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Training for Motivation Townhall Video Transcript

Amanda Elmore:

Hi, everyone. Welcome to our USADA Town Hall. My name’s Amanda Elmore. I’m a USADA athlete educator and former rower on the national team. And we’re here today with Daniel Stewart to talk to you guys about maintaining motivation. We’ve done a few of these so far, and we’re trying to branch out from our normal USADA topics. And we’re really excited to talk about this with you today.

Daniel here, he’s been a coach for equestrian for over 35 years and he does a lot of sports psychology, sports science. His website is called Pressure Proof and he’s written books, magazine articles, does webinars, does clinics with athletes. He’s done a lot of different things in this area of motivation. Tell us a little bit more about that. I just touched on everything, but a lot of different things that you do.

Daniel Stewart:

You hit all the good stuff. You left me with the difficult stuff. Yeah, so it’s true that the majority of my work with the US Olympic and High Performance teams has been with the US Equestrian Team and the US Paralympic Team.

However, I’ve also been a ski instructor, a windsurfing instructor. I taught archery for a summer. I’m just that guy that grew up with a room full of basketballs and hockey pucks. And yeah, it appears that my expertise started to come to the top with the the equestrian disciplines. But I’ve worked with athletes from boxers to soccer players to high performance tennis players.

We’re all in it for the same reason. We’re in it to achieve success. But in order to do that, we got to go beyond the body. What’s happening below the ears is important, but what’s going on between them is really important. That’s where resiliency and grit and confidence and courage is born.

Several years ago, I left the field and I went to university and got a degree in physical education with a specialty in sports science, psychology, physiology. And I’ve just been able to kind of put that together and write a few books and it seems to be able to help riders and athletes of all different sports. Yay.

Amanda Elmore:

Yeah, yay. Yeah. Absolutely. As a elite athlete, I definitely learned that what’s between your ears is sometimes even more important than your physical strength and all those other things. And you need the what’s up here to help you grow your physical strength and physical ability. This is something that probably the athletes on the call are thinking about a lot right now, because they’re not able to do those competitions, or they may not be training with their team. They may be doing some of their workouts partially on their own. Their goals have changed. Things are really different right now. What are some ideas that you have, advice you can give to the athletes to find motivation in this weird time?

Daniel Stewart:

Yeah. This weird time, what’s really weird about it is that we’re all struggling maintaining our motivation. Oftentimes, high-performance athletes were really motivated by the process of achieving our outcomes. We know that we’ve got a world championships in 12 weeks, or we’ve got an Olympic games in two years.

That motivation for many of us is going away. We need to find other intrinsic internal motivations to replace that. One of the best ways that we could do this is to just shake it up, spike it up, just get a little, tiny bit crazy. Doing the same thing over and over again, like listening to the same song, after a while it just wears off and is no longer really stimulating or interesting. What my athletes, what I’ll do is when I find their motivation dipping, I’ll throw some surprises at them.

One thing that I’ll do for track athletes for example, if they’ve never run with a parachute, then I’m going to throw the parachute on them. If they’ve never trained in the sand, then I’m going to take them to the beach and we’ll do wind sprints or agility ladder in the sand.

By adding different modalities, we create a uniqueness, a weirdness, a what is he talking about-ness? And whenever we do that, we peak our interest and that’s required to sort of rekindle our motivation. If your athletes, if they’ve never done squats on a Bongo Board. If they’ve never used a speed rope or a battle rope, get it out, get it out. You’re still doing squats. You’re still doing the workout, but you’re adding a modality like a Bongo Board or a beach to it.

And then, that brings a second idea, is instead of working out in the same place every time, I encourage athletes to do exercise excursions. Out in Colorado Springs where you’re located, you know very clearly not too far away, there is a set of 3,000 stairs reaching 9,000 feet of elevation. Instead of just doing stairs, why not go and do 3,000 stairs? Why not hit to Empire State Buildings in one day at 9,000 feet?

When I do my training camps out at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York, we don’t do stairs, we run the ski jumps. And when I tell the athletes they’re doing ski jumps, that they’re going up the side of a mountain. They’re like, “You kidding, really?” But you know that the true athlete is like, “This is different. This is unique. This is interesting. This is kind of, it could be fun.”

Think about adding different pieces of equipment and then also different locations. Maybe throwing a mud run a Savage Race, something like that. Yeah, you’re going to run. You’re going to run three or four miles that day, but you’re going to go over 28 obstacles that’ll challenge you in a different way. I also really like to change the programs up.

I’ll bring a quarter for example, to a class. And if I flip it, the athletes have to do 50 burpees. If it’s a head. But if it’s a tail, they have to do 50 squat thrusts. The problem with the coin is you never know whether it’s going to hit three heads in a row. You’ve just done 150 burpees, all you could ever hope for are squat thrusts right now.

When you add things like that, when you take a deck of UNO cards and every color becomes a different exercise, knowing there’s a bunch of plus fours in that deck and a bunch of repeats in that deck, you never know whether you’re going to be doing 60 flutter kicks or crunches in a row.

Amanda Elmore:

Oh.

Daniel Stewart:

By changing it up right, by changing them up, oh, here’s a fun one, it’s called RPS, rock paper, scissors. Get a partner, play rock, paper, scissors. If you lose, your partner jumps on your back and you got to do wind sprints. Drop them, rock, paper, scissors again, God dang it, back on my back. When you add things that spice it up that are different, that creates interest that creates this sort of challenge that so many high performance athletes are looking for, especially at times when motivation is low.

Amanda Elmore:

Cool. Yeah. I love those concrete ideas and the UNO deck one makes me think you could even do that in your living room. If you see like a red eight, then that means you have to do eight sit ups and then a green seven means you do seven jumping jacks. Is that what you’re saying?

Daniel Stewart:

That’s exactly what it is. The problem is when you do your eight crunches and then you pull a plus four. Now, you’ve got to do eight plus four, so now you do 12 more. And then, you pull a plus two, now you just did 12, you got to add two, so you do 14 more. And then, the next card is a reverse direction meaning, you have to do it again. You’ve only pulled four cards, but you’ve just done like 60 crunches. And all you could hope for is, give me this burpee, give me a squat thrust. Just the neatest thing about the flipping the coin, the neatest thing about the rock, paper, scissors in the UNO is it’s unpredictable, right? You don’t know what exercise is going to happen next. You don’t know how many of them you’re going to have to do. And that’s so stimulating to high-performance athletes.

It just keeps, it’s like on the verge of, “All right. I’m ready for whatever happens next.” There’s no boredom involved in rock, paper, scissors, flipping and UNO cards, but there can be a lot of boredom involved in COVID training. That’s for sure, so mix it up, take them home, put them in your living room. You’re right.

Amanda Elmore:

Yeah. Cool. Those are good ideas. And I liked that you have some that have a partner involved because it’s always good to have, like, what do you think about how motivating it is to have someone to work with?

Daniel Stewart:

It’s a bit of a game changer, right? Even in individual sports, we’ve identified that in order for us to tap into our individual potential, it helps to have others to push us. Now, the others can be teammates, they can be coaches. My son’s an elite tennis player. My favorite lesson with him ever was watching him practice his serves while the coach was hucking tennis balls at him.

