New Beginnings

by David Mitchell

Not sure what it’s like where you live, but in my home state of Michigan, Labor Day brings more thoughts of endings than beginnings.  Of course, it is the beginning of a new school year, but beyond that, it is the end of summer, the end of warm weather, and it marks the wrapping up of another season cheering for our beloved Detroit Tigers.  Spring is the big time of hopefulness and change that we want to see as winter finally melts away, flowers and green grass appear, and people’s moods brighten in anticipation of all the potential that lies ahead.  The old adage, “Hope springs eternal” has the word spring in it for more than one reason! 

This year, I want to challenge you to think not of endings, but of new beginnings. We here at are making changes as we launch the new version of our website in order to serve you better. The first few weeks of cross country season and the school year are actually excellent times to get a fresh start on the things that concern you, too.  If you like the way things have been going, then it is a great time to assess what you’ve been doing to keep yourself on that positive path and how to stay there.  If you have areas of your life (academic, family, social, spiritual, athletic) that aren’t as you want them to be, I want you to embrace September as the time for your new beginning.  It’s not necessarily easy, but it is simpler than you may realize.

First off, it is important to specifically identify what you’d like to change.  Dream big. Don’t be shy.  What is it that you want to be different for you and/or for those around you?  Once you have identified that thing (or those things) take a realistic view of whether or not it is in your control.  For example, we cannot control the weather, only how we react to it.  We cannot control the thoughts and actions of others, but how we go about our daily business can have an influence on them sometimes.  Beyond that we can always control our attitude toward a challenging situation in any aspect of life.  Motivational speaker and author, Tom Blackwell, makes it clear when he says, “For things to change, I have to change.”  Are you ready to change?

If academics is the area you’d like to improve, step right up and make it happen.  Your daily habits make you the student that you are.  A sustained change in those habits will build up to improve your grades, test scores, and your ability to understand what is going on in the classroom.  One or two minor changes can add up to a major gain. 

  • How do you view note-taking in class? 
  • What do you do with those notes once you have them? 
  • Do you make sure to read everything that is assigned? 
  • Do you know your own strengths and weaknesses as a learner? 

Check out the Trackademics article  “Time-Tested Tips for Terrific Test-Taking” to help you identify a couple of strategies to help you get the results you’re looking for as a student. 

As an athlete change comes in a very similar way.  Target an area of your performance you want to improve.  Make it measurable and then break it into smaller chunks that are realistic for you to accomplish one at a time.  Again, changes in small habits add up to big accomplishments.  A faster time or beating a rival may be as simple as making a couple of adjustments to your preparation in terms of nutrition, sleep and post-workout routines.  Do some listening and some learning (see the TrackMedic articles) then apply what you’ve learned one small step at a time to make it a positive habit.  Be patient and persistent even if it seems like it isn’t happening fast enough.   Sometimes an athletic improvement can also come from an improvement in study habits, due to the reduction in stress in that area of your life.

Regardless of what your goal is, find an accountability partner (close friend, parent, teacher, team captain or coach) and share those changes you are working to make with that person.  Ask that person to help you stick with the changes by checking in with you regularly for the next 3 weeks to see how it’s going.  If we keep goals to ourselves, we can drop them more easily.  Gentle feedback can keep us heading in the right direction.  Along with that, some steady encouragement can lift us up beyond where we could go alone.  New habits can be formed in 21 days and the results can begin to show even sooner than that.

Perhaps your struggles are with relationships in your family, on your team or with other friends.  Goals that involve other people are always a challenge, but they can also come with a terrific pay off once you succeed.  One of the basic theories in counseling is that if one person in a family, on a team, or in a relationship changes then that family, team or relationship also changes.  Again, make a small, consistent change in your own habits and in the way you view things and you may find some great rewards ahead.  Check out the Trackademics article “First Impressions” to get an idea or two.  If others don’t respond the way you’d hoped, don’t give up.  They might just come around.  At the very least, you are making positive changes in you!

If you are a typical, high-achieving student athlete that is so motivated to make a change that you’ve read this article, then you are well on your way to a positive new beginning.  If you are typical in other ways, you may also be a bit too hard on yourself.  Take time to be celebrate the effort you put into daily life.  Also take time to appreciate all who support you as you work hard in pursuing your goals.  Acknowledging effort and support are important ways  to be kind to yourself and to others.  Enjoy the process of pursuing your goals--not just whether or not you’ve attained them.  That in itself could be a new beginning, too!

This fall it is time to spring into action toward your new beginning.  Identify areas you’d like to improve.  Make your goals significant.  Get some assistance and encouragement along the way from someone you trust.  Do some listening and learning.  Then take small, steady steps toward the new and improved you.    Those small steps and daily habits are the key to any change we want to make in life.  Send a quick note to to let me know how it’s going.  I’ll be happy to hear from you! 

We at the National Scholastic Sports Foundation are enjoying a new beginning this September, won’t you join us?

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