November 26, 2010 by David Gillaspie
It’s no mystery, they’re called role models.
Have you been asked ‘do you know anyone who’d like to be you?’
What would you say?
You might think ‘who would want to be me?’
Most of the time we know who we’d like to trade places with, not the other way around.
Say you scored five touchdowns in a winning state championship football game. Everyone wants to be that guy. They don’t want to do the training, the lifting and running. They don’t want to take the hits in practice.
Why? Because they’re not tough enough.
Most people see themselves on the field after the game celebrating, helmet off, bright lights and television cameras focused in.
That’s the easy part. Getting there is hard.
If you play football and get a scholarship to one of the service academies, you automatically generate a lot of fans. You look good in uniform and know how to salute.
Everyone can see themselves in uniform, if not saluting correctly.
For most people who see themselves in uniform, they see high rank. They are fleet admirals, or five-star Generals of the Army. You won’t catch author Tom Clancy without scrambled eggs on his cover.
No one sees themselves up to their elbows in pots and pans and a nasty rash during a KP stint. Or re-sealing their gas mask wrong in gas chamber school, sucking gas, and running full-puke blind for the exit.
Usually it’s one or the other; over pumped pretender on a recruiting mission, or habitual victim. It takes a special person to find a special balance.
Most of the time the person with a good balance between driver and passenger doesn’t know it. There are specific questions, and specific answers, that tell the tale.
Q: What would you tell a teammate who is having troubles with their game?
A: I’d ask him if he’s got problems outside the team first. Then I’d ask him if he’s talked to his position coach and the coordinator and the head coach. Too many guys try to solve problems on their own and end up with bigger problems than they started with. There’s already a system in place that works. I’d encourage a teammate to use it.
Q: What would you tell a friend having trouble in school?
A: The Air Force Academy does a good job in who they accept. If you get, it means you can do the work. If you have problems doing the work once you get, it’s because you’re not putting in the time. Playing catch-up in a rigorous academic environment is not going to work out in the long run.
If a friend feels like they’re falling behind, I’d tell him to talk to his professor. You schedule office time. You get with a study group. Maybe find a tutor. Some schools expect everyone they let in to succeed; my school is one of them. Do the work and you’ll be fine. Get help if you can’t do the work. Whether you drop out of the Academy, or the local JC, you’re still a drop out. Who wants to carry that tag around?
Q: What do you tell someone who’s having problems at home?
A: With problems at home, or problems with friends, you can do everything except get to the problem, but that doesn’t solve anything. Rumors and innuendo come up, but that’s not how I deal with things. Problems in relationships, whether family or friends, have a root issue. You either address it, or live with it.
Most of the time you can’t live with it, or else it wouldn’t be a problem. If it’s behavior, or substance, or reliability, you either point to it, or look away. I’d tell anyone to point to what they think the problem is and take it from there. They might be wrong, but standing up at least gives others a chance to know what you’re thinking.
This conversation happened when I met someone I’d heard about for years. A young man goes to the top of his game in high school and expects to carry on in college. He gets a chance to go to a great school and play football.
But sports makes its own choices of who can play.
After several knee injuries, this football player is on the other side of the ball. He knows his sport. He knows how it feels to stand in the light. He wears an appliance on his leg while it heals from the last problem. This is a kid who is years ahead in his view of life. He had to make other plans, and did.
He raised his sights to bigger goals.
It’s an American story.
The next time you think America is headed a direction you can’t fathom, find a cadet to explain it.
They talk the talk, and more important, they walk the walk.
After listening, you’ll know the part about who they are; they are who you’d be if you dared to dream so big. And you wouldn’t mind knowing more.
“Hup, Toop, Threep, Forp.”
Thank you, PW.