He had to stay mentally focused with all these tennis balls zinging by him. Now, those tennis balls don’t get to zing by him unless there’s somebody there to throw the tennis balls at him. If any of your high-performance athletes are struggling, yeah, add new modalities like a Bongo Board or an agility ladder or sand. Add programs like UNO cards, but add a mate. Add a partner. Obviously, it can create motivation, but it, you know what it does, it also kind of keeps us on track and makes us more accountable. Like, all right, Luca is going to be on the tennis court in an hour. I am so not into it. I can’t let him down. I find myself on the court where without Luca, I might not be there.

Amanda Elmore:

Cool. Yeah, so I really like those ideas, but what it makes me think of is when I was on the rowing team and we would go home over a break and have to train on our own and our coaches would give us, “Every morning you have to do 90 minutes on the ERG and then the afternoon you have to do 60 minute run.” And it wasn’t really an option. It’s not like I can just throw in an UNO card workout. I mean, maybe sometimes I would do my own circuit or something, but what if the athletes have to do a training plan that the coaches have given them, they don’t have the option to do something different, but they’re not able to find motivation to get that work done?

Daniel Stewart:

Yeah, a really good question. We need to remember that training is not just physical training. Most of us believe that when we go to a training program you just mentioned, 60 minutes on the ERG, I’m talking about squat thrusts, I’m talking about doing squats on a Slackline. I’m talking about making exercises interesting. However, bottom line, exercises can be pretty boring, they really can.

What we do need to remember is that training doesn’t mean physical training. That’s just half of it. If any of your athletes are struggling, finding their way beyond the tediousness that can occur in a long-term training program, remember that training and especially boring training, is a wicked good exercise for developing mental skills like resilience, grit. I mean, this is the way it goes. Everybody you ever met who had a really epic teacher in school, like in middle school, you had this super awesome social studies teacher and you love the teacher and you did super well for the teacher? Like everybody gets an A in that teacher’s class because you work hard for teachers, you like. They stimulate you. They make it interesting.

Here’s the real key. Here’s the real test of an athlete, is can you do really well in a class with the teacher you don’t like? See, everybody can do really well in a class with a teacher they do like, because the teacher provides the motivation. When our teachers aren’t necessarily huge motivators, they’re telling you 60 minutes on the ERG or whatever, it’s up to us to say, “Well, it’s not just about the ERG. It’s about developing the mental skills of resiliency, pushing beyond what I tend to perhaps want to limit myself at.”

I’ve always said that, “If you always do what’s easy, your sport’s going to be hard. But if you always do what’s really hard, your sport will feel easy.” We need to remember training isn’t just physical, it’s mental. We can tell ourselves, “Yeah, this is really boring. But the skills that I’m developing aren’t just strength or stamina. The resiliency, the belief, the finishing what I start. They’re the never quite ability gene that I know was so deep inside me. Yeah. Yeah, boring training sessions are amazing, epic, [inaudible 00:12:34] great training sessions for mental skills.

Amanda Elmore:

Kind of what you’re saying is, “Embrace the boring.” Like don’t wait to find motivation, just do it. And then, it’ll teach you resilience and motivation and everything.

Daniel Stewart:

I hate to admit it, but it’s a gift. It’s just an amazing gift. I mean, if you have a trainer who is always out there and pushing you and pushing you, then COVID hits and you’re on your own, you might not have developed the mental skills to push yourself. But if you’re out there with a trainer who you struggle with, with a coach that perhaps isn’t that Kumbaya Disney Channel pump up rah-rah coach, then you’ve got to be able to motivate yourself. But you can’t motivate yourself unless you get yourself into a program where you’re like, “Yeah, this is boring. Yeah, now it’s on you. Find your own motivation.” Boring lessons are such great mental training skill exercises. That’s more, that’s true.

Amanda Elmore:

No, I like that. And I think I tried to embrace that when I was rowing and it’s a tough lesson, but I think it is important. We actually have, someone submitted a question that’s kind of the opposite. You were just saying, “What do you do if you have a boring coach that’s like not motivating you, just giving you boring trainings?”

What if you’re a coach or a parent and you’re trying to be motivating, but your athletes or your children just aren’t motivated? How do you motivate someone as a coach?

Daniel Stewart:

Okay, so we can go back to what we talked about earlier. Instead of asking them to do squats, you buy a Slackline, you throw it up between two trees and you make them do squats standing on a Slackline. And then, you look at the young athlete and they’re like, “Are you kidding me? Is this even possible?”

And then, you’re like, “No, it’s not possible yet. Now, it’s not [crosstalk 00:14:28].” And you know what you do? You just get under their skin and you give them these little challenges that they create their own motivation of from. We talked a lot about even like the UNO cards, those are just super good motivators. But when it gets to the emotional part, like the mental part of motivating a teammate or motivating a student, it’s just really, really important for us to remind everybody that our success in our sport is not going to be defined by your body mass index. It’s going to be defined by your ability to push beyond limits and to motivate yourself.

But it’s also defined by the mental skills. When we do struggle, I always encourage parents, coaches, trainers, teammates, to really hit on two things, effort and attitude. All right? We focus so much on outcome, right? Wins and loses. We focus on first place or first loser. We focus on first or last, beat or be beaten, we focus so much on the outcome. But the outcome is almost always out of our control.

What is in our control is effort and attitude. Those of us who are struggling, who are trying to help others find their own motivation, especially if they’re in a slump, slumps are kind of like a four-letter word in five letters. But oftentimes when a slip will hit, we lose interest, motivation, we start to doubt ourselves. We start to believe that we’re not capable of what we used to be capable of.

When it comes to things like that, I’ll just really hit with that athlete. I’ll just develop a couple of exercises to let them turn that light away from the outcome and towards the effort and the attitude. Effort and attitude are what create outcomes. Yeah, we just get stuck focusing on outcomes and we kind of forget the effort and attitude part.

Amanda Elmore:

Yeah, totally. Really, really important stuff. we’ve been talking about how to get motivated today, or you’re in a slump today, what can I go do today to go find motivation? But some of these athletes are, I mean, a lot of them are probably looking to the Olympics next summer. But some of them may be younger and they’re looking four years, eight years down the road. How do you maintain motivation when your goal is so far away?

Daniel Stewart:

Yeah, wouldn’t it be nice if we could just have Olympics every year?

Amanda Elmore:

I know.

Daniel Stewart:

That would be perfect. Let’s get a petition together, that would be so good because then we’d all be like right in the middle of our peaking program. We’d all just be able to see in the near future how important it is for us to work hard right now.

Super cool question because so many of us will struggle with that, with the long-term goals and that sort of thing. There’s a really cool program, and it’s called a WIN program. And I’m a huge fan of the WIN program. I’m not a huge fan of a winning it or a win attitude. Here’s a win attitude: If I don’t win, then the system is flawed. If I don’t win, I’m going to hate myself. You know, like we just focused on winning and losing.

A winning attitude, I remember people like Michael Jordan and Lance Armstrong saying things like, “Yeah, I mean, it was a brutal race today. I was up against a really tough field. I’m happy I was able to improve upon my performance from last year. But man, that other team, they really pushed me. They’ve been working really hard.” That’s a winning attitude. You don’t focus on the win or the loss, you focus on the effort and the attitude once again.

