Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Seeing Past the Marble

"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."
~ Michaelangelo Buonarrati

This past January I had the opportunity to travel throughout Europe and while visiting Rome, I thought about taking a day trip to Florence because I had always wanted to see Michaelangelo's Statue of David. Unfortunately, I was limited on time in Italy and I was told that if I were to go to Florence for a day, there was a chance that I might not even see the statue because of the length of those lines and the demand by thousands to see it daily.

In 1504, Michaelangelo said the above about his masterpiece after spending three years carving it from a block of marble. Earlier this morning, Floyd Keith (Executive Director of the Black Coaches and Administrators or BCA), told the story of Michaelangelo's carving to illustrate to my class what it means to have vision. Mr. Keith talked about his own career path and his own professional and relational goals and about the life that him and his wife have happily built together. The more I listened to Mr. Keith, the more I began to realize that my last 24 hours have had one consistent message - have vision. Everything and everyone that I have encountered over the past day have had that one thing in common - they have vision.

The last day has been a whirlwind for us DeVos Students as we have had our regular routine all sandwiched between two guest speakers and the National Consortium for Academics and Sports (NCAS) Awards Banquet. The awards banquet was my favorite event that I have had an opportunity to be a part of in my short time as a student in the DeVos Program. The NCAS banquet was an opportunity to honor and recognize for using sport to make positive contributions in the lives of others that inspire us all.

"Sport belongs to us all"
~ Anita DeFrantz, International Olympic Committee (IOC) Member & 2009 NCAS Hall of Fame inductee

Dr. Lapchick always likes to tell us that there is something about sport. Yesterday, Anita DeFrantz spoke to us from her experience as an Olympian (1976 Bronze Medalist in Montreal for rowing) and as an IOC member to make us realize that what is so great about sport is that it belongs to all of us. As she would put it, "it's our birthright". Anita is best remembered as a leader and advocate who challenged President Carter's right to boycott the 1980 summer games in Moscow. She argued that only an athlete should be able to determine whether or not they compete. The athletes lost their case and Ms. DeFrantz told us that the greatest tragedy of that boycott is that she and other Olympians had trained and worked and in the end, they were athletes without a result. Their training had meant nothing. Her advocacy did not go unnoticed though and eventually led to her being the first female Vice-President of the International Olympic Committee. This is surely a woman who had vision and has vision and I am better for having met her.

"Focus on your ability, not your disability. If you can do that, you can do anything."
~ Adam Bender, 2009 NCAS Giant Steps Award Winner

To have vision usually means to see something that no one else can. As Floyd Keith's example taught me, it's seeing the angel in the marble and having the courage to let it out. Take the story of Adam Bender because he is one remarkable young man. I encourage you to click on any of the links I have provided because you will be amazed by the people who were awarded last night. Adam Bender, as seen in the video, is a young boy who at a year of age, had one of his legs amputated. In spite of this, Adam found a way to participate in the sports he loved so much. He has been a stand-out in soccer, baseball, wrestling, and flag football and he has done what no one thought he would be able to do. For a nine-year old boy to defy all expectations and focus on his own abilities to accomplish great things - that is vision that I could only aspire to have.

"I could go to the Final Four; I could win a national championship, but doing this [working with Samaritan's Feet] is the greatest thing I could ever accomplish as a coach and person."
~ Coach Ron Hunter - IUPU-Indianapolis Head Coach & 2009 NCAS Giant Steps Award Winner

I also learned last night that vision means to have a voice and to do what you can with what you have. No one exemplifies this better than Coach Ron Hunter who when he heard about the need across the world for millions of children who do not have shoes, he began coaching basketball games barefoot and even organized shoe drives to provide children around the world with shoes. He has traveled throughout Africa and South America and other places around the world to give millions of children around the world their very first pairs of shoes and socks. This is a man who motivates me, this is a man who has vision.

And I could go on about the people who inspired me at last night's banquet such as Mallory Holtman and Elizabeth Wallace and the courage they showed in the now famous Central Washington vs. Western Oregon softball game. I could talk about the vision and strength it took for Jake Madonia to continue to compete in Division I shotput after having a baseball-sized tumor (and a toe) removed from his foot. I could talk about the vision that Sonny Hill still has for the youth of Philadelphia and the efforts that he has made to make the world a better place. And of course, who could ever overlook the vision that Kay Yow had for her basketball girls at NC State; she had a vision that helped her girls win basketball games (over 700) but also a vision that helped them to win in life (in 20 + years of coaching she graduated 98% of her players).

In these last 24 hours, I have learned the importance of vision and while I know this is long (which would not surprise any of my classmates) there is so much that could still be said about the amazing night that I had getting to hear the stories of all these great people. I am already looking forward to next year's NCAS banquet. As a student I am proud to be part of a program that not only works in partnership with NCAS but a program that encourages us to use sport to make a difference in the lives of others - just as everyone last night already has.

There is something about sport, it does belong to us all, and because of that we need to have a vision to be a positive force in this world. Through the awe-inspiring experience I have had over the past day, I have learned this above nothing else. In no other sports MBA program, or any other area of study, would I have had this experience to learn these lessons that will not only make me a better a professional, but will help me to be a better person. I hope you all have a great week!

See through the marble,


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