our conversation with our Financial Planner.

After successful seasons with the Black Sox and in High School, Austin was offered the opportunity to join the Bo Jackson Elite team for this summer (earned, not given). This was an entirely different level of travel baseball. 8 of the players have already committed to Division I baseball programs (Ohio State, Ohio University, Ohio Dominican, Wright State). He would now find himself playing with and competing against the best teams in Ohio. Each weekend is more about showcasing talent than winning tournaments. We regularly see scouts behind the backstops watching each game. If this was about providing the bike, Lance Armstrong would be jealous of the kind of bike he was being offered. He obviously said “yes.”

Our baseball staff at The Dome were also quick to assist. As with every player on our teams, they provided information and a road map to help figure out how we go from “I want to play college baseball” to creating a short list of schools he is interested in. As the summer progressed, the list has moved and changed (he is currently uncommitted but working towards a decision) but they’ve been there every step of the way. They’ve helped us weed out the emails from colleges promising big things and only wanting to profit to the serious requests about his potential and interest in him. Their relationship with area coaches has been so valuable in getting him “seen” and in front of opportunities.

At one point this summer, one valuable contact from the dome sent him an email after a tough outing. It was short but powerful. The best line simply said “you belong.” To have an outside source give you the confidence to take the mound again is powerful and words can’t express my appreciation.

When complaints of neck soreness lingered, we made the way down the hall to The Ohio State University Sports Medicine Team for a quick check-up. What a valuable resource to have right there at The Dome. They took care in getting to the bottom of the soreness, recommended some exercises and care and he was back on the mound the next weekend. Peace of mind between the ears for a pitcher is often a majority of battle. A free visit to the caring staff at OSU was even better.

I should take one step back and mention that from the first game of the High School season, our baseball staff was asking about his pitch counts, recovery and between start workouts. Even when he wasn’t playing for our teams, our staff was looking out for his arm care and recovery. They do this with all of our players. Not just our pitchers or because I am on staff.

Dr. James Onate of The Ohio State University is on the cutting edge of sports research. In addition to his full-time job, he oversees all of the Sports Performance programming at Bo Jackson’s Elite Sports. As if that wasn’t enough, he also coaches for a local High School. Our son pitched against his team in week one of the High School season. In the weeks that followed, Dr. Onate talked to Austin at The Dome while they were both there one day. He asked about his season, his goals and his workouts. He is often quoted as saying “it takes a village to raise a baseball player.”

The point of this entire post is that some day over the next several months, our son may choose from a number of schools to continue his baseball career. No matter where or what he chooses, I will never forget the “village” that has helped to raise our baseball player. From all of the coaches early on in his travel days to our entire team (OSU, Black Sox, Bo Jackson Elite) at BJES, we are so thankful for each one. You’ve all left your finger prints on his career no matter where it ends.

It does take a village and I’m glad you have all been a part of ours.

Don’t Wait and Don’t Blink

I have a confession to make….I should have listened to my wife. I could probably say that a million different times for a million different reasons but todays confession deals with one thing in particular – College. Wait, did I just say that? Wasn’t I just posting about having our first, then second, then third child like a few months ago?

It happened.

I blinked.

Now we’re here. One year away from the first of three going off to college. This is an important summer of showcase tournaments, potential scholarship offers, visits and decisions about the future. And I’m scared to death. I was always the “let’s put that off and talk about it later” kinda guy. My lovely bride wanted to plan early. Early is gone and now we’re racing against the financial clock to prepare. My advice to young parents reading this –

Don’t race against the financial clock to prepare.

One of my favorite parts of my job is making connections. One day an email to a great local company called “College Liftoff” led to a meeting and my confession from above. My new friends at College Liftoff just smiled because they have seen and heard this before. They know what we’re going through and we aren’t alone. I am so glad we were able to create a partnership between College Liftoff and Bo Jackson’s Elite Sports because I want to provide the families that come to our facility that introduction. I want to see them start this conversation long before we did. I know College Liftoff can guide, advise and help.