The WIN program is an acronym for What’s Important Now. What’s Important Now. W-I-N. With your athletes when you think about this, yeah, you might have two years to the next Olympics, but what’s important right now? You need to look into your training program and find a piece that’s missing.

Is it a mental training piece? Is it a mindfulness piece? Is it a goal setting piece? A visualization piece? Is it a strength, a stamina, a suppleness, is it an injury piece? Yeah, you’ve got two years until the next Olympics, you got three years, some of you until the next Olympics. But what’s important right now? Do you need to develop the mental skills that have proven that have been lacking? Do you find that that when the race starts to get away from you, you give up on yourself a bit? Beautiful, you’ve got three years to figure out how to become more resilient to develop that grit that’s required them to push on and finish strong.

Yeah, those long-term challenges are really cool. And they’re almost impossible as long as you focus on how long it is, but if you focus on what’s important now, and in one way for your athletes to do this is to remember that we’re all two people, our performer self and our present self.

Here’s a good example. Let’s say that my present self is currently hungry, tired and dehydrated. Well, my present self is not capable of being successful. So then, what I do is identify my weaknesses in the present self and I changed my behaviors to create my performer herself.

In this situation to become my best performer, I need to hydrate, eat healthy and rest. When I make those behavioral changes, I increase the potential of success. Yeah, for those of you who are looking at a year or three years down the road, what’s important right now? What’s the chink in your armor? What’s holding you back? What’s always been holding you back? Do you have the guts to literally shine a light, not on what you’re good at, you know that. But on what you’re not good at, what’s holding you back? And then, have the courage, the vulnerability to work on the stuff that you’re not really good at.

Now, the ways that we can do this to create more motivation is by cross-training. I mentioned my son as an elite tennis player. His tennis coach made him take soccer lessons because the tennis coach said, “Soccer is very good for footwork.” I think that the coach saw my son that maybe he was losing motivation because the next tournament wasn’t for a year, so he has him playing soccer for the portion of that year to work on this foot work. Growing up, I was a nationally ranked track and field long jump and sprints.

Amanda Elmore:

Cool.

Daniel Stewart:

I was probably no more than 14 years old getting out of bed before school to go take ballet lessons, so I could be more graceful at the plate when I was taking off in long jump.

Amanda Elmore:

Nice.

Daniel Stewart:

The coaches shook it up, it was like, “You’re a 14 year old boy, go do ballet.” “You’re an awesome tennis player, you can’t get better until you play some soccer.”

Amanda Elmore:

Cool.

Daniel Stewart:

Yeah, maybe you’ve got three years to wait, play some soccer, do some ballet.

Amanda Elmore:

Yeah, totally. We don’t have to be just always focused on that one thing and your-

Daniel Stewart:

Burnout.

Amanda Elmore:

Yeah. Your acronym WIN, it also reminds me of kind of enjoy the journey. Is that kind of the same thing? Like, I think about this all the time, thinking back to my rowing career, like I don’t miss being at the Olympics. I miss being at training with my friends and working hard every day. And some days in the moment I hated it and I didn’t feel motivated, but that’s the part we miss looking back. It’s kind of a reminder that if you’re in that right now, realize that it is the good part.

Daniel Stewart:

Yeah. I’ve always said you don’t get medals at the competitions, you get them when you’re training, you just pick them up at the competition.

Amanda Elmore:

Yeah.

Daniel Stewart:

Yeah. You don’t earn them at the competition.

Amanda Elmore:

Right.

Daniel Stewart:

You don’t earn the medal at a rowing event. You earned it in the six years of training you did before, and you just went to the event to pick it up. Like, literally.

Amanda Elmore:

Yeah. Yeah, that’s really motivating. I like that.

Daniel Stewart:

Really kind of cool is what I found. And I remember studying this, but what I found is that high-performance athletes are often really motivated by numbers. My son came home, actually, my daughter is a good example, too. My daughter’s a lacrosse player, right? She comes home and she’s like, “Remember that thing you taught at the Olympic Training Center?” Because she’s one of my assistant coaches. And I’m like, “What?” And she goes, “Remember you asked us as a team to try and do 50,000 stairs in four days?” And she thought that was such a big number.

The team actually did 88,000 stairs in four days. Like, they loved the number. And I remember I said, “Guys, you’ve got your number, good.” And then, one athlete looks at me and she goes, “Can we do more?” It was like 5:30 in the morning. Because she’s like, “The sun’s not even up. Let’s just do some more stairs.” We’re super motivated by numbers. If you’ve got a number like three years to wait, find a number like a 100,000. Like a 100,000 stairs or 10,000 free throws or 6,000 tennis serves or 5,000 pick-up, lacrosse pick-up, whatever it is, identify what your sport is. You know you got to practice.

You know that the 1,000 hour rule says, “If you want to be really good at something, you just got to keep chunking away at it.” Numbers are really motivating, especially super ominously, horribly big numbers, like a 100,000 stairs. Like, can you do 100,000 years in the next per year for the next three years? The answer is, “Yes.” You’re going to have to give up some stuff like doubt and hesitation and maybe sleep. I mean, [inaudible 00:24:04]. But just start, just figure it out, get a counter. You have those counters and you just get your flights of stairs or your serves. It’s super fun.

Amanda Elmore:

Yeah. And then also, the other side of numbers, small numbers, I remember I used to break down the workout into 10 strokes or just, I need to run for one more minute. Okay, then another one more minute. And if you focus on the numbers like that, I totally agree. Really motivating.

Daniel Stewart:

I worked with a runner once and she said, “I never run 26 miles.” And I’m like, “What are you talking about? You run marathons.” And she goes, “No, I like, I find a telephone pole and then I run to the pole. And then, want to get to that pole, I find like a fence and I run to the fence.” And she says, “If you want me to run 26 miles, that’s like, no.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, we develop that ability. We develop the patience and the attention span. There’s an athletic equivalent to attention span in patience. And that’s what really successful long-distance and long-term athletes have in common. But breaking big things down into little pieces is quite motivating. Just run to that tree and then run to that dog, and-

Amanda Elmore:

Yeah, totally.

Daniel Stewart:

No dogs or trees, then you need to find that intrinsic motivation. But a lot of us have been able to develop that just because our trainers have created really boring programs that we had to be resilient, patient through.

Amanda Elmore:

To find your own ways through those. Yeah. We are kind of running out of time, but I have another question that I want to talk about for a little bit. We mentioned like a slump. You get into this funk where you just for a longer period of time just can’t find motivation. Maybe it’s an injury or maybe it’s a global pandemic or something that’s just making it, you just don’t feel like yourself and you’re not being able to find motivation over a long period of time. And so, how do you get out of that slump?

And when can you consider that slump, maybe depression, that you actually have something more serious going on that’s not just like a normal athletic slump?

Daniel Stewart:

Yeah. I don’t think anything has been studied more than slumps. I mean, because we’ve all felt the incredible disappointment in a slump. And it’s not just because we’re no longer able to physically perform that task the way we used to, the disappointment gets turned inward ourselves. We’re not disappointed that we can’t hit the ball anymore. We’re disappointed in ourselves that we can’t hit the ball anymore.

