Session #2: One-on-One 2018.03.10

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
— Neale Donald Walsch

If you are an athlete or have ever been a part of a team you know that the home field advantage is not just a saying, it’s a reality. There is a reason players and teams tend to perform better on a playing field with which they are familiar. Sometimes the advantage is psychological and visceral because the crowd comes alive when their team does something well, triggering a strength-in-numbers mentality that produces a deep sense of confidence. Sometimes it’s a physical advantage. Through all the practices, the wind sprints, gassers, drills, and sets, the players know every floorboard and blade of grass because they have covered it not just with their feet, but with their sweat, blood and, sometimes, tears.

For Session #2 in the Handshake America line-up of events the student-athletes get the home field advantage. To the students, the Orientation Session at Wendy's Headquarters probably felt a little like an away game. This time the coaches get to don the visitor’s jerseys and re-enter the world of high school.  These one-on-one sessions at the students' schools allow the coaches to experience, or at least get a taste of, the daily lives of their students. They get to meet their friends, their teachers and administrators, and get a real sense of who they are in their environment and attempt to understand who and what influences them every day. Many of the two-person teams have already met and the feedback is fantastic!

During this second session the coaches are encouraged to have meaningful and informative conversations that flow both ways. The goal is to get to know their student as a person, get a feel for where they are, what their passions are, and where they want to go into the next year and beyond. Ideally, a coach can relate to their younger counterpart by sharing insight from the paths they have traveled so that the student can get a glimpse into their future – to really get them to think about where, and specifically who they want to be.

That last bit is the core of this entire experience that is unfolding. It doesn’t matter whether you end up signing a multi-million dollar contract in your sport or work a desk job shuffling papers for a living. What matters is who you are. This is the one thing in life in which you have a choice. You can’t control much of anything else, but you can control how you are going to be you.

Perseverance, Passion, Positivity? Those are up to you. The value you put on People? Up to you. Developing all those traits? You are not alone in this one, but it is up to you to heed the experience of others and turn the stuff you learn and know into wisdom you can use. Your Presence, then, is how you apply that wisdom in real life situations.

How many times have you heard the phrase “trust the process”? Go ahead and add one to that number. Trust the process. These One-on-Ones are the first big step. Take these opportunities to open up to your coaches, and coaches to your students. Challenge each other and your teammates. Listen to each other. You will all be better for it!

Good luck, Coaches! High school can be a tough place for anybody. Good luck, Students! This is a great opportunity to perform on your home court.


Columbus Kick-Off & Orientation 2018.02.26

You always get a special kick on opening day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.
— Joe DiMaggio

Have you ever wondered why almost any weekend you can turn on the big screen and see men or women knocking around that little white ball? The golf season seems to have no beginning and no end with no discernible off-season. (Stay with me, I know golf can be more boring to talk about than to watch for some folks!) If you are a PGA tour player, golf is a winter, spring, summer, and fall sport. According to the PGA’s schedule, the 2017-2018 season is literally 364 days long – beginning October 2 last year and ending with the Ryder Cup on September 30, 2018. They do have a winter break from Thanksgiving until January 1, much like basketball, baseball, and hockey have their mid-season All-Star breaks.

 "Three legs of the stool" - Speaker David Probst emphasizes the significance of each: the parents (standing), the coaches, and the students.

"Three legs of the stool" - Speaker David Probst emphasizes the significance of each: the parents (standing), the coaches, and the students.

Why do they do it this way? The Tour is geared more towards the players than to the fans in that it gives them more opportunities for improvement, recognition, and financial gain. And, why do I bring it up? Because Handshake America pretty much has a year-round season - February through January - which is geared towards the benefit of the student-athletes, with all kinds of opportunities for improvement, growth and personal gain! See the analogy?

As I walked around the room during Orientation I noticed a couple of things. First, as it happens every year, most of the student-athletes had the first game jitters. That is not a knock on anyone. They know few of their peers, even fewer of the coaches, they are signing papers, and listening to speakers telling them of the amazing opportunities laid out before them at the cost of a higher level of social expectation to which they may be unaccustomed. Not to mention, there is someone pointing a camera in their faces and constantly snapping pictures of them. It’s a lot to take in!

 Students met their coaches and teammates, filled out paperwork, game-planned contact methods, and (most importantly) chose their team names. 

Students met their coaches and teammates, filled out paperwork, game-planned contact methods, and (most importantly) chose their team names. 

