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The Global Guy Blog

Every week, when travel and a hectic schedule allows, Global Football Founder & President Patrick Steenberge will post a blog inspired by more than 40 years traveling throughout the world . His mission: helping to develop better Global Citizens of the world, traveling and interacting with a broad spectrum of student athletes, coaches, administrators and other dynamic individuals and Teams.

September 19, 2018… Children, Teach Your Parents Well

On my travels, I often have the opportunity to watch, meet and interact with children of all ages. Often while our teams are training any number of curious kids will stop by, watching and wondering what is going on with our big boys running seemingly helter-skelter, passing and kicking this odd-shaped ball, with intermittent yells, grunts and cheers. I always try to engage the bystanders with a simple game of catch with a football I always try to keep in my grip. Most often it turns into a game of ‘miss’, and ‘near-miss’ as untrained hands not accustomed to catching a spiraling oblong ball, even when tossed softly, generally end up batting the ball to the ground, sometimes after it collides with the youngster’s chest or face.

We also attract a great deal of attention when walking as a group, usually 40-100 large, toned bodies ambling along foreign streets and parks. Kids are always watching, just curious, and I make it a habit of reaching out to them whenever possible. It somehow provides solace to me to know that yes there still are fresh faces everywhere who have a fascination for life, while all too often they appear to be on their own without parental supervision. China is different however, as there kids are omnipresent, but nearly always with a mother and/or father close by, as well as older relatives also engaged. Perhaps this is due to the long-standing but now changed ‘1- child policy’ mandate there, and also likely just a cultural element of the Chinese.

So what of American kids? How do we look upon our family structure these days, the direction and supervision, the education, both formal and informal being provided. Regrettably, a frighteningly growing percentage of children in our country are growing up far too quickly, with far less direction by parents, and with more and more supervision being given over to unattached adults-teachers, coaches, babysitters, instructors, caretakers, and the like. The reality of 1-parent households is an issue we are only now as a society beginning to gain an understanding of, with the long-term results of this family structure coming to light more and more each year.

At times I can get a bit despondent about our future society, with more and more states now allowing parents to note their children’s sex on the official birth certificate as neither male nor female, but rather ‘X’. What could possibly go wrong here as the child, not knowing if a boy or girl because the parent(s) chose not to designate such, begins to grow up and question his or her place in the world?

Last week I had a unique opportunity that gave me great faith in the future of America, based upon the young children I saw, and the parents who were with their kids. The occasion was a military informal dinner featuring some 160 young adults and spouses, the majority of whom had youngsters ranging in age from tiny babies into their young teens. The dinner itself was for the adults, committed men and women who know about sacrifice. During their prime young adult years they are giving of their time and energy to serving our country, realizing their own blessings to live in America, and willing to freely work to maintain our freedom. Many of those in attendance would be soon deploying overseas for 6-9 months’ time, leaving their equally as dedicated spouse to care for and rise their child or children for that period of time. Talk about sacrifice!  Many of the deployed will have babies just recently born, their cherished firstborn oftentimes, and yet they understand that the sacrifices they as active military are giving will allow their boy or girl to develop into their fullest potential in a free, democratic society rather than under tyranny or fear of our enemies who are working daily to take down our way of life.

As I looked around the spacious hall decorated with fine linens and silverware, with bountiful plates of nourishing foods, and listened to the passionate, caring talks given that evening, I was overwhelmed by the love these parents were openly expressing towards their children. In return, similar love was beaming out of the small eyes of the kids running about, falling down, laughing and being retrieved playfully by their mothers and fathers. I was also struck by the presentations which focused on ‘family’, on the support afforded to those spouses who will remain home with their children, and on the obvious love and respect demonstrated everywhere.

When I left that dinner and realized all that I had just seen and heard and absorbed, I felt much better about the future of our country. These children will grow up knowing parental love, and understanding that hard work, commitment, care and sacrifice are traits they should carry into adulthood.

August 24, 2018.. Speaking My Language

There is nothing quite like a dinner in Mexico, sitting for hours with wonderful local friends and associates, recounting special memories while gliding through the various courses of uniquely delicious food, all the while laughing, talking of family and work, coming up with ways to develop events for dedicated student athletes. Of course, there is the mandatory group photo, sincere man-hugs and promises to continue working towards ‘the next time’.  In my many years of Global Football I have of course encountered similar meals in other countries with equally wonderful people, but there just is something about the Mexican/Latin culture that drive me to return as soon as possible. Fortunately, I always seem to do so, although there have been times when the months between visits and dinners has been simply too long.

One of the reasons I believe my Latin meals are always memorable is due to the fact that I can speak and understand the language, for the most part. Of course there are words and phrases that rush by me, but having the ability to communicate in the language of my hosts allows the conversation to flow naturally. They really appreciate the fact that I make every attempt to tell my stories, listen and pose my questions en Espanol. The restaurant staff truly appreciate that this pure Gringo can order in the native language, and even ask, “donde esta el bano?”