The one thing that all studies in slumps have shown is to find the inner strength, the resiliency to just push on and keep doing what you’re doing. Here’s the problem with slumps. A lot of times, an athlete, baseball player, for example, they have a slump they’re in a hitting slump. Now, they’re hitting style has worked with them for three decades, but now they’re in a slump. You know what they try and do? They try and change everything they’ve learned for the last 30 years.

And they try something new. That’s starting all over again. The really hard part about the slump is to have the belief that every slump starts and every slump will end. You just got to ride it out. You just literally have to ride it out. The majority of studies will say in slumps, “Don’t be going and changing a bunch of stuff.” Now, maybe you can add stuff. Maybe you add a mental coaching part of it. We do a lot of work with rapid eye movement. Maybe the baseball player, you keep that same stroke, but you start working on your eye movements a little, tiny bit, that sort of thing. You can add things, but we should never really be subtracting things.

Like, “I’m not going to wiggle my butt before I hit that ball anymore.” “No, dude, look at your butt, it’s worked for 30 years. Don’t be changing it now.” Slumps are really pretty cool. They hit us and hurt us all. Over, underlying message would be: Don’t lose faith. Keep believing in yourself. Put the effort in. Keep your attitude. Like I said before, try not to make changes, but you can throw some new things in. Usually, they’re mental coaching tools that we’re going to throw in.

But you hit on an interesting word earlier, depression. How do we know when we’re just really bummed out or when we’re actually kind of maybe moving into like depression, like clinical depression? How do we know the difference? Well, so this is really kind of interesting. When we are depressed, when an athlete is depressed or an individual, I suppose, is depressed, we often have feelings of self, like worthlessness, hopelessness and helplessness. We develop what’s called a victim mindset. All of your athletes have heard of that before.

There’s a survivor mindset where, “Get out of my way. I’m going to make it work no matter what.” And a victim mindset, which is more like, “It doesn’t matter what I do. Never works, I might as well just quit.” You know what I’m saying? That victim, that learned helpless mindset. How do we know whether we’re feeling depression or we’re feeling bored or lack of motivation?

Well, ask yourself this: When we’re feeling depressed, that is always about the self. “I feel worthless. I feel hopeless. I feel hopeless right now.” When I feel those things, then maybe we talk to somebody who can help us to come out of that depression. However, when we are bored, when we’re lacking motivation, we never intend to turn it towards ourself, but towards the situation.

The difference is the self or situation. “Yeah. I got to wait three years for the next Winter Olympics, dammit. I’m like super unmotivated. I’m not depressed because I’m okay with myself. The situation is causing me to lose motivation.” The two words, self and situation are really important when it comes to at least starting to diagnose whether we’re depressed or whether we’re just totally bummed out, unmotivated and needing the Slackline squat or doing sprints on an agility ladder on the beach or running up 3,000 stairs on the side of the mountain or doing a Savage Race or a mud run.

Situations can be overcome. It’s much more difficult to overcome disappointment in ourselves. Self is usually directed towards depression and situations, usually causes to lose motivation.

Amanda Elmore:

Wow, that’s a really helpful distinction. I think that was explained really well. And hopefully, will give people some guidance and motivation.

Daniel Stewart:

There’s one other little piece to that. I hope you don’t mind if I add one more thing.

Amanda Elmore:

No, please.

Daniel Stewart:

Oftentimes, people will go, “I’m so depressed. Should I just quit now? Should I just give up?” Okay. When’s it okay to give up? Okay. Short answer: never. Let’s say, and I’m not an expert in this field, but let’s say that we are starting to feel somewhat of that victim mindset, that depression. Well, without a question, and just Google it, you all do it anyway. Just Google it. How do you get out of a depression? You won’t find one list of five things that doesn’t include exercise. Get outside, exercise, give yourself a shot of endorphins. Just move. If you’re bored because you got to wait three years, move. If you’re depressed, move. It’s never a time to quit moving. Never quit time, time to quit exercising, never is the right answer.

Amanda Elmore:

Pick up the next UNO cards.

Daniel Stewart:

Yeah. And let’s say that they can’t actually find the UNO cards, most of your athletes have heard of the five or 10 minute compromise. If you’re just totally not into working out, you’re totally bummed out, not motivated, put your shoes on. Just this. Put your shoes on. Okay? That’s the first step.

Most people are like, “Well, now that I’ve got the shoes on, I might as well go outside.” And then, run for five minutes. And after five minutes, if you’re still hating it, then just literally stop, like run around the block instead of running up the street. And tell yourself, “When I get back to the house in five minutes, I’ll just stop.” Here’s the good news, within that five minutes, your endorphin levels have gone up. You just don’t want to stop anymore. You just got to get the shoes on and you just got to get through five minutes. You’ll be fine.

Amanda Elmore:

Yeah. That’s awesome. That’s so motivating. Well, thank you very much, Daniel. Could you, as we close, give the athletes some resources where they could follow up more information about you or maybe contact you? I know you do some one-on-one coaching. You’ve wrote a couple of books. Where could they, if they want to follow up and find more information?

Daniel Stewart:

Yeah. Yeah. I’ve been lucky enough, I just finished writing my fourth book. It’s crazy when I think about it. I just sent it to my publishers about two weeks ago. All of my books are on athletic performance and sports psychology. I’m just that guy that believes that distances are important in sports. We’ve got a hundred meters, we’ve got distances throughout our sport. We got 10 yards for a first down, but the most important distance of all is the six inches between our ears. The six inches or the six feet below them is fine. Or the five feet below them is fine, but what’s going on between our ears is really important. I’ve written four books on athletic performance and sports psychology.

I like to use humor a great deal. I suppose, if nothing else works, smile, open your shoulders, take a deep breath. And humor, watching funny movies, listening to empowering music. I tend to be that kind of pump up guy.

I’ve written three or four books now full of cartoons and fill-in-the-blanks and jokes and motivating quotes and colors and photos and pictures and cartoons. I believe that we can only kind of tap into our full potential when we’re feeling really good about ourselves. And we feel pretty good about ourselves and we’re smiling and laughing and enjoying ourselves and kind of empowered. I’ve written four books on that. Why don’t you just have everybody reach out to me directly? My email address is: rideright1@gmail. I can point you in the direction of websites. I can send you a book. I can sign you up for my one-on-one private phone or Zoom consultations. You can sit in California with me, or Florida and talk. Rideright1. R-I-D-E-R-I-G-H-T, then the number one at Gmail, just shoot me an email and we’ll just talk.

Amanda Elmore:

Awesome. Thank you so much. And I think he USADA will probably send that in a follow-up email, too. We really appreciate you talking today and giving that as a resource. I think your answers were great and really motivated me. What’s important now? [crosstalk 00:35:13]. What should I go do after this?

Daniel Stewart:

Good. Well, I hope you’re motivated. I hope all of your athletes are motivated, as well. We need it, but we always, like COVID is just a thing.

Amanda Elmore:

I know.

Daniel Stewart:

I mean, it’s just an opportunity for us to prove that we are tougher than the situations that are in front of us. COVID is just a thing. There’ll be another thing. We’re going to break a leg. We’re going to pull a muscle. We’re going to get into a slump, COVID’s just one of those. But we need to believe that we’re just as tough as the things that we’re going to face, so I sure hope this helps.