The second thing I noticed took place as the evening progressed. The coaches took the reins, broke the ice, and engaged the seniors-to-be in a very special way. They are coaches with Handshake because they are a special group of people chosen to lead another special group - of young people. These coaches are people who have “been there”. They played sports, they went to college, they received their degrees, they became successful in living life and managing what life throws at them. They value the relationships they form and the people with whom they form them. They are passionate about what they are doing. Their presence is invaluable. They exemplify the 5 Practices (known succinctly as the "5Ps") this program is based upon.

 Ron Ransom and student, Miicah Coleman, demonstrate the perilous and confusing world of the handshake before finally getting it right.

Ron Ransom and student, Miicah Coleman, demonstrate the perilous and confusing world of the handshake before finally getting it right.

OK, I’ll throw in a bonus - a third thing I noticed. This is a group of student-athletes who has the raw talent for the 5Ps, as well. The coaches are here to hone those skills – as with any coach in any sport. You could tell they know how to lace up the cleats, put on the chin strap, tuck in their jerseys and get down to business. There was confidence, leadership, and humility on their faces. This evening was the warm-up, handshake, coin flip, and pre-game pleasantries all rolled into one. The new season is underway and, just as they say on TV, stay tuned for updates and highlights on the upcoming events right here, at What's Happening. Have a great year!


Session #6 Positivity: 2017.9.21

Most people are about as happy as they make their minds to be.”
— Abraham Lincoln

     Handshake America went public - Worthington Public, that is - as we descended upon the already bustling Northwest Library branch. If we put a positive spin on the scene we could all agree the meeting was cozy and personal in that quaint little community room. It was actually quite the perfect room to hold the Positivity Session!

     Doug Smith, author of Happiness: The Art of Living With Peace, Confidence, and Joy, led us in truly taking inventory of the attitudes and actions in which we choose to frame our lives. It meshed perfectly with the Wooden Pyramid Blocks of Faith, Patience, and Enthusiasm that the Handshake ideal of Positivity encompasses.

 Doug Smith is holding a picture of Joseph Merrick - the person we knew as "The Elephant Man". Despite the circumstances he was handed, Merrick arguably made the best of a bad situation.

Doug Smith is holding a picture of Joseph Merrick - the person we knew as "The Elephant Man". Despite the circumstances he was handed, Merrick arguably made the best of a bad situation.

     I think there is one word in his book title that we cannot miss: Art. The fundamentals of art are skill and creativity. In terms of positivity, it is the skill to recognize when negative and accusing thoughts of the past seep into the present to drag down our confidence in what we are doing which then translates to worry and anxiety about the future. That negativity can be a weighty millstone around our necks. Creativity comes in when the recognition of negativity puts a stop to the cycle and you allow your mind to look at things from a positive perspective.

 Special guest and purveyor of positivity, Jimmie Bell, infects everyone around him with his upward attitude.

Special guest and purveyor of positivity, Jimmie Bell, infects everyone around him with his upward attitude.

     The best example I can give you is halftime of a basketball game. Built into the game is the opportunity to take whatever happens in the first half - let's say your team is down by twenty and played terribly - evaluate what you did and take a breath, and make a plan for what you will do in the next twenty minutes. If you think it's hopeless, you have already lost. If you look at the second half as an opportunity to make adjustments, play better, and overcome the deficit then you have a shot. 

     According to Doug's book description on Amazon (, "Through research and study, he began to understand that what the most joyful among us have in common is that they remember the past with peace, anticipate the future with confidence, and live in the present with joy and exuberance." Do we do that? Can we do that? Take a time out and honestly give some thought to what those three ideas mean to us. Go ahead. It might look daunting, but let us not make mountains out of mole hills. You've got this, I'm positive of it. :)



Session #5: People 2017.8.2

Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.”
— Steve Jobs

     There is a lie going around that if you want to succeed in life, you need to take care of you, because no one else will; that there is such a thing as a "self-made individual". The “ME Generation" is a label given to the Baby Boomers of the 1970's, and "Generation ME" is a label thrown around referring to those who grew up in the last 20-30 years. We have so much, but on a personal level we are one of the least satisfied and least happy generations in American history. Why? The undeniable truth is, while a person exists and is conscious on an individual level, the world we live in is made up of people. We have been made to live together, in community. We accomplish more when we do things as a group rather than alone.

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     We were hosted and addressed by one of those people whose success is built on the successes of those who are in his charge: Roger Rawlins, DSW's CEO. The leader of a company often sets the tone and creates a culture of success by acknowledging how the achievement of those on even the lowest end of the payroll contributes to the success on each ascending level; all the way to the top. 