While I know we waited too long and now we are here, I also know we’re not walking this alone. We have guidance and a partner along the way. I know all three of our children will end up right where they are supposed to be and pursing whatever dreams they have. With all due respect to Drake, if you’re reading this it’s not too late. Don’t just take my word for it, see what other people had to say too (HERE).

So take my advice, listen to your bride and plan ahead. They grow up way too fast.

*Side note, the image above is from The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. It’s nice to have dreams. It’s also nice to have roughly a 32 on your ACT if you are an out-of-state student with hopes of attending this fine University. On the positive, they pay 100% of need. On the downside, it’s REAL hard to get in from out of state. Plan ahead and accordingly.

 

The Hills We Die On

There are select set of phrases that have found there way into my lexicon over the years. If you’re around me long enough you’ve probably heard some of them. One of the ones that I use rather frequently in day-to-day business decisions is “It’s not a hill to die on.” What is interesting about that phrase is that it makes the assumption that you know what hills you will die on. As we inch closer to the start of another year, I have been taking some time to reflect and evaluate what those are for me.

One of my greatest fears as a blogger is to come across as if I know much about anything. I don’t like writing posts that tell people what to do or how to do it. The reality is I don’t know much and am an expert at pretty much nothing. I’m simply a guy with a head full of thoughts, a laptop and a blog program. Nothing more. So take whatever I say with a grain of salt.

It’s probably grammatically incorrect anyway.

That being said, have you ever established the hills that you would die on? Do you know your non-negotiables in life?

A few years ago I was completing an application for a job and was faced with a question that forced me to make a decision. Do I be honest or do I fill in the blank with something that I think they want to hear? I’m on the hill. Do I risk dying here in this interview process or do I own what I believe and take that chance?

Q: What are your 5-year professional goals and why does this position fit those objectives?

A: My 5-year professional goals are to continue to raise and support my family. This may sound like an odd professional goal, but I believe I am a failure at any professional position if I am failing as a father and a husband. My children are 12, 10 and 8. In the next 5 years they will be in their high school years and not far from moving on to college. Family is one of my core beliefs so to work in a position that is something we very much believe in as a part of family and life fits that professional goal. In accomplishing the goals of any organization I work for on a daily basis, I am providing for my family as well. That is my greatest goal.

I might be strange, but if you know me, you know I don’t care about titles. I never have. I’m not in this game to get as high as I can in some organization. They won’t discuss that at my funeral. They WILL remember how I made people feel, how I loved my family and my wife. That is forever. Titles are not. They fade. That is why family is a hill I will die on every. single. time.

It’s been 5 years since that application question and answer. Those three children are now in high school and middle school. Over the course of those 5 years, I have died on that hill a few times. It’s been worth it.

Establishing your core beliefs will help guide you through the minefields of life. Without them, it is easy to end up in places we don’t want to be and doing things we never thought we would. Our “hills” set the guardrails and keep us focused on our priorities. None of this is to say that it is easy. Actually, it’s not easy at all. You’ll be forced to make decisions that won’t be popular or even make sense to others.

As we approach 2018, take some time to think about your core beliefs. What are the hills you will die on. What are the things that are so important to you that you are willing to fight to the bitter end for?

Life is so short. Knowing what we’re living and dying for will make it worth it all in the end.

Thank You, Nationwide Children’s

In 2017, our family encountered one of those moments you never anticipate or even plan for. We were in uncharted waters. I cannot allow the page to turn to 2018 without sending my heartfelt appreciation to anyone and everyone that works at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

A few years ago I was invited to attend a special tour of the incredible new addition that Nationwide Children’s Hospital was getting ready to grand open. Apparently I was a “blogger of influence” or something so my name came up for this behind the scenes preview. I was honored to attend so I took advantage of the opportunity never thinking one day, I would owe a huge debt of gratitude for this facility saving our daughter’s life.

One day the entire story will be written. One day we will be at a place that allows us to share her story. One day her story will impact lives. We believe it is one of the reasons she walked the journey she did. I can say that today, she is doing so well. She is strong, courageous and there are more hours where we forget that the dark moments were even a part of our lives.