Amanda Elmore:

Yeah. Thank you so much.

Daniel Stewart:

You’re welcome.

Amanda Elmore:

Really appreciate it. Have a good one.

Daniel Stewart:

Thank you.

Amanda Elmore:

Bye.

Diversity in Sport Townhall Video Transcript

Amanda:

Hi, everyone. So glad you could join us for our second USADA Town Hall. For those of you that didn’t visit us for the first one, this is a new thing we’re starting at USADA. We wanted to have a space for athletes to hear from some different speakers, talk about some different topics that are a little different than what we usually talk about at USADA, but we wanted to branch out because we thought this was a really important time to, while we’re all home, talk about some things a little different.

So my name is Amanda, I am the host of the Town Hall. I’m a retired rower, I was on the national team for four years and was an Olympian in Rio. So I’ll be talking to our speakers. So today, we are really excited to have Karlyn Kieffer with us. She has a lot of experience in the topic of diversity and inclusion in sports. She’s done training with athletes, specifically, she was the Chief Diversity Officer for the US Tennis Association. Now, she is the founder and owner of her own communications consulting business. So she’s an awesome woman and really easy to talk to. I’ve got a lot of great questions for her, but if you guys ever have any questions, please put them in the question box and we’ll try to get to them.

So, Karlyn, good to have you. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Karlyn:

Okay, there we go. Hi there, so glad to be here and thank you, Amanda, for the very overblown introduction. So I’ll try to live up to all that you’ve said. So just very quickly about myself. I’ll give you two sides of it. I’ll give you the diversity and inclusion side, and the athlete side. So first, to speak to the athletes, I am a former athlete, although not as super cool as you, being on a national team, representing a country and stuff, and being amazing. So I played seven sports as a kid, obviously not at the same time, so from my first sport was soccer, my grandfather told my mom she had to get me in soccer or something that allowed me to run around because I ate as much as a grown man when I was six.

So I started with soccer, I later … and she was one of my coaches during that time, I then played softball, basketball where my dad became one of my coaches, I did gymnastics, tennis, swimming, although I was horrible at swimming, now I just like sitting in the pool but it’s a whole different issue. And then … I’m trying to think of what sports I missed. Anyway, so a bunch of sports that I enjoyed, and I am the underachiever in the athlete department in my family, as my brother, father and mother all played college basketball, albeit that my mother was a college basketball player back in the day when women played half court, and could only dribble twice before they did something with the ball. So I still though am a full blow sports fiend.

When we were growing up, my father used to quiz us on team mascots, and for every sport there was, and actually to this day if you go just back to the family part of that, if you go to my mothers house during baseball or football season, you’re not allowed to speak unless it’s a commercial, because she’s so into the game. So I come with it running through my DNA, I feel like. When I grew up, I eventually wanted to be in sport in some way, shape or form. Ultimately, my first job in sport was with the USTA, I was their first chief diversity officer from 2004, yes their first in 2004. This century. To 2008, and later actually went onto teach at the first ever diversity and corporate social responsibility in the Georgetown University sports management program, so I got to take it a little bit further and then continue to consult with a bunch of different sports organizations, including USADA, way back in 2010 I believe.

So anyway, a little bit about me and my sport DNA.

Amanda:

Cool. Thank you. So I’m interested, what is it like to be chief diversity officer of an organization, and what kind of things were you doing for the tennis team and I guess the whole organization? What kind of initiatives were you leading? What is it like to be in that profession?

Karlyn:

Painful. I say that nicely though. It was a good kind of pain, because you were making progress. So tennis is one of the last sports to come along on the diversity front. When I first got there, they were very clear that we were not doing a diversity and inclusion initiative and certainly not diversity, equity and inclusion like most are now. Back then, it was diversity, multi-cultural focus. And that was because the other issues that fall under the umbrella of diversity seemed either too controversial or not anything that they were interested in at the time. So I like to say that when I got there, the organization felt emotionally and mentally like it waws 1950-something, and I’ll leave it to everybody that’s watching to go back and read history about what life was like back then.

But by the time I left in 2008, it was closer to 1990, so I feel like we did four decades of progress in four years, but largely it was because the leadership component. So the head of the USTA, his name was Lee Hamilton, Lee lived, breathed and thrived on pushing diversity and awakening people. So my statement that I made every single time I made a speech about him was always that Lee was if not two steps ahead of me leading the way of diversity, he was standing next to me, helping push it along and then in diversity initiatives, as you can see just based on what’s going on in the country right now, you will always get knocked down at some point so he was there, two steps behind me, to pick me up, dust me off, stick me back in the game.

But the purpose of diversity and inclusion there was to bring greater diversity on and off the courts, so from community tennis players, those who play at their local schools and parks and in local leagues and things, but also finding the next great champion and diversifying our champion pool. And then ultimately, what a lot of people don’t realize is that the USTA is made up of probably I’d say a third of the USTA is governed by the 17 regions, which are in obviously regional breakouts throughout the country, a third of it is governed by the headquarter office, which is currently NY Plains, soon to be in Florida, and the staff is about 1200. And then the last third is actually governed by volunteers, and so there were also about 900 volunteers that were involved with the organization, and everyone was charged with bringing more people into the game, both from a business it was the right thing to do for business, but socially it’s the right thing to do, and making sure that when you go onto a court and you don’t look like the stereotypical tennis player, there’s no one saying “I’m sorry, you don’t belong here, we have the court time”. “Yeah, I belong here too, I have a membership, thanks”.

USTA had a really discriminatory history, and so we were there to right the wrongs.

Amanda:

Yeah. That’s really cool. So do you have any specific memories from an event or something you did where you felt like you were really impacting the people and you felt like there was meaningful change?

Karlyn:

Oh yeah. There are a number of ones, so I’m going to give two really quickly. One that shows the change, but two for context to understand really how amazing that change was. So every year at the US Open, there is a presidents box, so this is where the president of the organization gets to invite all of their fancy friends to come and watch tennis for the two weeks of the US Open, and we had a former professional tennis player, her name was Leslie Allen, or is still Leslie Allen. Leslie’s mom also played professional tennis, but Leslie’s mom played when there was only the ATA, the American Tennis Association which was blacks only, because they weren’t allowed to play in American tennis. So Leslie one day brought her mom to the presidents box. She looked around and she says “Wow, things really have changed”. She says “The fact that there is more than just me here”, one, because she wouldn’t have been allowed there when she played. But two, there were probably about 30 to 40 percent of the attendees in the presidents box were actually people of color. Which she would have never expected to see certainly when she was playing, and so then I just went okay.

So that’s anecdotal, I can’t … we were still young and early in the process of trying to figure out the statistical changes and being able to really make big difference, but her moment of wow and the fact that she felt comfortable and she didn’t feel like someone was going to come question her for being there, and all those other things, was really great.

Now, turn the clock back, just to understand how meaningful that statement is, turn the clock back about 20 years, and we have a retired tennis player named Zina Garrison. Zina is the first African American female to make it to the finals of Wimbledon. And this was back in the eighties-

Amanda:

Okay, eighties.

Karlyn:

Back in the eighties. And so Zina made it to the finals of Wimbledon, she’s also the first African American female to, and actually first female period, to take home a gold medal in the Olympics for tennis.

