O'Brien on Life Lessons From Athletics

During a candid and at times humorous NCAA Convention keynote address, Soledad O’Brien shared with a near-capacity crowd how her experiences as an NCAA student-athlete influenced her life. While a student at Harvard, O'Brien was a track & field, lacrosse and rugby student-athlete.

“The coaches made me learn about process and that has been applicable to everything I’ve done in life since. Coaches teach you that the getting there is even more important than the end goal of winning – that natural talent is certainly part of the equation but not the main part. It’s buckling down and doing the work that has far more correlation to success on the field, off the field and in life.

Diversity is critical in all we do because when the face of the game changes – whether it’s the television game or the presidential game or the golf game – so many people who didn’t think they had a chance get opportunities, and they get those opportunities because it opens their minds to those opportunities. When hard work and perseverance are the key messages, not what you look like, that is critical and requires different thinking about the same old stories.”

In a blog post written by Patrick Jenkins, a track and field student-athlete at Western Kentucky, he describes some of the points Soledad made in her talk that rang true for his own experiences.

She first explained that hard work was and is the main reason for success on the field, as well as in life. "Natural talent is certainly part of the equation," she explained.

But when it comes down to the nitty gritty, hard work is a better correlation to success. Too many times I have seen this scenario played out: talented individuals succeed early in their career and, later after putting in no work, they get passed up by others who have worked hard during the off season.

O'Brien argued that knowing a diverse group of individuals not only promotes success, but also introduces you to a larger number of people that provide wisdom and experience.

She went on to explain her mentors have come from all directions: colleagues, family members, coaches, and people she has interviewed. By expanding our mentors beyond our coaches and fellow student-athletes, it allows us to reach out to more people and gather more experience/advice.
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