This is what was supposed to be my 15 minute talk for the Marcus Lattimore Foundation’s “My Career After the Game” seminar. My educational and sports background were a part of the introduction. In reality, it was probably more like 11 minutes, less wordy, and more crazy. I missed a couple of key points as well as a few pictures so I figured I’d post it in case some of those Upstate South Carolina high schools students fell across this.
“I cannot tell you the last time I was surrounded by this many high school students. I have no choice but to document this. So do me a favor and say hey and wave to my Snap. (Legit SnapChat entire crowd.) That was awesome. At any rate, the stuff you’ve been learning today is invaluable so I really hope you all have been slow to speak and quick to listen.
I wish I had been a part of something like this when I was your age. I went off to Presbyterian College having no realistic idea of what I wanted to do. I had a farfetched dream of being a vet but then I took biology my freshman year and about flunked it. To my defense, it was an 8am class. Seriously though, that dream was not going to happen. Then I thought I might like being a Spanish major. I took some high level Spanish courses in high school. I went on three mission trips to Spanish-speaking countries during my high school summers. I got this. I could totally be a Spanish major! So I decided to take a class with the professor who would have been my advisor. It could have worked out but the professor was boring. Really, really boring. And I couldn’t and still can’t do boring.
Fast forward a year or so and I can remember my coach knocking on the locker room door. Evidently, NCAA said it was time to declare a major. I can remember my coach saying to me outside the locker room, “Maggie, you need to declare a major. Or else you can’t play.” That put some pep in my step so I went down to the compliance director’s office and was thinking about what I was going to declare. I thought, “Well, I really like my history professor.” So, history major I became.
Playing soccer was also a great experience. This might sound kind of silly but I felt kind of important walking around campus sporting my PC gear always with my PC soccer teammates. I felt like a big fish in a small pond. I got ample playing time, missed some playing time because of self-imposed silliness; but more importantly than playing time was that I met some of my best friends from playing soccer at PC.
Aside from soccer and feeling like my teammates and I owned campus, what I now place the most value on from PC is my education. Looking back, my PC education is really the backbone of where I am today vocationally.
After I graduated from PC, I worked for a year. My first job was working at LA Fitness as an assistant sales manager. I basically sold personal training packages. And that was terrible. After about five months, I changed jobs and took a position as an assistant manager for a popular retail store. My parents weren’t necessarily happy with that. But, that job change was a catalytic moment for me. It was there where my co-workers and I challenged one another to personally explore and dig deeper into our lives. We all knew we had so much more to bring to the table.
So, I did some research internally and on the computer. I loved sports (still do) and liked the idea of being behind the scenes at sporting events. I applied to four schools for enrollment into their sport management program – Florida, Florida State, UGA, and Tennessee. I was accepted into all four schools but I do not recommend the method for how I decided. Being a Georgia fan at the time, I realized, “Why did I even apply to Florida in the first place?! It would be sacrilegious to go to Florida! I could never be a Gator.” Florida was out. Then I did a little research on Tallahassee and made the assumption that it seemed too Florida-y. (No offense to any Floridians.) FSU was out. Georgia would have been the smarter decision financially but I wanted a new experience, clean slate, tabla rasa. So, it was looking like I was moving to Knoxville.
I enjoyed the program at UT so you’d think I would have looked for sports-related jobs near graduation, right? Nope. Two professors of mine were crucial in my decision to pursue seminary because they saw how much the idea of collegiate sport ministry for female-student athletes intrigued me. I applied to one school – Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. I was accepted so I went. And you know what? It was really tough. Among personal matters, I felt like I was on an island. Not only was I commuting to school (which doesn’t sound like a big deal but definitely impacted my interactions with my classmates), I was pursuing something that no one else was pursuing. There were some hurdles but I graduated in the normal three years. And what do I do today? I work for a nonprofit doing international development.