Today is about Nationwide Children’s.

We arrived at this facility thinking it was just another consultation. It was where the path took us. As parents, we were following the stream and this is where it led. We knew what we were dealing with was bigger than us. We had no idea they would tell us what they told us that day. We could never have anticipated the schedule and recommendations they made the day my wife and our daughter arrived in their offices. Complete strangers were recommending we clear our scheduled lives and place the health of our daughter in their hands. The program was drastic, complicated and difficult. There were no shortcuts.

After a huddle around the kitchen table, my wife, my daughter and I decided this was the next right step. I never doubted our daughter. She is a fighter and determined. I knew she would rise. What I didn’t know is that there was a team of caring people that stood along her side and at times, carried her through this journey. They had the map. They knew the way through the troubled waters. They do this every day. My guess is they do this because they love what they do. They have been called to a life of service. Their passion came through each and every time we visited.

While this may appear to be cryptic, I am doing my best to say “thank you” to anyone and everyone from Nationwide Children’s that reads this. I’m not the only one. I’ve talked to so many parents that have needed you and you were there. While the days may seem mundane or tedious, the lives you are forever changing are not. From my family to each of you, thank you. You will forever hold a special place in our hearts. You gave us our daughter back.

A few weeks ago, she competed in her first gymnastics meet of the season. A sport and a season that was in question just a few short months ago. She was beautiful. She is happy. She is home. She is free. She won the award from coaches and teammates for “Gymnast of the Meet.”

The moment was for her.

The award is for you.

 

Why You Won’t Get Our Christmas Card

Tis the season. Each year about this time, we start to receive Christmas cards from friends and family across the United States. Some send a card. Others send a newsletter with updates on what is happening with their family. All are enjoyed by our family and received with much love and appreciation. We too used to send the annual Christmas card. We did the photos, printing and postage.

Then one year I heard that you could feed and help someone in need for as little as $2.25 per person.

I’m not the sharpest guy in the room, but when I did some 8th grade math and looked at our annual spend for the cards, photos and postage, I knew that those dollars could be better spent. We talked it over as a family and decided that rather than send a card that will one day end up in the trash, or a box, we would dedicate those dollars to provide meals and help through Faith Mission of Columbus. We have kept that tradition going each year and now, thanks to social media, you probably already know more about our family than any card could ever tell.

To those that have sent us your annual card, thank you! We love seeing all that is happening with your family and in your life. Please consider this our annual Christmas card and know it is shared with the same thought and love. Also know that by accepting this token, you were also a part of helping to feed and assist someone in need right here in Columbus, Ohio.

Merry Christmas to each of you and a Happy New Year!

The Conrad Family

Your Actions Speak Louder

I once heard a story told by former Buckeye and NFL legend Chris Spielman. It’s been several years so I’m sure I’ll miss a detail or two but this is how I remember hearing it.

Chris was in his rookie season with the Detroit Lions and in his first mini-camp. Truth be told, he was getting destroyed by the older, wiser, stronger players. Play after play the linebacker was getting blocked, missing tackles and getting increasingly frustrated. He came out for a play and while on the sideline, began telling his coach how frustrated he was. He was also making excuses why he didn’t make the tackle and wasn’t making plays. That’s when his coach said it.

“Chris, I can’t hear you. Your actions are speaking too loud.”

Chris Spielman finished the story by saying that when he went back in for the next play, he absolutely lit up the running back. Part out of frustration and part out of anger that he knew his coach was right. His actions didn’t match his message.

I was driving in my car the day I heard that story on the radio. I have never forgotten it because I was so pumped up when Chris told it. He told it much better than I can type it but you get the idea. It was inspiring and humbling.

In this life we get up every morning and our actions tell a story. One of my favorite life quotes says it like this

“You can say what you think, but you will live what you believe.”

In our home, our school, our place of work, we can spend the day saying all of the things we believe. We can preach our mission and our message but are we living what we believe? Are our actions speaking so loud that the other players around us can’t hear or believe our message any longer? I’m guilty of it. It happens so easy. Commit today to some self evaluation.

