Remember to Say Thanks

April 13, 2019

 

By Larry Cooper, MS, LAT, ATC

 

(from left to right): Walter "Kip" Smith, MEd, ATC, LAT,Larry Cooper, MS, LAT, ATC,David H. Perrin, PhD, AT Ret, FNATA.  Smith and Perrin are both members of the NATA Hall if Fame.

As you read this blog, I am sure that there is someone who helped you to get you where you are today. It is my hope that this column will inspire you to reflect, smile a bit and then want to reach out and thank those individuals who helped you achieve your goals

Most of us will go through life with a few regrets, hopefully they aren’t huge—and equally important, you keep those regrets to a minimum. If you are like me, you grew up in a house that quickly pointed out teachable moments and discussion on choices, along with their consequences. I am thankful for this because they helped me understand ownership and responsibility for my actions. My parents also were extremely encouraging and let us pursue our dreams. More than likely, these foundations nudged me along in my pursuit of a profession that appealed to me.

I consider myself extremely fortunate that I was able to find Athletic Training. To me, it was the perfect blend of medicine, athletics, being outside close with nature, and competition. It was never boring, monotonous, dreadful or painful for me to go to work. This made it easy for me to want to get involved early in my career and stay involved.

But I also had great mentors, those individuals who freely invested their time, expertise, friendship and guidance in me and helped nurture that passion I had for Athletic Training. These mentors were coaches, teachers, supervising AT’s, professors, MD’s and clinical supervisors. When I reflect back on my formative years and the people involved in molding me, the list is long and impressive. Coaches who are in their respective sports Hall of Fame, AT’s that are in the NATA Hall of Fame, teachers and professors who have received numerous recognition from their institution and governing bodies and MD’s who have had very successful careers.

Over the past few years, I have reached out to each of them to thank them for taking me under their wing and believing in me even when I was young, immature and doubted myself. The method of contact has been face to face meeting, emails, phone calls and texts but the response is always the same, they are appreciative and they always say that the pleasure was all theirs. All are humble, caring, public servants that do not realize the depth and breadth of their reach. Without individuals like this, our profession, our world, would become stagnant and less attractive.

To quote a good friend, Rick Burkholder, during his Pennsylvania Athletic Trainer Hall of Fame speech: from the book Outliers by Malcom Gladwell."The biggest misconception about success is that we do it solely on our smarts, ambition, hustle and hard work." In Outliers, he hopes to show that there are a lot more variables involved in an individual's success than society cares to admit, and he wants people to "move away from the notion that everything that happens to a person is up to that person". When asked what message he wanted people to take away after reading Outliers, Gladwell responded, "What we do as a community, as a society, for each other, matters as much as what we do for ourselves. Throughout the publication, he discusses how family, culture, and friendship each play a role in an individual's success, and he constantly asks whether successful people deserve the praise that we give them.“ This is GREAT advice and something we should all think about.

Now that you have had time to reflect on those who were influential in your career, hopefully it is easier to see how many opportunities you were afforded by so many great people. It is my hope that you will take the time to pause and say thank you. I also hope that you become a mentor to someone either younger than yourself or to someone new to your setting; we all need help.

Looking back on those people who were instrumental in my development and continue to be involved, the list is enormous. Everyone who I have come into contact with has helped me to become the person that I am today. Rick also stated in his speech that “when you are exposed to so many greats that you are supposed to be that way yourself”. Definitely words of wisdom.

Burkholder also had some additional words of advice that came from Matthew Kelly, Author of The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose. He states that, “The people we surround ourselves with either raise or lower our standards. They either help us become the-best-version-of-ourselves or encourage us to become lesser versions of ourselves. We become like our friends. No man becomes great on his own. No woman becomes great on her own. The people around them help to make them great. We all need people in our lives who raise our standards, remind us of our essential purpose, and challenge us to become the-best-version-of-ourselves."

My wish is that you to take a few minutes to pick up the phone, send a note, send an email or stop by and visit with those who have been a major influence in your personal and professional lives. Be sure to do it before it’s too late, you don’t want to live with that regret. By reaching out you might just make their day and make them realize how much of a mentor they were/are.

I recently lost my father and he was a MAJOR and consistent player in my life up until his last day. Even though he was in a completely different type of employment, he understood athletic training and was very insightful, honest, and full of wisdom on matters related to my profession. He helped me out in many situations.

I am glad that I had the opportunity to thank him for all of the support, criticism, and love over the years. I hope you do the same to those who mean so much to you.

 

Larry Cooper, MS, LAT, ATC, recently retired after 27 years as Head Athletic Trainer at Penn-Trafford High School in Harrison City, Pa., where he also taught health, physical education, and sports medicine classes. Since 2012, he has served as Chair of the NATA Secondary School Athletic Trainers’ Committee. Winner of a 2016 NATA Most Distinguished Athletic Trainer Award, 2015 T&C Most Valuable Athletic Trainer Award, and 2014 NATA Athletic Training Service Award, he was inducted into the Pennsylvania Athletic Trainers’ Society Hall of Fame in 2014. Cooper can be reached at: [email protected].

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