Blogs > The Best of Don Seeley's Columns

Former Mercury sports editor Don Seeley passed away in June 2013 from a heart attack. For more than a decade Seeley wrote about local sports. Featured here are his columns that were previously printed in The Mercury.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Motivational speaker Hillier entertains at Spring-Ford

There are a lot of people who firmly believe camps, clinics and combines are essential in the development of a young athlete. Camps to learn the fundamentals, clinics to refine them, and combines to see just how one measures up against others … mandatory means to stardom, perhaps even a college education and more.

Others, like Mickey McDaniel, the athletic director at Spring-Ford High School, firmly believe there are two considerably more important elements, or necessities, in the development of a young athlete – character and leadership – and firmly believes neither can be cultivated on any playing field, or at any camp, clinic or combine.

So McDaniel called on Craig Hillier, who speaks to more than 75,000 student-athletes a year – and to more than two million since 1990 – to convey that invaluable message to an estimated 125 more at Spring-Ford recently.

“To have the opportunity to have someone such as Craig Hillier speak to our student-athletes about character and leadership is a privilege we needed to take full advantage of,” McDaniel said. “It was an incredible opportunity for our student-athletes.”

A native of Lakeville, Minn., Hillier’s high-energy, two-hour program and contagious enthusiasm captivated everyone – from the student-athletes to McDaniel, coaches and administrators in the Spring-Ford auditorium. He was, in a word, fascinating.

“This has to be a win for the people on the other side,” Hillier said, nodding from the stage to the seats prior to his program. “The bottom line … this is about the kids.”

Hillier never once strayed from that bottom line, mixing trivia questions, music, games and laughs in with timely and both striking and inspiring remarks.

He has written two books, “Playing Beyond The Scoreboard” and “How To Step Up As A Team Leader And Still Keep Your Friends.” And as good a read both are, neither bring his message about character and leadership to life as his upbeat, absolute fun and educational program on stage.

“I like to mix in some fun and games, and throw in a serious point here and there, because minds opened through some humor get the message,” Hillier explained.

Hillier quieted his audience from the outset.

“You have to learn to stretch yourself,” he said. “Think about what you can do and what you’re willing to settle for. The difference between an average high school career and an awesome high school career is learning to stretch a little bit.”

And part of that stretching, he added, is knowing that decisions made are decisions that determine direction.

“Every time you decide to do something, ask yourself, ‘If I do this, where will it take me? If I do this, how will I feel about it tomorrow? If I do this, will I be proud to tell others about it?’” Hillier said.

To borrow a time-worn cliché, Hillier tells it like it is. He speaks his own language, a language understood by young and old alike. A father of two, he knows what it is like to be a parent. He has an insight into what his own teenagers’ lives are all about.

Knowing what those lives are about, and helping them through what can be awfully demanding years, is what Hillier dives into.

“My goal is to help kids, help them navigate through the challenging times,” he explained. “You know, you don’t have to be great to start something. But you must start something to be great. There are just so many opportunities out there. You have to get involved.

“You have to be fundamentally strong, too, or you will struggle. Sometimes the smallest adjustment will make the biggest difference. We all have to learn to think different at times, learn to see what other people may not see.”

And never once, he added, forget about the three “Rs” … and he wasn’t referring to that other cliché of reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic.

“Resiliency, respect and responsibility,” Hillier emphasized. “Resiliency … always remember that whenever there’s a setback there’s a comeback. Respect is such a huge piece in all this, too … like with the bullying today – remember you don’t have to be friends with everyone, but be friendly with the people you go to school with. And responsibility…

“You have to learn what you’re supposed to do and when you’re supposed to do it. You have to have that ability to respond. Mistakes can be great moments when you’re trying to do something right and you mess up. Mistakes can be reckless moments when you’re trying to do something stupid. Learn the difference.”

Understanding responsibility, accepting it, can be the difference between being a victor and victim, too. The victor learns and grows. The victim, on the other hand, will be shamed, and likely want to share the blame.

“Life is like a one-way street,” Hillier said. “You can always look back, but you can’t go back. So remember when you make a mistake, and remember how you’ll never want to feel like that again.”

Hillier admitted it is so easy for student-athletes – all young people, for that matter – to fall into traps. He acknowledged the challenge of wanting to fit in, and how that challenge may include at one time or another, trying alcohol, drugs and tobacco.

Not only are all three unhealthy, all three are illegal … and just one sip or one puff can prove to be so costly.

“Maybe those type of things look appealing because some other people, maybe even some friends, are doing them,” Hillier explained. “But don’t buy into the lie of the high. One night (of what others may think is fun) can destroy a life.

“Remember, there are way too many good things going for you. There is no need to experiment with drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Like I said, with every kick comes a kickback. Do not let shame ruin your game. Be responsible.”

Hillier’s underlying message? Take charge of your life, and take charge of it now. Be a role model. Be a leader, not a follower.

“There are so many opportunities to step up and lead,” he said. “So when that ball of opportunity comes your way, don’t drop it. That one time is your chance, it’s your opportunity. Don’t stop, don’t back off … it’s your time.”

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