Amanda:

Oh, really?

Karlyn:

And so Zina was in, as you all know when you’re going into your championship match, then she’s getting her mind right, doing her head talk, getting her head in the game and ready to go take the court, and if you’ve ever watched tennis obviously on camera, or excuse me on TV, then you see you get ushered down to the court with security and whatever, just to make sure that the players get there, now. Back then, the players left the locker room and still walked down to the court, and Zina was stopped three separate times on her way to the court to show her badge to prove she belonged there on the court. Now this is a woman who has played in the tournament the entire time, has had to walk by the same security people the entire two weeks, and here she is going to play the match of her life, and she has to stop and justify how this little black girl gets to go play on the court in this huge match.

She didn’t win, unfortunately, and she will never say, I will never guess, but no one can ever assume what impact that had, but the fact that you are in a zone while you’re on your way to your match, and someone can take your eye off the ball by asking you to prove yourself, who you are as a human, is disconcerting to anyone, and I think that it shows how much progress we actually have made in that now that you see, because no one would ever ask Venus or Serena to say “I’m sorry, and you are?”

Amanda:

No, that’s a great story, and I mean as you say thankfully things have improved but it’s possible that someone might feel in that sort of situation and I just wonder, what would you have said to her if you were there? She’s walking down, and what as … someone with your experience, what would you have said to her to make her feel like she did belong there and just … I’m thinking so the athletes can hear that story and what would they say to a team mate or someone who doesn’t feel included?

Karlyn:

Yeah, I think it boils down to the self-talk part, and it’s also unfortunately if you are a person of color, if you are a woman playing a mans sport, if you are someone who is part of the LGBTQ+ community, in any way shape or form, you’ve dealt with ignorance unfortunately, that’s just a necessary part of your life. And the thing that I would say is and that’s required, which my parents used to tell me all the time is you have to be your own best cheerleader. You have to be the one that knows you belong there, that knows you’ve done the work, that knows that you earned your spot there and it’s staying focused on that and not letting a hater who either deliberately was trying to throw you off, or unintentionally threw you off, but there’s always going to be someone to try and break your flow, and I think that just comes down to your resilience, your toughness, and going in eyes wide open that the struggle, or excuse me, the ignorance factor might be there so have your response, have your defense up, have your mind focused and you just show and keep it moving.

But really, as far as you can do your own self-talk, every single day. And that goes for corporate America as well. Once you’re done with sport, you go get a different job in some way, shape or form. It all plays out the same way, that you have to be your best cheerleader all the time.

Amanda:

Yeah. That’s great advice. I think seeing those, hearing those stories it’s not … she wasn’t in a good situation, but it’s empowering for us to see that she made it through that and she still did so well and motivates us to work on our own self-talk, so that when we’re in a situation that’s not nearly as trying but is still challenging, to keep our head up and the self-talk and yeah. That’s a good story. And I’m glad that we’re working to make things better. So that leads me to my next question, so we’re talking about the improvements we’ve made and the improvements that we hope to make, and I’m interested, in your opinion what does diversity in sport look like? What’s the goal, what are some areas that really need improvement and where do you think we’re going?

Karlyn:

So in a lot of sports, diversity exists. I will say in most sports, or in a lot of sports still, inclusion does not exist. So what does diversity in sport look like? I think it’s everything from the front office, or the back office, whichever, whoever is managing the team, so those parts of things, coaches, but also presidents and heads of operation and things like that. There’s much more diversity needed there. I think that from a play perspective there are certainly some sports that are more diverse than others, so for instance hockey is 100 times better than what I remember as a kid in terms of its inclusion factor, or it’s diversity, back when I was growing up in the eighties and nineties as well.

When I grew up, there was a time where an African American or a person of color couldn’t be the smart position on the field, so whether that was the quarterback of a football team or the captain of a football team or whatever, those were the heady spots and so the people of color weren’t smart enough to handle those, and they also weren’t qualified enough according to society, to be able to be coaches. And so that’s why it became a thing in football, they always call it Black Monday, where not only … and it’s at the end of every season, in any sport, the coaches who get fired based on the teams that didn’t do that well that season in whatever sport there is that happens, but in a lot of sports they count how many people of color lost their jobs as coach.

The only sport where that doesn’t happen at all is in basketball, because it’s inclusive enough … I should say in men’s basketball. Because it’s inclusive enough that you don’t need to keep count on one hand how many there are. So I think when we can stop counting when we lose somebody, I think that’s when we’ve actually hit the right diversity point on the staffing, running things side. From an inclusion standpoint, I would argue that you still have a lot of barriers up, not just along the color lines but you have LGBTQ there’s a lot of stigma, negative energy attached. We’ve seen a number of times over the years on how gay athletes are treated either in the locker room or once they come out, which is why most stay, they are not out when they’re actually playing, they don’t come out until they retire. And it’s because my teammates are going to feel some kind of way, and they worry about the treatment or the harassment or something else with that because you’re in such close proximity all the time.

So I think when we can actually get over that piece of it, we will really get there, and then also the last thing I’ll say is women crossing sport lines to not just be heads in women’s sports, but be heads in men’s sports. When they named a female assistant coach in … I want to say it was one of the Texas teams, right now I can’t remember, it was a very big deal. Much like in the people of color coaching part, I would like for that not to be a big deal. I would like for it to be like oh Mary works over there, cool.

Amanda:

Yeah, I see what you’re saying. We’ve achieved it when it’s not a big deal anymore, when it becomes normal.

Karlyn:

Right.

Amanda:

Yeah, that’s awesome. So I have this question, I think we all know the answer, but I’d like to hear you say it?

Karlyn:

Oh sure, make me say the big thing, okay.

Amanda:

I just mean we all know that diversity is good, because it makes people feel included, brings different perspective, but what would you say are the benefits of diversity? The why? Why do we have this goal?

Karlyn:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). For a few things. Let’s start with the business side, we’ll start with the head and go to the heart. So on the business side of things, if you have one the nation’s demographics are changing, and so if you actually aren’t being inclusive in your hiring practices, in your recruitment practices, in looking at and cultivating a development of talent practices on and off a court or field, then you’re actually going to run out of players. That’s what the USTA decided was hey, look, old white guys playing tennis are starting to diminish and so if we’re going to tap into somebody to keep this sport alive, because their mission is to promote and develop the growth of tennis, if you’re going to keep this sport alive you actually have to start finding new players. So there is a survival component that’s there.

There is also a with that changing demographic, you also have players who, or people who can relate to the players. So exclusion, which we didn’t talk about, but forgive me for this small tangent, exclusion is natural. It’s actually human nature to exclude. People are pack animals, as much as pack animals are animals. You want to be with like kind, and so inclusion and diversity and inclusion is actually a very conscious effort. It’s not something that happens naturally, it’s not something that will take care of itself, it’s not something that “Oh well, someday we’ll all be kumbaya”, it actually takes work and it takes people deliberately trying to do things. So on that side of things, it’s … you’ve got to then, if you have people you want to be interested in your sport, they’ve got to see other people like them to feel comfortable. And it doesn’t have to be everybody needs to look like me, but I need to see somebody like me, so that there is a safety that is created.