Let’s live out the message we’re preaching. Let’s have our actions match our mission.

You’re Gonna Love Seventeen

The other day I was driving through town and heard a new song by Lee Brice. By the time it was over I almost caused a wreck because I WAS a wreck. The song was simply called “Boy” (see below). There were so many lines in the song that hit me sideways but probably the biggest one was “Boy, you’re gonna love seventeen.” I knew that in just a few short weeks my boy would be seventeen.

What to say that hasn’t already been said (or written)? I covered a lot of ground and great moments a year ago on your sixteenth birthday (HERE). We had a post I complied of rules for you go viral and receive over 4.3 million views a few weeks ago too (Here). I wrote a letter to you when you were about 5 years old (Here). I also gave you a charge for your life when you turned 12 (Here). Looking back at it, I’ve tried to give you any wisdom I’ve learned over my years.

and that’s what hit me when I heard the song

and that’s why I nearly wrecked.

A year ago we gave you the keys and a new form of freedom.

This year we essentially give you the vast majority of control of your future.

Austin, you’re gonna love seventeen.

Over the next year you’ll make decisions that will begin the trajectory of your future. You’ll choose a college and a major. You might meet someone that will have your heart. While your mom and I can provide some “air support,” these are the days and decisions that you must make on your own. The pivot that began last year with wheels and a license now expands to much larger decisions. We’ll always be here to support your decisions and dreams but now is the time when they really become YOURS.

“‘Cause you’re a part of me and a part of you will always be my little boy.”

For seventeen years you’ve been my shadow and now we officially begin to transition to a time where I will be yours. This is your time now. These are the days you’ll forever remember. I have every confidence you will handle them with grace, truth, wisdom and quiet strength.

You’re gonna love seventeen.

Happy Birthday Austin.

Dad.

These Eyes

I’ve been away from the blog for awhile now. In that time, “life” happened. There are many stories to tell but some of them are more private than others. The subject of “These Eyes” went through a season no father would wish their child to go through. I’ll share the full story one day but for now, know that before she even entered the battle, I knew she would win. She’s got a determination like none I have ever seen. I’m so proud of her. I knew she would rise. Rise she did.

These eyes captured me the first time I saw them

These eyes ushered in being the father of a daughter for the first time

These eyes teach me about compassion, joy, sensitivity and courage

These eyes scan the room, the court, the gym to make sure I’m watching and approve

These eyes have seen me fail as a dad but extended grace over and over again

When these eyes lock mine, I melt

In these eyes I see so much potential and promise

These eyes are intelligent and silly and know how to balance both

These eyes welcome a stranger and make them a friend

These eyes are so similar to her mamas

These eyes can bring tears to mine with surprisingly little effort

These eyes will one day change the world

How do I know?

Because these eyes forever changed mine.

I love you Miss Em.

 

The Day My Post Went Viral

This story has to be told because it is just crazy. For those new to this blog, let me take you back for a very brief history.

I started this little blog over 10 years ago. There were no goals or big plans. Just me putting some words into cyberspace. The posts were all over the place but most centered around my wife, kids and the journey we’re all on. It grew and grew. It took us great places and there have been some really fun moments (like when a review I did for Dollar Shave Club resulted in over $1000 in credits). Then one day it just got stale. Life happened. Over the last 3 years I’ve only posted a handful of times. Stuff like honoring my sons (yes, that little boy in the picture) 16th Birthday.

Rewind to 2 weeks ago I had a thought to maybe clean the site up and blog a time or two. I started by simply recycling an old post called “6 Things My Kids Need for School.” It had the usual response and that was fine. I’ve never been about the response or the glory. Just the opposite actually. There’s no greater goal or plan here. I’m not selling anything or trying to drive traffic. Just sharing the journey. Last Wednesday, I decided to share a list of 30 quotes I found in this book over 5 years ago.

That’s when all you-know-what broke loose.

It went viral.

Like really, really viral.

The first day – 244,636 views. I was blown away.

