My youngest daughter (now a junior at George Washington University) started her college essay for admissions a few years back with the clever opening hook: “My family takes in strays”. It was a successful way to draw in the reader and introduce them to the fact that over the years, for many different reasons, we have had folks from around the world live in our home. That was part of my children’s life experience and they will often reminisce that the meals we had over those years, with these then relative strangers, were as much a part of their “education” as was their actual schooling.
I was struck by that memory last week, as I sadly watched the livestream of my Uncle Danny’s funeral from his hometown parish in Sligo, Ireland. Danny was my dad’s youngest brother by nearly 14 years and despite battling health issues his whole life and losing his soulmate over a decade ago to cancer, he was nonetheless always upbeat. One of my earliest and fondest memories was when he came from Ireland to live with our family and learn the floor covering trade from my father in our upstate NY home. As he was only 10 years older than my oldest brother, I was at an age where I had trouble differentiating between uncle and sibling. All I know was that he was always smiling, he made my dad laugh and he was the first “apprentice” of what seemed like a revolving door of apprentices that came through our house those years. We lived in what sometimes felt like a bed and breakfast at our home that already had eight children and not near that many bedrooms. It was not unusual to come down to breakfast and another man from a far off land was at the table and there for an indefinite length to learn from my father. In short — my family took in strays. And sent them out with a trade and a confidence to take on the world.
During the homily at the funeral mass, the priest shared the story of Danny heading to America and learning the trade from my Dad, but then shared that Danny in turn took countless young men under his wing over the years to teach them the trade and give them what he referred to as “The Start.” Danny was one of many who learned the trade from my dad, and paid it forward so that others could do the same. The exponential nature of that is a reminder to me that focusing on one person at a time can have ripple effects that influence generations to come. By my dad teaching one man the trade, that man in turn taught another 10 and if each of those 10 taught 10 others, then my dad created a wave and essentially introduced the trade to 1000 men. But I know that over the years, my dad taught it to at least 30 men. Go ahead and do the “ripple effect” math on that! It is truly remarkable — a wave of epic proportions.
As I reflect on this past summer for 2-4-1 Sports, I am in many ways overwhelmed. While we had nearly 2000 children attend our traditional camp programs around North America, we estimate that we reached nearly 10,000 with our school-based programs and curriculum offerings. Nevertheless, there are far too many days that I feel like I am running into the wind in our efforts to combat the pervasive early-sport specialization — or withdrawal from sport altogether — that still so clearly exists around the world. And there are times that I wake up and try to strategize and act on ways to make sweeping changes — using the power of corporations and governmental systems. But, try as I might, I almost always come back to this one fundamental truth: Real change happens locally. To that end, perhaps methodically without even knowing it, we are slowly increasing our “locals.” We are local in Canada. We are local in Colorado. We were just local in Indiana. We are local in numerous towns and cities in Connecticut. And we are about to be local in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and get this — Nairobi, Kenya.
As we have grown, we have discovered the only way to do it is to find local champions of our “Life’s 2 Short 4 Just 1 Sport” philosophy and give them “The Start.” In doing so, we now recognize that, in much the same way my dad did by teaching the trade to one apprentice at a time, we are slowly — but exponentially creating ripples that create more ripples, that create more ripples that we hope someday will create waves. Waves I now realize are our goal. But waves don’t start without ripples. We hope that by finding and supporting these champions (our 2-4-1 Camp Directors in various towns and cities) that we are in essence creating ripples and lasting change in their lives and the lives of the coaches and counselors they hire and the children and families they serve through 2-4-1 Sports programming.
Thank you all for your support and encouragement in our efforts to discover these local champions and to create more ripples. You are all a part of this movement.
Rest in Peace, Uncle Danny — know that your ripples will indeed continue forever.
Steve Boyle, Founder, 2-4-1 Sports
Advisory Board Chair,National Association of Physical Literacy
Principal, Crossover Consulting Group
Founding Member,Quality Coaching Collective
About Steve Boyle
Steve is the Executive Director of 2-4-1 CARE, Inc and Co-Founder/Director of 2-4-1 Sports -- a signature program of 2-4-1 CARE-- whose flagship program is held at the Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford, Conn. but now has locations throughout the United States and Canada. 2-4-1 was recognized by the Aspen Institute in Washington, DC as one of eight model programs in the United States for its approach to anti-specialization in youth sports. This led Steve to form the National Association of Physical Literacy – of which he is now Advisory Board Chair. Steve is also a founding member of the Quality Coaching Collective – an international group of activators around sport, movement and mindfulness. Lastly, through his role at CCG, Steve was the two-year Global Lead on Physical Literacy and Athletics for Whittle School & Studios (2018-20), which currently has campuses in Shenzhen, China and Washington, DC.