BY JAZMINE FENLATOR
The past month has been a whirlwind. I have traveled back and forth from the east and west coast at last half a dozen times. All this travel included the Team USA Media Summit, national bobsled team selection races both in Lake Placid, N.Y. and Park City, Utah, as well as the 100 days out to Sochi Olympic Winter Games celebration in Times Square that kicked off the Road to Sochi Tour presented by Liberty Mutual Insurance. But one of the most exciting events I attended and participated in was in my hometown at the local Wayne YMCA.
I am honored and privileged to be a captain of the United States Olympic Committee’s Team for Tomorrow program, representing and leading the entire U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams. This initiative was presented by a fellow Team USA athlete that wanted to use his platform in a more effective way and get active with today’s youth within his community or wherever he traveled in order to motivate, inspire, educate and give back. I was very fortunate as I grew up to be involved in a plethora of organizations that helped fuel my aspirations, goals and work ethic — making me the person I am today. As an athlete ambassador for the Team for Tomorrow initiative, I am able to get involved and participate with local YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs all over America, as well as give back to those in need through a variety of charity events.
In my previous blogs you can sense a reoccurring theme of “the bigger picture,” “getting involved and being active,” as well as “using my journey and struggles to inspire.” Team for Tomorrow gives me that deeper understanding of what it means to represent the USA besides as an elite athlete, and allows me the opportunities to share my story and experiences with the young people, hoping to strike a chord of inspiration for them to pursue their dreams.
I haven’t been home in Wayne, N.J. since May. That’s a lie — I spent maybe 36 hours there in order to go to a meeting in NYC and then fly right back out. Regardless, it truly meant the world to me to be able to visit the Wayne YMCA and speak with the youth of my community ranging in age from 5 to 15 years old. These kids are from all over my town, some walking the halls of the very schools that I attended not too long ago. By working with the Wayne YMCA through Team for Tomorrow, I was able to give back to my hometown and the training community that initially groomed me and has supported my athletic career in pursuit of my Olympic dream.
When I spoke with the after school program, swim team, basketball team and club members, I didn’t want to just talk about myself, bobsled, my goals and what I do. I wanted to make it a bit interactive, ask them about what they do, what inspires them, get feedback on questions and topics I was putting out there. I decided to give them three tips they could use for any aspect of their lives whether sport, classroom, job, personal goals, etc. These are some things that have helped me along my way and I continue to remind myself to use them:
1. Find your motivation — whatever it is: a picture of a celebrity that inspires you, music, a chart of your progress and where you want to go, etc.
2. Don’t get defeated by your failures — use them as a chance to learn a lesson; use them as fuel to take a step forward; use them to propel you and always keep your eye on the bigger picture at all times.
3. Practice perfect — go into every task that you do giving it all your best effort. If you train at 50-percent effort or attention/focus, expect subpar results. Give your everything so that when it comes to game day, test day or whatever the event, you know you have put the work in and regardless of the result can walk away with your head held high and confident.
I later brought all the youth to the gymnasium to talk about staying fit, eating healthy, what takes athletes to the next level through attention to detail and a few athletic drills to compare bobsled training to their sports.
Being able to share some of my tips that I have learned through experience and advice was great since a few youth in the group had games and meets coming up. I challenged them to try and put these tactics to work throughout the week. Speaking with them was also a great reminder for myself and gave me that extra push since I was prepping to leave for an International Training Week in Sochi, Russia before the official start of the 2013-14 World Cup season.
I had a great time with the Wayne YMCA and encourage everyone wherever they are to get active within their community. If you are unsure how or where to start, start with your local YMCA or Boys and Girls Club. Become a member for their amazing athletic and workout services, become a mentor, volunteer or even fundraise. We as individuals cannot continue to grow without the community around us, so go out there and help build the Team for Tomorrow!