The second day – 1,930,533 views. IN ONE DAY

The third day – 1,169,287 views in one day

At the time of this writing, I’m in my forth day and there have been 447,063 views so far.

I’m not smart enough to know how or why any of this happened. By now I hope most people realize I didn’t write that list. 5 years ago when I posted it the first time, I included a “Source” link at the bottom. The post got some likes but nothing out of the ordinary. For some reason this time it just went crazy. I’ve updated the post to make sure people don’t miss that I didn’t write these quotes. I’ve included the link for the author of the book I pulled them from and I sure hope he’s getting all of the credit and glory here.

But it’s been a wild 4 days.

Facebook was the clear guilty party here. It is just insane how this thing multiplied over and over again. I won’t take up a ton of space here but there have been some incredible stories. My favorite are friends (who I know) telling me of friends of theirs (whom I don’t know) sharing it. I’ve heard it has been shared from people I don’t know in Washington D.C., South Africa, Ireland, Oregon, Texas and places all over the map.

I’m going to be interviewed on a radio show this coming Wednesday.

I’ve been called names – both positive and negative.

I’ve made a lot of new “friends”

I’ve heard from several strangers both inspiring stories and heartbreaking stories

Like single dads trying to do their best

And single moms filling the gap left by husbands that passed or are no longer present

I could go on and on. It’s been simply incredible.

But here is my biggest takeaway and I could be 100% wrong about this….I think the post went viral because people needed something positive in the time that we live in. We’re surrounded by anger and people taking sides. Our feeds are inundated with opinions and positions. This just happened to be something different. Positive. New.

I don’t know about you but I’m inspired by the response. I’ve been inspired by all of the words of parents, aunts, uncles and even grandparents wanting to share these with their children and grand children.

Where does this all go from here? I have no idea. Probably no where. The clock on my 15 minutes is probably sitting at 14 right now. I want to thank ALL of you for giving me something to cross off of my bucket list (even though I don’t really have a bucket list). I hope you hang around as I’ve got other content to share and re-share from the past 10 years. I’ve got new posts queued up for a time in the near future. I hope you find it inspiring and worth your visit.

Until then, thank you to all of those that made the day my post went viral so memorable.

 

Rules For My Son

A few favorites from the book Rules for My Unborn Son.

1. Never shake a man’s hand sitting down.

2. There are plenty of ways to enter a pool. The stairs ain’t one.

3. The man at the grill is the closest thing we have to a king.

4. In a negotiation, never make the first offer.

5. Act like you’ve been there before. Especially in the end zone.

6. Request the late check-out.

7. When entrusted with a secret, keep it.

8. Hold your heroes to a higher standard.

9. Return a borrowed car with a full tank of gas.

10. Don’t fill up on bread.

11. When shaking hands, grip firmly and look him in the eye.

12. Don’t let a wishbone grow where a backbone should be.

13. If you need music on the beach, you’re missing the point.

14. Carry two handkerchiefs. The one in your back pocket is for you. The one in your breast pocket is for her.

15. You marry the girl, you marry her whole family.

16. Be like a duck. Remain calm on the surface and paddle like crazy underneath.

17. Experience the serenity of traveling alone.

18. Never be afraid to ask out the best looking girl in the room.

19. Never turn down a breath mint.

20. In a game of HORSE, sometimes a simple free throw will get ’em.

21. A sport coat is worth 1000 words.

22. Try writing your own eulogy. Never stop revising.

23. Thank a veteran. And then make it up to him.

24. If you want to know what makes you unique, sit for a caricature.

25. Eat lunch with the new kid.

26. After writing an angry email, read it carefully. Then delete it.

27. Ask your mom to play. She won’t let you win.

28. See it on the big screen.

29. Give credit. Take the blame.

30. Write down your dreams.

*Update – It’s crazy to me but this post has somehow gone viral. For clarification, this was a list I consolidated from my favorite sayings at this (Source).

For more rules like these, check out the book Rules for My Unborn Son and Rules for My Newborn Daughter by Walker Lamond.

