Recently I was contacted by a gentleman who wanted me to coach his son on these skills. I was not sure that working with a high school athlete was going to be beneficial for me or the kid, but as we talked about their motivation, it was clear that I could provide value. This young football player is clearly headed toward playing college ball (maybe more?), and with that comes the need for him to be able to articulately communicate in many arenas.
He had taken a speech class his freshman year, but that only educated him on how to research and write a speech. He did not seem to feel he learned much. It did not prepare him for what lies ahead in the real world. Athletes are under a ton of pressure, and learning to think fast, stay positive, and deliver meaningful information is paramount to their long-term success.
As I researched for this training session I discovered that it is not just college and professional athletes who face the press after games. These days it is not uncommon for reporters to talk with high school students following their games, especially in the highly competitive world of Texas High School Football. Plus the team leaders will have to speak in the locker room, at school assemblies, and during parent / booster banquets. The earlier they grasp what it means to be in the spotlight, the more confident they can become in these situations.
Thirty years ago when I was in school if a student said something wrong to a reporter, or was overly nervous in his speaking to a crowd, it was a one time hiccup. However, today all they do an say will live on forever via the internet. Recruiters are always seeking the best and the brightest, and these athletes need to be aware of their "Personal Brand" much earlier. Plus the world of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other online sites can make anything they say or do at anytime part of their online search results.
The more prepared the athlete is for all that goes with media, speaking, branding, reputation management and social media - the better off they will be if truly one of the fortunate ones who go all the way to a top college or even turning pro.
The closer I got to this meeting the more impressed I was with the young man and his family for their commitment to going above and beyond in preparing for life. The first thing this student-athlete told me was that regardless if he ever gets to play college football, he knows that learning to communicate in all situations will set him up for a more successful career in any field. WOW.
We spent nearly two hours together. We discussed all that could cross his path in the short and long term, and I gave him some ideas on how to continuously improve his self-understanding of how he presents himself. We also staged a mock interview on video and reviewed his answers together. Thinking on your feet is often a learned skill. This was a first step in a long journey.
I predict big things from this guy.... on the gridiron and beyond.
Have A Great Day