What is the founding point of THE GIVE TEAM? Is it our first race as a team in 2017 when we ran The Green Beret Challenge in South Georgia? Is it when Chris and Lou Lou and I volunteered at a Battlefrog event north of Orlando in an effort to earn the ability to race for free? Is it the first obstacle course race we ran, the Battlefrog Akim and I ran in 2015 when we came up with the idea to bring an OBSTACLE COURSE RACING TEAM to New Image Youth Center, and call it THE SPRINT TEAM (life is not a marathon, but a series of sprints, periods of intense engagement followed by periods of intentional disengagement)? Or is it when I first visited New Image Youth Center after knowing Shanta for several months and she told me the story of NIYC so I could help raise money as part of Rock for Hunger (an Orlando non-profit where I served on the board of directors), where she told me the kids of New Image Youth Center served people in the neighborhood a warm meal once a month because she wanted them to know, "No matter how little you have, you ALWAYS have something to give." Or does it go back to when I became a single dad and needed a way to connect with my son simplify a way for him to achieve nearly anything in the world he wants by SETTING A GOAL, MAKING A PLAN, EXECUTING THAT PLAN, and OVERCOMING CHALLENGES? Or does it go back to my days in college and high school when I played rugby and football, respectively, and learned the importance of physical activity and the role it plays in creating momentum in life?

Truth be told, it's all that. Each of those play an important role in creating what is today THE GIVE TEAM. The story has been honed over the years and evolves with each new team. The curriculum and approach needs to change a bit here and there to align with the team members as each team member grows and as we bring in new personalities. But the standards never change. I've felt them bend at points, and whenever I realize that's happening, we SNAP BACK.

The program was initially designed to be a VARSITY SPORT-LIKE experience. The team members are typically in THE MAGIC DECADE, a concept I heard Dr. Jim West discuss. That's the decade between ages 15-25, and it's called the MAGIC DECADE because those are the years that shape the trajectory of your life more than any comparable ten-year period. If you're reading this and are older than 30, think back to the years when you have the most vivid memories. It's typically in that ten-year period. I could tell you where I was in November of my 21st year, but ask me what I was doing at ANY point in my 29th year and I'd have to spend some time thinking about it. That's a transformative period in life, and when I heard Dr. West refer to it as THE MAGIC DECADE it made sense. That's when you break free from your family. It's typically when you first live on your own. It's when you realize what it's like to be an adult and be self-reliant. And for the young men and women of Parramore that's when we want to engage. Not that you can't change after you turn 25, but it becomes increasingly difficult.

You only do what you see as possible, and if what you see is possible is only what your environment presents to you, then your environment is critical to shaping your path forward. If the environment where you live shows you high rates of poverty, unemployment, violence, gang activity, then that's what you see as available to you. If you are shown people who have made their way to relative safety and relative success by experiences OUTSIDE that environment, you're more likely to follow that path because it leads somewhere more fulfilling and ultimately safer. By ALL MEANS, COME BACK and work WITHIN the community, but expand your horizons through different experiences. Combining the concept of ONLY CHOOSING the OPTIONS YOU SEE with the MAGIC DECADE, then the experiences you have between the ages of 15-25 are critical in shaping the skills, habits, and thought patterns necessary to live a fulfilling life. A healthy foundation makes it easier to follow a healthy path.

Football in high school played that role for me. I was blessed to grow up in an environment of privilege. Football was the one thing that presented me with a challenge, and allowed me to see the confluence of being challenged physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And the experience with Akim at the Battlefrog race in March of 2015 brought the question to the front of my mind, "How can we take THIS experience and this feeling of community with obstacle course racing and bring it to the young men and women of Parramore?" Thinking deeper, how can I blend a curriculum around goal achievement and physical accomplishment to give team members the experiences outside their community and the tools needed to ACHIEVE THEIR DREAMS?

Akim was an important sounding board in those early years. He'd help hone what was being put together and make it resonate. He's an alumnus of New Image Youth Center, a staff member, and also a personal trainer. He ran track in high school and realizes the importance of fitness. Immediately, he was THE ASSISTANT COACH. He brought (and continues to bring) an infectious energy, and an appreciation of what it means to work hard. We'd talk to kids at New Image Youth Center, and Chris was interested in joining with his little brother Lou Lou. Chris was in middle school at the time and a bit younger than what I had in mind, and Lou Lou was in elementary school and wouldn't be able to do the main races we'd train for. But both were very athletic and had a desire to succeed and exceed expectations. So that's how we started. Every other Saturday we'd get together to do a little workout, then we'd grab breakfast afterward. Anything more than every other Saturday seemed like too much to take on. As a baseball and football coach, I understood team leadership but I was learning as much as they were. What the hell could a middle-aged white guy who had every privilege available to him offer to a group of young men and women, boys and girls, growing up in an environment surrounded by threats and challenges? I asked that question every time I drove to Parramore for those first couple years. I've since learned the answer. Empathy and love combined with providing an opportunity to build strength through hard work. And we'll get strong together. Because this team is different. The coach does whatever the team does.

And that's how we started.

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