You’re more than likely thinking, “What in the hail does all of this stuff have to do with anything?” That’s fair because from what I just told you it probably sounds very random. But from my perspective, every place I went and every person I met were the opposite from random. In my eyes, I view them as divine placements in my life. I see those places and those people as additions to my journey – just some curves on my personal road. Key word: personal.
Maybe you’re catching on but if you aren’t I’ll be more blunt. The way God moves in our lives and what our roads look like are very different from one another. And I believe that’s the way it is supposed to be. I’m sure some of you know exactly what you want to be when you grow up and you will probably be that. Go to college, major in premed, go to med school, become a doctor. And that is OK. On the other end of the spectrum, some of you might have no idea and might not figure it out until after college. Shoot, you might not even figure it out until you’re 26 or 36 or 46. And that is also OK.
When I was asked to speak today, I was honored at first. I thought, “Well, if my story can have a positive impact on just one person’s life, I’ll consider it a win.” And then, I got nervous. I got nervous because I saw who was supposed to be speaking to y’all today. Yes, I am a sub. And I was hardly EVER a sub. I’m working through that right now so please bare with me. Anyway, do you know who that was supposed to be? Maria Taylor.
She was a former collegiate and USA Women’s Volleyball player and today she is an ESPN college analyst and reporter.
And this is me.
Do you understand why I got nervous and intimidated?? Here I am, crazy lady up front, taking snapchats before I speak, talking about basically being a professional student. I did not play at a big time university and I cannot say I ever represented our nation playing a sport. And ESPN? I got nothin’. I immediately thought, “Oh no. What I’m going to say will not measure up to what she would probably say. My experiences are nothing like hers! What am I going to do??”
In fact, I actually find myself doing that a lot – comparing myself to others. I know you all do it, too. We all do. And if someone says they never have, he or she is either Jesus or flat out lying to you. I’d bet 1 million doll hairs that they are NOT Jesus.
Me sitting there comparing myself to Maria got the best of me. She is probably a fantastic, solid, wonderful woman. Nothing against her at all. But I won’t lie. I couldn’t help but do that comparison thing. And then I remembered a quote that I try to keep in the back of my mind at all times.
Who knows who said that? It was one of our former presidents. He wore round glasses. Rode a horse. Original Rough Rider. (Hopefully someone answers at this point.) Theodore Roosevelt said those wise words. And I promise you that those words ring true at any stage of life.
See, in comparing myself to people – some I do know and some I don’t – do you know what I am doing? I am thinking lesser of myself. I am diminishing myself. And in my opinion, to think lesser of myself is to directly insult God. You know how we are told that no one person is exactly like another? That we are all created so uniquely and differently from one another? If that is true, and I believe 100% that it is because, well, it is a scientific fact, then we are slapping God in the face when we start comparing ourselves to others! And we should not do that!
All of this is not to say that you shouldn’t be competitive. There is an imperative difference between competing and comparing. Competing implies you are striving to be a better you. Comparing implies you are striving to be someone else. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being competitive, as long as it is coming from a place that yearns to improve.
All of this career development stuff is so very, very important. Again I cannot stress that enough. It is wonderful that you all are learning about professional etiquette and about being smart with your money and about interview techniques. And there is definitely a time to be proactive because being proactive before college is the smart thing to do and being proactive during college is the smart thing to do. But those things are just slices of the whole pie – not the whole pie.
The slice of pie I can pass down to y’all is to just go down your own road. It’s OK if you switch lanes. Use your blinker, of course. And it’s OK if you have to slow down. But whatever you do, don’t get off your road. Let me tell you that if you are letting God work and move in your life, that road will be your road and it will be your road that God will indeed bless.
You all do realize why you’re here, right? YOU have been selected by your coaches and athletic directors to be here because YOU are doing great work on and off the field, court, and track. YOU are already doing the right things. So keep that up. But if there’s just one thing I can leave you with, it is to keep pursuing your road.
Thanks for listening.”