This is the last part of my series on five guys who know how to give back - not only the sport we love so much, but to causes that deeply affect them as individuals. That motivating factor has driven them to do outstanding things that seem almost Herculean in their scope.
But there is something very important to remember when talking about the successes Nicholas LaRoche, Sean Rabbitt, Parker Pennington, Tim David and Doug Mattis have achieved: NONE of this could have been possible - NONE of this could have happened - without all the club skaters, National, Olympic and World athletes, parents and coaches in our wonderfully small sphere of skating who volunteer their time and talents to make these dreams a reality. The guys envisioned success; the skaters who hitched their wagons to the dreams of these causes are the ones who helped make it a success. If it weren't for them donating their time and considerable talents to these projects, there would only be dreams.
So I asked each of these incredibly dedicated and talented men to tell me this:
What would you say to the next generation of skaters coming up in the ranks (guys and gals) about the value of giving back, and how can they get involved now?
Their answers are telling, and (hopefully) motivational.
Nicholas (Nick) LaRoche:
Knowing where I have come from, who has been behind me, and what has allowed me to pursue my dreams never fails to leave my mind. A lot of the time the most important ones go unnoticed, and to be honest those are usually the most important. I have had huge sponsors who have never wanted their names released, and people who provided me with whatever was needed to let me continue training. The most amazing thing about all of those "behind the scenes people," they don't want it for them, they want it for you!
With the younger generation, it is important that we instill in them what is most important: Look everyone of your supports in the eye and thank them. You can touch one's soul with five minutes of beauty and grace, but more importantly you can leave an imprint on ones soul for a lifetime with a simple 'thank you' for what they have done to help you get there!
There are many opportunities for giving back; you don't even have to try hard.
I'm excited to read what the four other guys have to say to the younger generation about giving back. For me, I feel that the younger generation needs to give back. It's very cleansing; it helps build confidence, and you have a feeling of accomplishment. The people you help have so much excitement and happiness out of the small act of kindness you give them. Its just awesome feeling.
Skating is a privilege. I think if the younger generation gives back they will find a bigger value in their skating and a better appreciation for their parents hard work to allow them to skate. I am not perfect; I, too, went through this....but not for long. My parents put a stop to it..fast. I have never been able to skate 3-4 sessions a day with 1-3 lessons a day. I have - and still get - three to four lessons a week, and just two sessions a day. I pay for one of my four lessons now.
When I give back, it really is a reality check as to how lucky I truly am. If more skaters give back, they feel better about themselves as human beings, knowing they helped someone else. But also they realize how good they have it. I want younger skaters to learn that giving back will help them learn. And it's so easy. In fact, people can email or message me for help and ideas if they don't know where to start."
I believe that together we can truly make a difference. When you take all different types of people from all different walks of life, sharing in ideas, visions, dreams and aspirations - and then settling on a single common goal - you can achieve more than you ever thought possible. Of course, there's a series of actions that need to be taken. But when the purpose is there as a team, anything is possible.
My advice to the next generation of skaters would be to go after your dreams and make you own personal goals within skating, while also looking to help others. If you aren't looking to dive into a large project just yet, I would recommend getting your feet wet by taking small steps: Volunteer your time and efforts for your sport; choose projects close to your heart.
I would like to see younger skaters get involved in different facets of the sport, because by learning to be a part of a team trying to achieve a common goal I believe it better enables you to prevail in your own endeavors. Being a part of a team can inspire you and help push you, when you find it difficult to push yourself. In the end, there is no greater reward than knowing you inspired someone else, gave them hope and helped make a positive difference in their life.'
For the younger generations coming up, it is great to always know what organization the show is benefiting. Research their mission; find out the good deeds that they have done, so when it comes time for you to skate your number, you will know that you are giving a special gift from your heart to theirs.
Make a small difference; get to know the beneficiaries; take the time to take pictures and sign autographs as a thank you to the fans and supporters who come to all the official - and at non-official - meet & greet events. It will make their experience extra special and memorable. It will make yours special, as well.
Bottom line: If you see a benefit or charity -whether its skating or non-skating related - that touches your heart, go for it. Volunteer.You will get so much more in return than what you've given.
Finally, Doug Mattis:
As a coach, I encourage my young students (from Juvenile on up) to work with a Basic Skills skater--and take them to a competition and help put them on the ice. That experience does more to foster the give-back euphoria than any conversation I could have with young skaters.
However--the conversation I would have with them would include imploring that they believe that what they have to offer has a ripple-effect far beyond what they may realize. What we do...as skaters and human beings...can affect folks - including people we don't even know! -in ways we may never fully understand.
I would tell young skaters coming up that what we do on (and off) the ice MATTERS. I would tell them to create the trans-formative moments like those I've described - but don't just wait for them to fall into your lap. BE the role models they'd like to have...and they will know instantly that the joy that comes back to them is like the release of energy from fission and fusion--even the tiniest interaction releases bountiful amounts of good.
And how can they get involved now? I like the idea of asking having them ask their coach or their skating director if they can be a 'Big Brother' or 'Big Sister' to a Basic Skills skater preparing for a Basic Skills competition, and then be a part of putting that skater on the ice. They will LOVE IT! After that, the two ways I would recommend for a young skater (or any skater, really) to get involved are:
- Pick a cause with which you have a personal relationship
- Get in touch (or have your parents get in touch) with one of us in this blog post and we will help you find a cause or give-back opportunity (skating or non-skating!) that is most inspiring to you.
Five very different answers with one over-riding theme: Get involved.
Whether you take on the challenge of creating and producing an event as these five extraordinary guys have done, or if you take one small step that creates one giant leap for mankind by volunteering your time and talents to help those in need, you CAN make a difference.
After all, "It Takes a Village" to affect change. One person alone cannot change the world, but we can make a difference one step at a time. Like these five committed guys - and all the talented, dedicate skaters, coaches, clubs, parents and organizations who donate their time, resources and considerable talents to make their projects a success - you can be part of the solution.
Be the change you want to see in the world.