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Jessica is our 2016 Olympic Hopeful and Sarah is our 2012 Olympian in Weightlifting. We're setting out to be "Pretty Strong" and we encourage you to do the same.

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Leadership

Occasionally, I try to reflect on my past experiences to see how they have impacted me. How have they molded me into who I am today. When I reflect on my athletic career, I try to think of the things that may have made me "special." One of the things that has made me stand out as an athlete and as a person, is my ability to lead. I am not perfect at it by any means but, I think this ability has helped separate me from the pack in many of my situations.

Are people natural leaders? Do they learn how to lead? Or is it a combination of the two? For me, I think it's a natural combination of the two.

Hopefully, through my experiences and my advice, you can improve your leadership skills or try to develop some on your own.

As a kid, when playing with my friends or brother, I'd always end up being the sidekick or the bad guy. Never the main character or the one who decides what we're going to to that day. I was always bigger and taller than most kids so adults always assumed I could do more or be more than I was. Frequently, I'd get mistaken more a grown-up. I was also a very strong kid. I was kicked out of day care because I pushed a girl our of a tricycle and hurt her. She asked me to push her. She just didn't specify in what direction, I guess. Haha. Who would have thought all these years later, I'd be speaking at graduations, conferences, and schools? How would have thought I'd be coaching people, and going to ribbon cutting ceremonies? Certainly not I.

I was never one to seek out leadership opportunities. They just kind of fell in my lap with the exception of one. In 8th grade, I wanted to get the Husky Elite Award. This was an award given to 4 people a year in physical education. The person who got it showed that they worked hard, tried to improve and did their best. I worked really hard and got it. The reward was to lead the class in exercises, they got a special shirt to wear and they had their names posted in the locker rooms. Also, as a consequence of working for this award, one of the PE teachers noticed I had athletic ability and encouraged me to try out for the track team. I was a successful track athlete and now weightlifter. Had it not been for that physical education program, I wouldn't be sitting hear trying to impart my knowledge unto you.

I was a girl scout until I graduated high school and one of my first leadership opportunities was to be a delegate. My friend Ruth and I helped lead flag ceremonies, be in front holding the flag in parades, and being a representative of our troop at different events. While competing in track in high school, I was elected to be a Team Captain for my junior and senior years. These opportunities I got just for being myself.

I try to help people the best I can but, I feel my best way to lead is to be myself. I try to do the right things at the right time in the right places with the right people. I am very social and can talk with just about anyone. I have a little bit of knowledge about a lot of things so it helps me connect with people.

In my older years, I have chosen to coach high school and college athletes, crossfitters, kids and older people. I really enjoy it. I have been asked to participate in parades and volunteer in the communities I'm from, speak at graduations, judge beauty pageants, represent small companies, write articles, go to the White House, be a part of the Thank You, Mom campaign, go to galas, etc. It's so cool! At church, whenever I get asked to help with something, it's to teach a class or organize and implement activities.

Speaking at a women's conference

Participating in a Christmas Parade


For people with anxiety or who are shy, this could all be overwhelming. At times I have gotten nervous. I have not had any professional training or any certifications or and degrees yet, I get great praises on how well I can teach something, lead, keep people engaged, or speaking techniques I literally just made up on the spot.

Here are a few things that I feel have impacted me for the better with leadership:
*We went to the VA hospital a lot growing up as kids. When I was 11, my dad had a stroke and lost his ability to speak. I was able to associate well with people with special needs, disabilities, and mental health issues. When you can associate well with people who are what society deems as "different" "defective" "hard to deal with" or whatever, you can associate well with everyone.
* Many of my friends growing up had problems at home with sexual abuse, poverty, mental health, mental disabilities, etc. Many people cast these people to the side but, again, if you are able to befriend someone in these situations, everyone benefits and learns. Just as with the people from the VA, you get a broader idea of what people go through, you can understand people better.
*I took a good deal of time investigating different religions. When you understand how and what people believe, you can relate to them better, build better relationships, and be more sensitive to other needs and hopes other than your own.
*I was a teacher's aide for special education in high school. I can't express enough how helping and loving other people can help you and make you a better person. There are times I would be these kids' only friends or the only one to stand up for them.
*Being the bigger/taller kid who had more expectations on them
*Being interviewed a lot
*Having to learn a lot of stuff on my own through experience as well as trial and error
*Dealing with heartaches, troubles, trauma, and  other types of difficulties over the years

The main things that frustrate me when it comes to being a leader are the different standards or abnormal expectations on a person who is just like everyone else, and the fact that often times, I can be placed automatically in a leadership position. Teaching and leading activities can be great but, sometimes, I just want to be a participant and just hang out/enjoy my time without responsibilities.

I can't tell you how to get leadership opportunities if you want them or how to avoid them if you don't but, I can give you advice for the time you find yourself in these positions or want to get yourself there.

1.) Be yourself. People wouldn't ask you to do what you're doing if they didn't appreciate what you have to offer. They also wouldn't do it if they didn't have faith in your knowledge or abilities. Alsok if you try to be like someone else, you will always come in second place. Someone else already did it, and they did it better. Be yourself and you'll be the best you.
2.) Don't be afraid to meet and talk with new people. Everyone has a different life journey and everyone can learn from each other. You never know what types of friendships or valuable business opportunities may present themselves to you; all because you decided to say, "My my name is _____" nd stuck your hand out
3.) Don't be intimidated by other people. If you see someone as greater than you for whatever reason, you will put a limit on yourself. Just as they have desirable talents and traits, so do you.
4.) Take opportunities when they present themselves to you. I went to a yelp event just to look at shiny, pretty jewelry, and eat snacks with my friends, only to meet my cosmetic sponsor.
5.) READ I try to read something every day. I have been complimented on how articulate I am and how easy it is to interview me. When you read, you expand your vocabulary, you increase the ways you are able to communicate with others, and you stimulate your imagination.
6.) Don't be afraid to fail. Failure is inevitable. Sorry. I have made huge mistakes that have cost me friendships, coaches, and damaged my career but, I bounced back. You will live to tell about it. Mistakes and failures often are not forgotten but, can easily be used as a tool to teach you how to be better and help others.
7.) Use your adversities to strengthen you as well as help and inspire others.
8.) Surround yourself with ambitious, smart, and successful people. Most of the time they have had similar struggles and can teach you how to overcome yours, inspire you when you're down, and give you opportunities when no one else will.
9.)Always try to improve yourself. Develop new talents, work on things that hold you back,  try new things, meet new people, take a chance on something.
10.)Don't be ashamed to admit you don't know or understand something. You will be respected more for this than trying to b.s. your way out of something or trying to avoid a question.
10.) Listen to your gut. Know who you are and what/who you represent and what you stand for. If people or opportunities don't align with what you're doing or who you are, you are welcome to say no. I avoided a lot of media after my suspension because I knew the people who wanted to talk to me didn't care about me and they just wanted to get some quotes on a hot button topic that would have just increased how much more negativity is out there. Who needs or wants that stress? Not I. So... no thank you. They say any publicity is good publicity. I'd rather have none than have a heavy feeling in my heart.

There ya go! Hope you enjoyed my long-winded post.

Yours in sport,

Sarah 

1 comment:

Cody the Clydesdale said...

Great article. A lot of people wouldn't have grown like you did in the same way. It's a testament to who you are more than what you've been through.