One of the best things I have done in my life, thus far, was to study and practice Spanish, but how this came about I believe tells a lesson of how our minds change as we grow from teenager, to young adult, one of the most dramatic developmental times we encounter. In my Catholic high school every student was mandated to take a language each year, so I began with the ancient Latin, hoping it would help me with future SAT scores. It did. Fr. Salvatore Sala was a dramatic man who daily would express his love for the language which is the core of the Romance languages, and those two years were rather enjoyable. Then I chose to take French for my junior and senior years; a drastic error in judgement. St. Mary Francis was a tiny nun in traditional habit clothing, whose idea of teaching was to distribute 20 vocabulary words each Monday, drill the class on those throughout the week, then test us on Friday. I really did not enjoy the sound of the French language, had little interest in memorizing words, and so just passed the time.

Fast forward to age 19, April of my freshman year at the University of Notre Dame when it was ‘pick your major night’. At that time all first-year students not in pre-med took a generic ‘freshman year of studies’, and then would select our major course of study in the spring, with the assistance of an athletics counselor. As I remember that evening, she kindly asked me what I thought I wanted to study at Notre Dame, what my future occupation might be, what dreams I had for employment, vocation. That part was simple, I was going to play in the NFL!  “OK”, she noted patiently, “but what about a backup plan, for after your football career, or just in case you don’t make the NFL”?  I mentioned a few possibilities: lawyer, doctor, author, but was quick to ask, “What course of study can I do where I do not have to take a language, as I really didn’t enjoy the French experience in high school”? When she instantly replied the business school did not require students to include a foreign language in their course load, it was settled and I majored in marketing within the business school.

Fast forward to age 24, when my parents were living in Brazil and I decided to go visit, allowing me to embark on a journey that changed my life forever. I headed out from Fort Collins, Colorado with my backpack and $1500, standing on the entrance ramp to I-25 in the swirling January snow holding a sign that said ‘Rio’. I made it to Brazil, along the way became enchanted with the Latin people and their most welcoming style, and returned to America 11 months later with an insatiable thirst for more!  Soon after getting back I decided to study Spanish in Guatemala, a land I found simply overwhelming in many ways. Somehow without the Internet (yes, life was possible, and in fact very good pre-wifi) I discovered the Projecto Linguistico Francisco Marroquin in Quezaltenango. I showed up at my host family’s modest home in ‘Xelaju’, the Quiche Indian name for the city, and they took care of me for the month I stayed and studied. It was total immersion, the only way to go I believe. I lived with a Spanish-speaking family and six days a week, 7 hours per day I sat one-on-one with a young teacher, actually a college student working his way through school. We talked only in Spanish, drilled pronunciations, tenses, vocabulary, key phrases, etc. and after that month I had a working knowledge that allowed me to set up a small business there named ‘p.s. Happytrails’. Over the next 4 years I would happily spend 3 months each winter based out of the historic town of Antigua and lead ‘Ecotours’ (that term did not exist back then) for American adventurers. While somewhat ahead of the market, I wasn’t able to continue this effort after that time, but it provided me a base for much of what I have done since.

Thus, my language ability expanded and became imbedded in my mind, allowing me to travel and work globally, and enjoy dinners like I explained at the top of this story. Not only has that ability helped me greatly in my sports travel business the past 23 years, it also now allows me to present motivational/inspirational talks to Spanish-speaking audiences of business people, corporate leaders, government officials, athletes and coaches. Over the past year I have represented the American Football Coaches Association many times to various Hispanic Amway groups across our country. They are most thankful for this ‘gringo’ making the effort to communicate and motivate in their native language.

As I was enjoying my last bite of Mexican flan last night, my mind flashed back to the moment I was standing on the side of the highway with my hand-written cardboard sign, ‘Rio’. Then to my meeting with the Notre Dame counselor, expressing that I had no interest in studying a foreign language. Things change, we change, and the ability to learn and seek out new experiences remains in those of us eager and willing to explore, and to keep changing.

Que la vaya bien!

August 13, 2018… No Breaking Point 

As I move through this blessed life I am constantly reminded of a few recurring themes in sports as well as life, which are commonplace topics coaches focus on and communicate to their athletes at every level. Each of these speaks to the individual, and more broadly to the Team, a mantra that can help lead to success in the particular sport. Such is the case with “No Breaking Point.”

Last night I was skipping through sports on TV, came across Nick Saban and the Alabama Training Camp feature, and decided to stop and possibly learn something about the Bama team’s upcoming season. The first segment I see is Coach Saban addressing his team prior to their first practice, as he is setting the tone for how they might meet lofty expectations this season. His theme? “Breaking Points”.

I first heard the phrase in August 1969 when my head coach at Notre Dame, Ara Parseghian, addressed the 45 scholarship incoming freshmen who were anxiously focused on our Coach, awaiting this rare opportunity to play for the Fighting Irish as we had all dreamed. I clearly remember Ara’s key point that morning, one that he reiterated to us in each locker room before every game: “We must have No Breaking Point.” He would go onto comment: “USC has a breaking point; Purdue also; players from Michigan State can break; but we-Notre Dame-do NOT Have a Breaking Point.”