I keep saying that looks like me, but that’s … it’s based on gender, race, sexual orientation, whatever the element is that you’re thinking about, but there has to be someone like you for you to really feel comfortable and really feel safe. So for survival in general of a sport, inclusion and diversity is necessary. On the heart side of things, I’ll use Zina as the example there as well, is how does that affect your play? In fact, if you have to deal with that kind of trauma you had, and there are different instances in the NHL, there are different instances in college sports where student athletes come out and then all off a sudden their playing time gets cut, all of a sudden then they weren’t really as good as people thought, and so all of that starts to happen and then you start doubting yourself, like wait a minute I got all this playing time before and then not, and so now you doubt yourself and that plays, and athletes notice, back to that negative self-talk.

If you self-talk the negative side of things, it’s going to affect how you actually perform. And the last thing that I’ll say is, and I used to show this in my diversity workshops, but there was a 2020, there’s a show on ABC called 20/20. Years ago, one of the reporters did a three part series on race and culture in America, and one of the segments focused on athletes in particular, and it talked about how much stereotypes play in sports. So for instance, they spoke with a high school track coach, who coached white and black kids, and he said that when he brought the white kids to a predominantly black school to race track, that the white kids would be slower than when they were … they clocked slower times, not finished slower or whatever, further back in the pack, but they clocked slower times because they’d heard about the superiority of the African American athlete. So it plays on both sides, it’s not just a person of color thing, the stereotype part happens on both sides.

How many times did we see people of color don’t play golf, or white guys can’t jump and they can’t play basketball, and whatever? And there’s so many things to the contrary, that if people actually stopped putting a label on whatever the diversity issue is, and actually coached people to be their best self, you will actually produce the best athletes, and so I think that the inclusion side is let me do me, and be me, so that I can kill it when I get out there.

Amanda:

Wow, that was such a great answer. I wrote down, you basically said three things. One, representation so people feel like they can get involved, they don’t feel like they’re going to be the only one, they’re going to feel included. Two, it actually will help your performance, because you’re not worrying about stupid stuff that you should not be worrying about, you’re just worrying about your sport. That’s what we’re here for, and then three, treating people as individuals, how they should be actually … seeing people for who they are and their strengths. That’s awesome. That’s a great answer, I love it.

All right, so we’ve kind of been talking about all of sport, how to get people involved, how to include people in all of sport. I’d like to ask what you think about, within a specific team, if athletes feel like their team culture’s not inclusive, or they don’t feel included on their team, or if a coach sees something or an NGB staff, what can athletes or coaches do to make their team more inclusive?

Karlyn:

Yeah. So I feel necessary, probably because of the chief diversity officer in me, that I feel like I have to least do the obligatory look if there’s something happening from a harassment standpoint, whether it’s overt or covert, say something to someone because the person who is the victim of that most of the time will not feel comfortable because they’re tired of being the one. And that goes back to the tokenism, that goes to a tokenism issue and a bunch of other things. So if you see something, say something, that’s the TSA, that’s diversity and inclusion, that’s everything. If you see something, say something.

With that, as my obligatory PSA, the thing that I would say is challenge yourself. And when I say challenge yourself my boss, who I mentioned, Lee Hamilton at USTA, every time I walked into a room where it was some event and I would look for Lee, when I first started there I would always look for the leadership team, I’d look for the executive team, the most senior ranking volunteers. I’d look for them, and say well Lee’s got to be over there. I eventually started to figure out that every time I walked into a room, if I wanted to find him I needed to find the shortest woman of color who was differently abled in some way, shape or form. Because he was a six foot three 76 year old white guy, who was about this big, but he was always around the people who were so different from him. Finally, after I was comfortable enough to ask the question, I’d been there long enough to ask the question, and said “So what gives? Why is it when I need to find you, you’re around everybody who’s different?”

And he said, “Well if I’m preaching diversity and inclusion, and I don’t know everything about the people we’re trying to include, how do you expect me to learn something?” I went, I’ll be darned, look at that. So part of it is don’t make the assumption that because someone’s not saying something, that they’re not going through it, they are. Whatever it is. And so be willing to sit and talk and get to know them, get to know them as a person. Don’t say “Hey, Karlyn, how are you as a black female living in this space?” No. Or walk up to someone “So, gay, tell me more”. That’s not how it works, but-

Amanda:

That calls them out even more, yeah.

Karlyn:

Right. Right. And so it’s more “Tell me about yourself, where are you from? What do you do? What other sports did you play?” So there’s a get to know you human part, the best lesson ever learned of any of the diversity exercises I’ve ever run is that the more people you know who are different from you, the much more difficult it is to actually follow a stereotype. As you get to know individuals, you figure out oh wait will you find someone who lives up to a stereotype? 100%. 100%. But will you find that most people actually don’t? Yeah. So it’s getting to know people as people, I think that it is also encouraging people to … if you see somebody sitting by themselves, you see the new person to the team, you see any of that, grab three people, go and get to know each other.

If, as a team, you identify we need to do better, then team building exercises that are things that take away from what you see, and it’s more about who you are on the inside. So, for example, I do in every diversity workshop that I do, just to get people in the right mindset, so they don’t think I’m teaching them how to be nice to people, I always say if you haven’t learned to do that, then your parents failed, not me. So one of the exercises that I do is I break people into groups, and then they have to come up with something that is similar in every single person in that group, and you can’t use “We’re all part of this team, we all play whatever”. It’s got to be “We’ve all been to Turks and Caicos, we all have a sibling who’s two years older, we’re all identical twins to someone”. It’s got to be something, but you … it forces you to find what’s similar, not to focus on what’s different.

A lot of people are … I did it once, it’s probably been about 10, 15 years since I did this exercise with this one group and there were … it’s probably a 50/50 people of color and white, and in that one little grouping in the room, and they all said “I’ve learned to swim in elementary school”, or something like that. And there were three different people who said to the two black people in that group, “You swim? Wait, you get in the water? I thought black people didn’t swim?” So to the other side of the inclusion piece, and the what do teams do, if you’re that person who’s like oh god here we go again, don’t get angry. Just say “uh-huh”, all the time. Right? Educate, and if you actually educate kindly instead of assault people for …

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been pulled out of a line, stopped on the street. I even had somebody driving down the street stop his car, turn around and drive back, roll down their window and let’s be clear, as an African American female, I don’t exactly fit a stereotype in terms of how I look, but I’ve had in every which way for my entire life, people ask me “What are you?” I’m like female. But I get asked what are you all the time, and the last time was maybe a couple of weeks ago, but it’s something that if you get angry about it, then it makes people even more uncomfortable, and it allows them to keep their walls up and not grow their own awareness, and not self-develop. So if you can, then you take the moment to educate, and I say African American.

I actually say black, “I’m black” or this that and the other, and I’ll go “We come in all shapes and sizes, and shades”, and I make it cute, not offensive, and then if they want to ask something and I’ve had certainly over this last six months of struggle in society and racial conflict and everything else, I’ve had so many people come up and ask me questions to educate themselves, but that’s because I’ve made it an open thing. I’m safe to do that, and so when people are learning, and this goes both ways, because there are plenty of people of color who have stereotypes about white, and there are plenty of straight people, or excuse me, LGBTQ+ people who have stereotypes on straight and everything in between, religion, we all stereotype each other, because we have a lack of exposure and so the more we actually talk about it, the less taboo it becomes, the easier it becomes and the more comfortable we all become.