     In the Handshake context, "people" doesn't just mean "more than one human". It means a group linked to a common purpose. It encompasses the Wooden Pyramid Blocks of Friendship, Loyalty, Cooperation, and Team Spirit. A person who is successful in these arenas breeds success and achievement in the people around them, and enjoys it!

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     We brought these concepts to light in a couple of ways. The panel of Handshake America coaches, alumni, and current students that took the stage shared the positive impact that a single individual had on their lives. Through this we were all challenged to think of someone who had impacted our lives for the better. Then we were challenged on another level to think of someone who may have been, or is being bettered by our efforts and our encouragement.

 The panel.

The panel.

     That is why this session was called "People", and not "Person". We emphasized the reality that while this program is focused on developing the character of the individual on and off the field, there is no success to be had - or enjoyed - without others being involved. Recognizing and embracing this reality is the key. It is one thing to see and know the face of success; the champions, the presidents, the CEO's, and the heroes. It is another to be a part of it on a less visible level; a building block of the foundation for that success.

     You want to know success in this life? Enjoy the successes of others and let others enjoy yours.


Session #4: Passion 2017.6.8

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Nothing great was ever created without enthusiasm.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

     Sometimes you just know passion when you see it. Walking through the campus of Abercrombie & Fitch, seeing the details and the thoughtful design and architecture, you can just feel the passion that was poured into this place. It was a fitting place to host this year's Passion session. Our guest speaker and Abercrombie CEO, Fran Horowitz, talked about her focus on success and and the passion she puts behind it. You don't just wake up one morning and find you're the CEO of one of the most recognized clothing brands in America. You have to travel a longer and tougher road than that. So, how does this building block of passion play into the success of people like her?

 Fran Horowitz, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, fields questions from students and coaches at the Passion session.

Fran Horowitz, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, fields questions from students and coaches at the Passion session.

     Angela Duckworth, author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, says that people with grit have four psychological assets that they develop over the years: Interest, Practice, Purpose, and Hope. It starts with something that interests you, then you devote skillful practice in pursuit of it's mastery, you find purpose and have conviction that what you are doing matters, and then hope is the thing that keeps your eyes up and looking forward when you get knocked down or start to doubt your efforts or abilities.

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     And not a single thing about all of this is easy! The fires of passion always cast the shadows of sacrifice. To be passionate about something typically means that there are things you may have to give up. That may mean less time watching TV, or less money for phones, or fewer calories, or earlier nights, or later nights, or fewer family dinners around the kitchen table. You get the idea. 

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     "Cinderella story", "rags to riches", "worst to first", "from the mail room to the boardroom", "climb the corporate ladder". These familiar phrases exist because there are more examples than you can count of people overcoming less than perfect circumstances by developing their passion for something and letting it drive them to their goal. Notice the word "develop". We are not born with passion but it grows when we discover something worth doing, something worth pursuing. And we like it. Maybe we even love it! And, dare I add, that one major factor is that Passion has nothing to do with where you come from (who your parents are, geographic location, financial standing, skin color, ethnicity), only where you decide you are going.

     We often hear it said that someone has a passion for acting, or a passion for photography, or someone could even have a passion for stamp collecting or managing a pizza place or for teaching. It seems that when we apply the term to someone we are saying that they have found something that in their mind or their heart is something worth pursuing, or something worth focusing on. It is an individual decision to assign a greater worth to something than most other people would.

                                                          What's your passion?


Session #3: Perseverance 2017.4.6

 Students shared their own stories of hardship and perseverance with their peers and coaches in Session #3 at the DSW Headquarters in Columbus, OH. 

Students shared their own stories of hardship and perseverance with their peers and coaches in Session #3 at the DSW Headquarters in Columbus, OH. 

    "Perseverance is the ability to resist temptation and stay the course; you do not give up!" Those are the timeless words of John Wooden. The word "perseverance" comes from a Latin root that means "abiding by strictly." Its synonyms are: persistence, tenacity, determination, staying power, steadfastness, purposefulness, and here at Handshake, I think we can safely add the word "grit" to that list.

     You wouldn't have to worry about persevering if everything was easy. You wouldn't have to battle through circumstances if they weren't painful or difficult. You wouldn't need to press on if you weren't being pushed back and you would't stumble if your path was even. Of course, life isn't like that. Everyone that puts eyes to this screen can tell you a story of failure, of hardship, of loss, of setback, pain, torment, or even humiliation. Everyone reacts to tough circumstances differently and a lot of people can shoulder a lot of what life heaps upon them.