**Originally Posted 5 years ago

6 Things My Kids Need For School

Here we are again. Where did the summer go? Maybe you’re getting ready to send your first-born off to school. You might be sending your oldest to college. Maybe you home school and you’re ramping up for another year. Wherever this post finds you, I thought I might share the 6 things that I firmly believe my kids need before they start school. These 6 things are part of that “hill I will die on” I often refer to. I know each child and home is different, so take these for what they are worth. Here we go….

1. R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying they need respect, that comes when you GIVE respect. From the time our oldest began school, we chose one thing we really wanted for them that school year. His first year, my word was respect. I don’t know a lot and I’ve never been accused of being really book smart, but respect for others will take you a long, long way in this life. Like my father-in-law says “you earn your breaks.” One of the greatest things you can offer another person is your respect. Respect your elders. Respect your friends. Respect those who disagree with you. You don’t have to agree with every one, or everything, but you can respect their differences.

2. Treasured – This one REALLY applies to my girls. I wrote a post about being fifteen about a year ago and apparently I am incredibly naive to what that age is like now. Our children are growing up faster than we did at their age. They have access to so much more. The only way I know to combat all that waits out there both virtually and in reality, is to make sure they all know they are treasured. They are treasured by me, they are treasured by God. They are my joy and the prize of their creator. They don’t need to settle for anything less than all that God planned for them before they were even born. There will be influences and voices to encourage otherwise, but my hope is they have a firm foundation in how treasured they are both at home and by their Creator.

3. Quiet Strength – There is confidence and then there is arrogance. Confidence crosses the goal line, hands the ball to the referee and heads back to the sideline. Arrogance takes off its helmet and makes sure every one knows who scored the touchdown. When it comes to achievements in everything from academics to athletics, I’ve always encouraged my children to be more like Barry Sanders and less like Dion Sanders. Act like you’ve been there. Consider the feelings of those that can’t or didn’t or won’t achieve their goal. Remember when you fell short and how that felt.  As the saying goes…

Work for a cause, not for applause.
Live life to express, not to impress.
Don’t strive to make your presence noticed, just make your absence felt.

4. Be The Change – In an age where “bullying” is a word thrown around a lot, I want my kids to be the change. Stand up for those that can’t or won’t stand up for themselves. Be “that friend” we all want, seek and need. Surround yourselves with those that are different and learn what makes them that way. Let your life be consistent. Let it be so consistent it changes others in ways that are positive. Be individual but be consistent. God created you to influence a circle of people. Be the change in your circle of influence.

5. Be Awesome – Before you click out and think I am “that dad” that demands perfection, let me put your mind at ease…I’m not. You can be last and still be awesome. You can not be at the top of your class and still be awesome. Bob Goff said it best…

Be Awesome…. God loves the humble ones, and the humble ones often don’t make it as first-round draft picks for the jobs with big titles or positions. But they always seem to be the first-round picks for God when He’s looking for someone to use in a big way.

To Be Awesome is to be humble and to be available. We get opportunities every day to be awesome to someone or for something. I want my kids to be available to any and all opportunities, especially with others. As the saying goes – “in 20 years the people won’t remember your name or achievements. But in 20 years they will remember how you made them feel and the memories you gave them.” Be awesome. Make others feel special and leave them with great memories.

6. Be Brave – How could I send them off without a charge that I set for myself in 2014? Be brave to try new things. Be brave to explore and learn. Be brave for those that can’t find the courage to be brave on their own. Let your bravery influence and encourage others to be brave too. God wired each of my kids differently. One will “be brave” with a quiet, calm influence. One will “be brave” in her compassion for others. One will “be brave” with an enthusiasm that is contagious. It’s they way they were built before they were ever born. Gods perfect design. Take each of those gifts and be brave.

As we send our kids off to school and college, my prayer is that these days will be rich with learning. Yes, I hope they fill their minds with book knowledge, but I also hope they are filled with moments and experiences that mold and shape who they will become. As I’ve posted before, it’s time to “Let That Pony Run.”

*Originally posted October 2016