Thanks to a last-minute call from Dove Men+Care – one of PCA’s partners in developing Better Athletes, Better People – I was able to attend ESPN’s Sports Humanitarian Awards on Tuesday and the 25th-anniversary edition of the network’s esteemed ESPYs awards show. Here are my top 4 takeaways:
1. Youth & High School Coaches Matter
Through sports, you can
change the world
-Former First Lady Michelle Obama
There is no better platform in the world to teach life lessons to our youth. With the right coaches who see the big picture, parents who relentlessly take advantage of teachable moments, and leaders who work to develop a culture where young humans can blossom, youth sports IS the platform to create change.
The 2017 Coach of the Year Winner was legendary St. Anthony’s High School coach Bob Hurley whose comment couldn’t have been more true: “Behind every professional athlete there is a high school and youth coach.” I also appreciated the focus on his greater concern for the total person, beyond just the player. Candace Parker had a first coach in basketball. Stephen Curry had a high school basketball coach. Aaron Rodgers was once trying out for his high school team. We don’t know which little tee ball player may grow into the next Aaron Judge, but we do know that youth coaches must take full advantage of the platform and responsibility we have.
2. Selflessness Wins
Across many acceptance speeches from the winners, there was one common thread: deflecting the award and honor to teammates.
I can’t do it without all the great people who helped me throughout the years.
- Kevin Durant, on winning Best Championship Performance
To win, even the best need to play together.
- Steph Curry, on winning the Best Team Award
And perhaps the most inspirational part of the night was Sergeant Israel Del Toro’s acceptance of the Pat Tillman Award for service. “DT” said simply that he was just doing what any other service member would do: “Make things better for the guys that follow them.” If DT isn’t the epitome of selflessness, then I don’t know what is:
3. Service is Cool
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth,” said Laila Ali (pictured below), kicking off the 2017 Humanitarian Awards by quoting her father, the late Muhammad Ali. The fact that ESPN created a separate event, dedicated to highlight social good through sport goes to show its importance. This is only the third year of the Humanitarian Awards, and I look forward to seeing it grow!
Calgary Flames player Mark Giordano may not have been the most famous athlete at the ESPYs, but after he won the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award, there sure were a lot of people wanting to take photos with him, including PCA-Los Angeles Board Chair, Ellen Robbins, below! Learn more about his work, here.
4. PCA Resonates
At the Sports Humanitarian Awards, I had the pleasure of sitting next to next to two-time Olympic Gymnastics Gold Medalist Nastia Liukin and her fiancé, Matt, a former NCAA Division I hockey player. When they asked what I did for work, I explained PCA’s mission of giving every kid a positive, character-building youth sports experience and ended with, “basically trying to prevent that psycho coach from making you want to quit youth sports.” Both of them intently nodded their heads and said “Man, my coaches could have used that!”
Then, there was the mom I met while hiding behind in the “S” in ESPYs for shade on the red carpet (stepped in front briefly for a photo). Her husband worked in the music industry and had a connection to get her and her 14-year-old son tickets. After I explained our work, she adamantly asked for a business card to look us up. She has realized the power of sport to teach life lessons as her son has developed an immense love for football, starting his own podcast and website all before high school!
And then there was Kelley Pulisic, mom of Christian Pulisic, nominated for best breakout athlete. Christian wasn’t attending because he was busy training in Germany. I told her I (and PCA) admired her parenting style and bottom line, thanked her for being an “Ice Cream Parent.”
These are just a couple examples of when people got wide-eyed when hearing about PCA!
To end, Best Female Athlete Award Winner Simone Biles said in her acceptance speech that “the best part of all (post-Rio) has been meeting all of the young people who look up to all of the athletes in this room. It is an incredible honor and responsibility of being a role model.”
I am more inspired than ever to help continue developing role models for the future!
FIVE FUN FACTS:
1. Did you see Snoop Dogg present the award for best game? PCA-Los Angeles partners with Snoop Youth Football, Snoop Dogg’s youth football league.
2. The Golden State Warriors won Best Team and our PCA-SF Bay Area Chapter partners with the GSW Foundation and will be hosting another 3v3 Tournament there this fall!
3. The nominee for best play, Northwestern Men's Basketball team, is coached by PCA National Advisory Board Member, Chris Collins!
4. The Dodgers Foundation Supports PCA-Los Angeles, and last night legendary Dodgers Broadcaster Vin Scully won the Icon Award.
5. Super Bowl LI won the "Best Game" award for the Patriots miraculous comeback victory. We like to think it was because PCA aired a Super Bowl Spot thanks to our partnership with FOX Sports Supports.
FIVE TOP QUOTES:
1. "We hope to just represent exactly what a team means: doing it by committee and the power of the collective." -Stephen Curry
2. "It's about sacrifice. It's about the collective unit and doing whatever it takes to put ourselves in the best position to win." -Stephen Curry
3. [During the Superbowl] "We were down a bunch of points. Everyone looked at each other, and you saw a sense of focus. It was one of those things where, when you have a tough group of guys mentally and physically, anything can happen. That's the great thing about sports." -Julian Edelman
4. "(Eunice Kennedy Shriver) honored the highest traditions of athletic history: using sports to break barriers and change hearts and minds." -Michelle Obama
5. “Behind every professional athlete there is a high school and youth coach.”
-Bob Hurley, Sr., 2017 Coach Of The Year