Being a somewhat cerebral Quarterback I can recall wondering, “why do we at ND not have a breaking point? What makes us different from the other teams?”

I have thought of that simple statement often since then as I have prepared for and encountered various obstacles in my life, both inside and outside sports.  ‘How can we NOT have a breaking point? Why would my teammates and I not have a point where fatigue, stress, emotions, pain, fear or physical restrictions cause us to break?

I believe the answer is quite simply – it is the TEAM. Each of us as an individual has many weaknesses that would cause us to stop, to meet our personal barrier, get too uncomfortable to continue, to not put forth all that is needed to reach our stated goals. However, as a TEAM our common Breaking Point can be made to not exist; nothing will stop our TEAM from winning, from achieving the goals we prepared for.   

T-ogether
E-veryone
A-chieves the
M-ountaintop!

Every Individual has a Breaking Point. Be it fatigue or fear of failure, pain or stress, errors or emotions, physical weakness or mental pressure, everyone has that point where they are willing to say ‘no more’. The TEAM, however, the Championship TEAM is comprised of very special athletes who have developed the unique ability to support each individual member physically, mentally and emotionally. That support allows those persons to perform and achieve seemingly impossible tasks. Together the members help drive the TEAM to achieve its stated goals.

This does not just happen. To arrive at a level where the TEAM has No breaking point takes dynamic leadership, keen focus, commitment and training, often involving non-sports specific projects. I believe deeply in the power of the Mountain, of what can be gained by athletes who decide to hike to the summit of a lofty peak. The fact is that Mountains are tough to climb! They are easy to quit on, to simply go part way up and believe that is good enough. Those who do it as a TEAM build an outrageous sense of shared work and success, thereby insuring that each team member reaches the summit, celebrates with his teammates on top, ‘Achieves the Mountaintop’.

Winning games then become much more doable; those mountains are simply easier to ascend. A well-trained and properly prepared TEAM truly has NO breaking point.

 

July 25, 2018… Coaches Summits & Teammates 

Every coach in every sport has a profound influence on his or her players and staff; it is one of the realities of sport. I believe each coach at every level takes that fact seriously, and works to insure the influence is a positive one. Just as some coaches are better teachers than others, some win more games than others, so too with the concept of influence. Some have a way of passing along their personal beliefs, their methods of living, their ideas of what it takes to be a winner in life as well as on the field or court in a more effective manner. I have been blessed in my life to have had a few coaches who impacted me powerfully: Bill Poux at St. Luke’s grade school in Erie, Pa.; Tony Zambroski at Erie Cathedral Prep; and Ara Parseghian at Notre Dame.

In my chosen career of event production and travel, through my Global Football business I am fortunate to travel and interact with numerous quality men who understand the true value of experiential education. They place emphasis on providing unique experiences for their student athletes and assistants, often outdoor experiences which generally take place in distinctive foreign sites. Some of these experiences though do occur here in America, in places which may be somewhat uncomfortable for the players. In either instance, whether domestic or international, the fact that a TEAM is going to be together, facing unknown challenges – physical, mental and emotional, provides learning opportunities that simply cannot be matched in the classroom or in any other comfortable environment. Through such shared experiences the TEAM gets stronger, the individuals more attuned to the needs of their teammates, with leaders emerging, dynamics coming to the forefront, all resulting in each individual better understanding themselves. In addition, each player can better clarify his or her role within the team, their own self-knowledge as a human being, a family member, a valued creature of God.

Simply stated, being uncomfortable individually and as a Team, having to operate in an environment that challenges ones senses and commitment to team goals, just makes every member better. The Team goals become more obvious, the mission more clear, the opportunities more valuable, and the attainment of these more worthwhile.

This past weekend I had the blessing to hike to the summit of Pike’s Peak, “America’s Mountain”, with 18 seniors of the Eastern Michigan Eagles football team, thanks to the invitation extended to me by Coach Chris Creighton. Chris is one of those coaches who truly gets it. The impact he has on the young men who play for him extends far beyond the successes they have on the football field. In recent years we have journeyed together on Global Football tours to Switzerland, Panama and Tanzania with his squads from Wabash College and Drake University, and now with his MAC conference team. Each trip has dramatically altered the lives of his student athletes in so many positive ways; while at the same time allowing me to similarly share in what his leadership and presence provide to everyone he encounters.

His motto for the Eagles 2018 season is: Focus, Fight, Finish. Each element was clearly visible in the minds of each individual as they, as a Team, struggled up 7400’ of elevation gain over the challenging 13-mile trail, encountering sun, cold rain, gusty winds, high altitude, anxiety and their own ‘quitter’. After 12 hours the entire squad reached the 14,114’ summit, some with great difficulty, others serving as helpers to those who needed encouragement. The same issues they faced and overcame will most certainly confront the Eagles at numerous times this season, although in different forms. I am totally confident that the lessons, experiences and obstacles overcome on America’s Mountain will help carry Eastern Michigan through the challenges of their 2018 season. And more importantly, through the rest of their lives.