Okay, that was a soapbox moment, and I apologize.

Amanda:

That was an incredible answer. Yeah, you just covered everything. One of our athletes submitted a question, how to be a more effective ally, and I feel like you kind of answered it. You have to treat people as individuals and treat people kindly, and if you’re on the other side of it, if you’re the one who’s not being treated kindly or not being treated as an individual, just try to be yourself, and try to kindly explain who you are and that that’s not who you are.

Karlyn:

Yeah, if I can add to that one though, add to that as well? I’m thinking back, actually, as you were talking, one experience from the USTA came up which was I did a diversity session in Georgia, at the time, and I walked in and as standard USTA thing, if you’re a guest in the session they give you some kind of cool gift, and so for me I got this cool tennis bag and it had tennis balls and a wristband and a headband and stuff all in there. And it was a white bag with a USTA logo, and I took it and said “thank you” and then we did the session. And there were two really … there was one person in the room who asked about when I was talking about inclusion, they said “what if you like being part of the gifted DNA club, or the preferred DNA club?” And I just went okay, so remember all the things I just said, don’t get angry, don’t yell at him, educate. Right?

So I’m having my moment and we continued on and then there was somebody else who when we talked about creating greater diversity amongst a pool of tennis officials, chair umpires, linesmen, things like that, he said I’d rather have a donkey or something … there was some donkey statement and I’m not going to mis-characterize it so it doesn’t get out there in the world that there was some wrong statement, but anyway, so I was sitting there watching the clock, like how soon will this be over? So did it, finished the rest of my statement, I got all the way, did all my thank yous, they did all their thank yous, I got all the way to the door and the gentleman turned around to me and said “Hey Karlyn, you see we gave you a white bag?”, or no, sorry, I said it was a white bag, it’s not, it was a black bag with the USTA logo.

He says, “You see we gave you the black bag? The rest of us have white ones. You have it good”. And I just went wow. Okay, you really wanted to make that statement, because you let me get all the way to the door and the moment after that, a woman ran out to the parking lot to tell me while I was at my car, “What he said, that was so inappropriate I was so offended, and I am so sorry he said that and that was just distasteful, and I’m sorry how you were treated here” and dah-dah-dah. And I politely listened to her apology, and then I said “You know what? What would have been better and more powerful and what I would have appreciated more is if you said it while we were still in the room”.

In the world of if you see something, say something, stop it in the moment. And don’t apologize to the victim, you say something to the offender, and educate them that this is not appropriate. Denzel Washington says “Don’t tell me what somebody else said, tell me why they felt comfortable enough to say it to you”. So in any capacity, the being the ally part is being willing to stand out there and stand up for the other person. And do so proudly, not “Okay, I’m going to go do it so they don’t think anything of me”, right? That’s just not how … it’s not how change happens.

Amanda:

Wow. That’s a fantastic story, I think that’s a really good visual for people to hear and enact that in their own life. And that actually brings me perfectly to my last question. So something … we all know that this topic has become really common on social media and the news, everywhere, and athletes want to put something on their social media, use their platform, use that in an interview and it’s kind of what you’re saying. You want to stand up to those people and be that change, and so how do you suggest they go about that, tackling that where they’re like “Should I post something? I feel bad if I don’t post something”. I guess the way we kind of think about it is being a role model for all those followers, using that platform to be a role model, but as we close up, what can you say to athletes to be that change? How can they use their platform to do that?

Karlyn:

Oh my goodness. We don’t have enough time for all the ways. So I will just keep it as a top level thing. Number one, be true to yourself. Don’t go out on a limb for something that you actually don’t feel passionately about. There are a number of things that I do, and I will always stand up for and say because they’re really important to me. So that’s part one. So whatever you see, if it moves you, if it offends you, just as a logical human being sitting somewhere, then you step out and say something and whether you post, tweet, I actually do TikTok’s on black lives matter that are just educational moments to educate people on how we got here, from a historical standpoint.

I don’t personally get into arguments with people and so hopefully it’s okay to say it this way, but I don’t get into arguments with all lives matter people, for the simple fact that and if somebody is so ingrained in their vision that is so opposite and actually it’s not logical from where you’re sitting, they don’t have any logical proof, they don’t have any rational, history, points, backup, whatever, I don’t argue with them at all because that’s just a waste of time where I can actually educate people and say this is where it comes from. You can take a historical perspective, first educate yourself but then you can educate others and say did you actually, have you ever heard of, I’ve got a TikTok on redlining, which talks about housing discrimination, and why property values in communities of color are lower than others. We talk about voting, and when people got the right to vote and all of the things in voter suppression that were put in there.

So you can do an education side of things, you can just express support in terms of I stand with whomever, whatever is actually happening at the time. You can also do and explain why. One of the things that I find missing from so many things, and even the black lives matter movement, is that there’s not enough clarity in the message. So if it’s just black lives matter, okay, but if you know that the opposing part is all lives matter, then why is it not black lives matter as much, too, also, something? But you’ve got to fill in the gaps for people who aren’t making that leap. Critical thinking is something that we don’t teach in school anymore, and it’s something that it requires too much work, so people … and Harvard Business Review actually even did a study on tapping into brain laziness, because people will take an easier path faster than they will take the cheaper path, or even the moral path if whatever this path is requires the least amount of effort.

So the more you can connect dots for people, and give them the why you think so, and certainly as an athlete you are a role model, so if people understand the why behind what you’re doing, even when you talk about your training regimen, if they understand what doing 1500 sit ups, God bless you by the way, what does that have to do with your performance, what does running suicide sprints or whatever, what does any of that have to do with your performance, people are more likely to follow you. So if you can give the why behind whatever it is that you’re saying in 145 characters or less, or in 60 seconds or less if you’re TikTok-ing, then it becomes something very tangible, it becomes something very powerful and it becomes something that also is very hard to dispute. Right?

So it’s having your message, knowing what your message is, standing behind it and being committed to it, and certainly don’t go waving a flag for anything that you actually don’t support because you think you should. Because people can also read insincerity from a mile away. So those are probably some easy things to do.

Amanda:

No, that’s great advice. You’re a fantastic speaker, I think everything you’ve said-

Karlyn:

Thank you-

Amanda:

Has given me some things to think about and it was very clear, and you’re funny and compassionate and this is a great conversation. We definitely appreciate it. We did not get any athlete questions, but we talked about a lot of things, so I really appreciate this. USADA, we really appreciate this, and oh what’s your TikTok, so that they can follow you?

Karlyn:

I should also mention I do a lot of stupid stuff, because it’s my outlet for stress. Not everything is educational, some of it is really stupid.

Amanda:

Diversity, right? Diversity-

Karlyn:

Diversity [crosstalk 00:42:27] so my TikTok handle is newskar, N-E-W-S-K-A-R, and so just because my first job out of school was as a television news reporter, so news and Karlyn, newskar.

Amanda:

Nice, love it. Cool. Sounds good. Well thank you so much Karlyn. This was-

Karlyn:

Thank you. Thank you for having me, this was fun. Appreciate it.

Amanda:

Okay. Bye everyone, thanks for joining.

Karlyn:

Bye everybody.