Making a Difference
No pro athletes play more games in a season than baseball players. They’re on the field almost every day from April through September – plus March and October if you count spring training and the post-season.
So when a ballplayer decides to spend some of his precious free time to participate in a panel discussion in a high school gym – not exactly glamorous work – you have to figure he truly believes he can make a difference.
But not just that: He truly believes he has a responsibility to make a difference.
Jeremy Affeldt believes both.
“You choose the type of role model you will be as an athlete, positive or negative,” Affeldt told the 500 students at Washington High School in San Francisco recently. “As athletes we ARE role models, so embrace the role and do the best at it that you can.”
The Giants relief pitcher recently sat alongside educators and coaches to talk about how sports can mold young men and women into leaders. What kids learn from playing sports – discipline, goal setting, teamwork, perseverance – fosters success long after they leaving the fields and gyms.
“We all have dreams and lay in bed at night dreaming of what we are going to do with our lives,” Affeldt told the students. “Have dreams and then make them happen.”
Maybe their dream is to be a pro athlete or a heart surgeon or an architect. “Dream big and surround yourself with people who believe in you.” Affeldt said.
The journey might carry you somewhere you never expected to go, somewhere other than the place you thought you were going. The process of working toward a goal, no matter where you ultimately land, is what shapes you into a successful person.
“Be open to options,” Affeldt said. “Exercise discipline, keep perspective and follow your passion!”
He explained that there were different kinds of power, and the physical power required in sports is only one kind. Knowledge is even more powerful. He encouraged the students to read as much as they can. Read everything, he said. Exercise your brain the way you exercise your body.
“I read so I can be the most powerful person I can be,” Affeldt said.
Affeldt appeared on the panel at the invitation of Washington High math teacher Ed Marquez. Marquez created and implemented an innovative program called Athletes in Math Succeed (AIMS). He takes at-risk male minority student athletes and teaches them math during the school year. Along the way they learn a lot more than math. They come to see that, just as they pull together on a playing field to win a game, they can use many of those same skills and motivators to pull together in the classroom and push one another to excel in their studies
In 2007, the junior class of AIMS took Advanced Algebra, marking the highest number of African Americans, Latinos and Pacific Islanders ever to take the course in the 82 years of George Washington’s existence.