I want to create a corporate partnership with McDonald's. Why, you might ask? Well, for one, I sure LOVE my international Big Macs! It has become a sort of tradition for me to try one from each country I visit. Yum! There's just something comforting about 2 patties between sesame seed buns, processed cheese and that delicious special sauce when you are eating mystery meat that has been slathered in sweet and sour goop in Beijing! (Come to think of it, I didn't see ANY stray dogs while I was there either...I don't even want to know). But more importantly, I believe that I would be their PERFECT athlete ambassador.
I am a master at school visits. I love doing them...if I had my choice, I would do the majority of my speaking engagements at schools for the rest of my career.
When I do corporate talks I have fun, I get paid well and I always meet really interesting people, but I feel that I am affecting (really affecting) maybe 10% of the group. As adults we are already set in our ways. We have established our values, we are working towards our dreams and we, to put it bluntly, are quite jaded. Sure, an Olympic Gold Medal speaker can inspire you to work harder, set goals, believe that great things will happen in your life, but generally, we listen for the hour, hear some funny stories, go home, tell our loved ones and then go ahead with business as usual the very next day. I might not be speaking for everyone, but I am just admitting to what I do. I have heard some of the best speakers in the "athlete speaker" industry, and I always gain some knowledge and perspective, but I generally don't feel "saved" or "re-directed" after they speak. I always feel like I know them better, and that I like them better and want to hang out with them after they are done and ask them questions about their experiences, but I don't feel like I am a new man after anyone speaks.
*Holy crap, I just read that back and it sounds like I am dissing my fellow speakers and discrediting them and myself, but I am just trying to be honest and realistic. Half the time people are thinking more about those emails in their inbox that need to be answered or about what they are going to cook for dinner than about how the athlete standing before them is the coolest person in the world and how they themselves want to compete in the Olympics!
When I go to schools, I feel like I am affecting 90% of the kids (-vs- the 10% of corporate listeners). I feel like they think I am the coolest person in the world and that they genuinely want to compete in the Olympics (or play in a rock band...or be a scientist...whatever)!
I remember being a kid and being so inspired by Olympic athletes...I didn't even meet an Olympic Gold Medalist until 2002 when I met Catriona Le May Doan at the Alberta Sport Awards. I was so intimidated by her (and the whole experience of having to give a thank-you speech!), but she came up to me with that giant white smile of hers, congratulated me on my accomplishments and was very genuine and down to earth. She is still a huge role model for me (and now a friend and one of my favourite athlete speakers by the way! Great work on Countdown, Cat!), but just being in her presence inspired me.
I feel like I somewhat have this awe inspiring affect on kids too when I share my stories and experiences with them at their schools.
I have this video of me when I was 9 years old. I was named the "athlete of the week" by the local news and got a profile done on the 11 o'clock news. My parents actually let me stay up to watch it and I remember being mortified when I saw it on TV. I couldn't believe that I looked and sounded the way I did (believe it or not, my voice has changed a lot since then...). Anyway, I am so glad that I got that interview on tape because it is friggin' GOLDEN! In one part, the reporter asks me what my goal is. I look at him straight in the eye and say, "I want to go to the Olympics and win!". 9 years old. What the hell? How did I have such a defined goal? How did I actually believe that it was possible. How in the world did it actually become reality and how lucky am I that my mom taped it on VHS?!
I show this video to the kids at the beginning of my school visits. I show it to them for 3 reasons.
1: Because I want them to see what level of gymnastics I was doing then... the basic elements -vs- the difficult one's I do in my Olympic video.
2: I want them to see that I was a 'normal' kid, just like they are.
3: I want them to see that dreams really do come true.
Of course I explain to them that I worked hard, had many ups and downs (haven't done a school visit with the broken legs addition yet, but that will be fun!), but I also tell them that I never stopped believing in myself and my goals.
After the "thought provoking" section, where we cover all kinds of topics ranging from active living, making healthy choices, goal setting, being a good teammate and embracing challenges with a positive attitude, we get into the really good stuff...the Olympic Gold Medal cartwheel competition! A fan favourite...and my personal fave as well.
In the cartwheel contest I bring up 3 contestants (one usually being a promising gymnast (every school has one!) leaked to me by a teacher). Then I assign them a country (the "gymnast" of the group being the 'Canadian'!). I get each student to perform their very best cartwheel for the school. Based on audience applause (they are the judges...nice and fair judges, not mean and cranky ones!), we determine the winner of "Kyle Shewfelt's Olympic Gold Medal Cartwheel Competition (still need to get that trademarked)". The Canadian always wins, of course, because I get veto vote! Then the 2nd and 3rd place competitors receive a parting gift and the winner stands up on a podium (a chair in most instances) and gets the REAL Olympic Gold Medal placed around their neck. Now here's the coolest part, and the moment that gives me goose bumps every time: all of the audience stands up and honours the winner with a heart warming rendition of "Oh Canada". It is a fun and truly powerful moment.
To conclude, I do a few handstands, answer some audience questions (they always want to know if I drive and what kind of car...blue VW Golf) and of course, remind the students that if they work hard and dream BIG then anything is possible! Woot woot!
Now, here's what would be the perfect scenario for me. If McDonald's, or any other corporate partner for that matter (let's make this an open invitation and drive up the interest!), would financially back my school visits. I do every school visit for free (except for private schools). My mom and aunt work at schools in Calgary and I know that schools simply don't have enough funds to buy supplies, let alone bring in an athlete speaker. It's hard for me to do a lot of school visits because of the time and energy commitment it takes for literally no financial advancement (holy, am I ever politically correct!), but if I could make schools my primary speaking venue then I would be on cloud nine. I think that I could affect a lot of youth and encourage them to get active, set goals and believe that they have the potential to do incredible things!
If I could say what my ideal post-Beijing experience would be, I would have to say that touring the country and sharing my experiences at schools would be it.
In today's world, full of hideous role models (Crack head Spears...I just ruined my chances of ever being with her, but Oh well, she's nasty) and sedentary lifestyle (although Wii is making a small difference), kids need someone to look up to who they can relate to and who can inspire them. I believe I am the man who can do just that. My vision is clear...all I need is a financial partner to support the opportunity. Promotional plugs could be very abundant...autograph cards with your logo, potentially the "YOUR COMPANY'S NAME HERE Gold Medal Cartwheel competition, a contest for schools to win the visit, YOUR COMPANY's representative in 'said city' could introduce me...media and print mentions...hmmm.....
If you are interested, you know someone who might be interested or have a connection that could lead to this actually happening, please email my friends at Agenda Sport Marketing at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks and I apologize for the propaganda. I just really want to find a way to make this dream a reality!