Public speaking is not my forte. I will admit that, primarily since it something I rarely do. I have always preferred to remain inconspicuous, and leave the spotlight to the athletes, coaches, and teams that I cover.
Last week, Art Rigas, AD for Norwich High School, phoned me with a request. He asked if I would be available to speak at the senior athletics banquet, sponsored by the NHS Student Athletic Council. After reviewing my schedule to make sure I didn’t have another commitment, I emailed Art back and said my evening was clear. Almost immediately, I started writing my speech. Over the past five days, I wrote and rewrote different passages, and even rehearsed it three or four times. Tonight, (Tuesday, June 4), I delivered my first public speech in 10 years. With the exception of two or three extemporaneous remarks, below is the text of my speech to the NHS Class of 2013:
I want to thank the Norwich athletics department for asking me to speak to the Norwich senior athletes from the class of 2013. I know some of you here have probably sat through at least 10 banquets, and have heard dozens of speeches. I promise (really) to keep this brief.
I did a little math when I thought of the year 2013. Subtracting 18 years, my guess is that most of the senior class was born in 1995. Can I get a little nod from the seniors if I have that right? Interesting parallel, at least to me. Guess when I started writing sports for The Evening Sun… yeah, 1995.
In that respect, the Norwich seniors and I have shared a journey together over the past 18 years, and that is one reason why I have a special affinity for this year’s class. The other reason the seniors are special to me is that my son, Elijah, is part of this graduating class.
My son started out playing youth sports 12 or 13 years ago, and that is when I was introduced to many of you for the first time. Hard to believe now, but “I” actually towered over 6-foot-3 Kyle Edwards, and was more solidly built than 200-pound Grant Brightman. Is Levi Lorimer here? I don’t think I was EVER bigger than you.
When I think of the young men and women in this class who played sports, I have visions of a flashback montage in which I see all you swinging a bat, kicking a soccer ball, shooting a basket on the lowered rim at the Y, or grabbing someone’s flag in flag football at Kurt Beyer Park. I see it as clear as day, yet that was at least 10 years ago. Wow, has it been that long?
Little did I know at that time, this group of seniors would help change the perception of Norwich sports. When you hear people around town discuss Norwich sports, the common remark is, “Norwich is a basketball town” or “Norwich is a football town.”
Yes, we Norwichians love our basketball and we love our football, but Norwich sports is much more than that. The tennis teams, the golf team, the swimming teams – all had winning seasons. In just about every sport, you can point to a bright spot, one in which, YOU, the seniors, have made a difference.
In 18 days, your job at Norwich High School will be complete. To many of you, moving on from Norwich cannot happen soon enough. Speaking for the parents and adults here tonight, it feels like time has passed far too quickly.
When you get to my age, you have the benefit of hindsight, and I’d like to share a couple of things I learned after high school and college. First, listen to your mom and dad.
I went to college, got degrees in accounting and business management, and was following that career path. I was working at a local insurance company when my mom passed on a job listing Wanted: Evening Sun Sports Editor. It gave the details of the job and how to apply. At that point, I was in my mid 20s, and although I had been reading the paper for years and years, I NEVER looked at the ads. I was skeptical about the job listing, but my mom encouraged me to give it a shot. She knew sports had always been my passion, and this was my chance to get my foot in the door. If it wasn’t for my mom, I never would have gotten this job. So thank you mom.
The second point I wanted to make goes back to that word – passion. Now that I’ve been a working adult for 20-plus years, I have learned the key distinction between working a job and pursuing a career. My suggestion to all of you, find a career you are passionate about. Do you want a job where you are looking at the clock? Or do you want a career where you don’t wear a watch? By the way, no watch here.
All of you are here tonight because you played sports, and now that got this far, I presume you weren’t doing it to make someone else happy, you were doing it because it made you happy. You probably didn’t notice it, but along the way, you picked up some valuable life skills such as teamwork, setting and achieving goals, self-discipline, and time management. Just by playing playing sports, you have created a great foundation for future success. I wish all of you here the best of luck in whatever you do. Thank you.
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