     Perseverance, though, has another dimension to it. It implies that you have a destination or a goal in view. Maybe that destination is a college, a team, a personal best, or maybe its a career. You can't get anywhere without moving. You can't stand still and be awarded a scholarship. You can't stand still and learn to be a doctor. You have to move toward that goal. That's when the obstacles come at you, like a proverbial game of Donkey Kong. That's right, a Donkey Kong reference.

     You want to go to college? It's expensive. Really expensive. You want to make the team? It's really hard work. No, it's harder than you imagined. Maybe you get hurt. Maybe you don't turn in your application for the scholarship in time. Maybe you're not accepted into the program you wanted. What then?

     You persevere. Perseverance is the habit of not making excuses. It is the paradox of moving beyond the past and at the same time not forgetting it, transforming your mistakes into wisdom. It is owning your failure, knowing it will come and not letting it surprise you. It is knowing where you want to go and finding a way to get there. Sure, we can all share our hard knock stories and our lamentations, but to what end? We must be careful not to dwell on them, otherwise they become burdensome excuses that serve only to weigh heavy on our backs and hold us down.

“Perseverance is the ability to resist temptation and stay the course; you do not give up!”
— Coach John Wooden

     The students in this Handshake America program have already begun to persevere. It is a part of who they are, because they found a way to be a part of it. They were presented with the opportunity and they did what they needed to do to get here. They have grit, and they are growing and developing that grit, ultimately striving in a way that will bring them success.

     Part of the development happens here at these Handshake events. In the team building exercises they were challenged by their coaches to share their tough stories, but more importantly, how they worked through it; how they persevered. Some of these stories brought out some deep emotions, but what they highlighted were the victories. Some we won't forget. Some we will never know because we didn't get to hear them. But above all, what was inescapable was the ability for all of us to look back and realize how far we have come despite the trials of life. We got to enjoy that sense of victory, not just for ourselves, but we were able to share in the victories of others.

     As serious as those conversations were, however, we ended on a high note with a bracket style challenge of Stack Attack. We all found out that it's not as easy as it looks! In the end, the crucible of competition produced a victor. She stayed consistent, she stayed the course, and she came out on top. 

     The take away? No matter the physical gifts or the outward appearances that are allotted to us in this life, perseverance is a choice. It is an inward attitude of grit and persistence that propels us to our goals and ambitions. It pulls us up when we are knocked down and it pushes us forward when our doubts tell us to turn back. This is perseverance.

I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.”
— John D. Rockefeller

Highlights from Session #3 - Perseverance.

Kick Off & Orientation 2017.2.22 Recap

     There is a tension that exists in the mind and body of an athlete before any game. The heart pumps a little harder with anticipation and the mind rehearses game plans and a multitude of scenarios, in preparation for both the expected and the unexpected. The tension is transformed into performance the moment the game begins. First pitch, first serve, puck drop, opening tip, call it what you like but that's what happened tonight at Wendy's International, Inc. in Dublin, OH, where 50 coaches, 40 high school juniors and parents from 32 different schools gathered for this year's Handshake America 2017 Kick Off.    

     Every athlete learns and grows with coaching, practice, and experience in their sport, but this is different. This is happening on another plane. We spend a relatively small amount of time on the field of play and the balance of that time in real life: working, going to school, having a family life, and building relationships with people outside the scope of our chosen sport. So, as Handshake launched into it's sixth and largest year, there was a little sizzle in the air. Coach Ron Ransom, of Nationwide Insurance, laid down the expectations; from demonstrating a handshake done right, down to presenting ourselves well to others (even if it means learning how to iron a wrinkled shirt!). The night was full of motion and buzzed with conversation as the students were challenged to get up, to move, circulate, meet each other, meet their teammates, meet their coaches, and practice the quintessential handshake.



     They also heard from Handshake Volunteer and Wendy's Associate, Suzie Thuerk, who reminded us that Dave Thomas made square burgers, not because it was different, but because it was a metaphor of his philosophy that he would not "cut corners."  Founder Doug Probst, and Handshake student alumni encouraged the Class of 2018 to make the most of this experience. Teams gathered and broke the ice, and some even flexed their muscles (an intimidation tactic, no doubt).


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     Others showed us that there is room for some finesse. Either way they play it, coaches and students will be bringing out the best in each other in a spirit of commitment, competition, and serious fun.

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     This year is going to be packed full of awesome coaching sessions and speakers with a focus on the 5 P's: Perseverance, Passion, People, Positivity, and Presence. And we have the most experienced team of coaches in Handshake history who are ready to build on the successes of years passed. So as the Handshake season gets underway, we look forward to the challenges ahead to build us up, broaden our horizons, and build lasting relationships. Here's to the success of the students of the 2017-2018 class!

by mDraudt