Meaningful Moments: Impact and Connection through Youth Sports

By: Aaron Locks, NAofA Founder and CEO

I wear different hats as a speaker, author, coach, and trainer. Most times, I don’t get direct feedback. There’s usually a big crowd, so connecting personally is tough. Sometimes, I get reviews or surveys about my talks, but it’s rare to hear from someone who attended, especially after many years.

But there’s this one time I did get feedback. At a dinner for my friend’s wedding rehearsal, I sat across from a couple, Catriona and her date. We introduced ourselves and talked about what we do. When I mentioned I work with youth sports, Catriona surprised me by asking, “You’re really good at your job, right?” I was a bit surprised but said, “I think so.” She smiled big and then told me how I had made a difference in her and her son’s life. She said, “Around 6 years ago, I went to a talk you gave, and it changed things for me. I was a single mom, worried about my son in sports, and your talk was incredible.” It gave me chills. I felt so grateful that something I said in a talk to a small flag football group in Northern California years ago had such a positive impact. Amazing!

Catriona kept talking, and her face lit up as she remembered specific parts of my talk from years ago. She mentioned how nervous she was about her son playing football and dealing with successes, failures, and possible injuries. It surprised me how much she remembered. She brought up stories I had told about helping kids be independent and loving them without judging their mistakes, though there might be consequences.

We kept talking about that talk, and I remembered another parent who was there. I felt bad for not remembering her, but I did recall another parent who left a strong impression on me. I could still picture him in my mind. At that same talk, there was a big man, probably 6′ 5″ and 300 pounds, standing with his arms crossed. He didn’t smile or laugh during my talk. After I finished, he came up to me, shook my hand, and said, “At first, I thought this was no good! But you know what? I’m going to be a better dad because of this.” Then he walked away like a cowboy in a movie. On the way home, I chuckled, thinking about that dad and how I had influenced his kids, both directly and indirectly.

I hadn’t thought about that talk for years, but sitting there with Catriona, hearing her remember things I said over 6 years ago, hit me hard. As a parent with grown children, I remembered what it was like when they were in youth sports. Youth sports are a mix of rules, skills, and ideas, both on and off the field. The one constant is the passion it brings out in players, coaches, and fans. I truly believe youth sports are one of the best ways to teach life skills, and I feel lucky to have spent my whole adult life in that world.

A few days later, Catriona emailed me a social media post she made in 2017. I was blown away…

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A testimonial from Catriona