Kids are smart. They are far more perceptive and intuitive than most people realize. When it comes to the way adults influence their lives – teachers, coaches, pastors, administrators, etc. – many kids recognize if someone is genuinely concerned about their well-being. Thinking back to when I was a young student in class and an athlete in football, basketball, and track, I can vividly recall the times I felt like adults just didn’t care. My friends and I would sometimes joke about how some of them were there just to collect a paycheck.
Adults play such a critical role in children’s lives. Every day, we ought to thank them for serving our communities and investing in the leaders of tomorrow. However, while many teachers and coaches are likely evaluated as quality educators, kids don’t use the same measuring methods. Students and athletes need to feel that teachers and coaches truly care about them and believe in their great potential even beyond the classroom or athletic program.
Many educators don’t demonstrate these qualities. They misuse their authority or say things that demotivate kids. Additionally, I’ve discovered over the years that many educators don’t want to get involved in the matters of the home or things outside of the school walls. For me growing up, this is where I really needed the most help.
My biological dad wasn’t around to guide me; therefore, I didn’t have that fatherly figure in my life. I transitioned in and out of my home from relative’s to friend’s houses. I was constantly on the move throughout high school. There were so many opportunities for me to get involved in the wrong things, but I was determined to make a better life for myself. I just needed a few strong leaders to show me the way.
That’s what really made a difference in my life. It was the quality interactions and relationships of just a few key mentors who took the time to help me along my path and make good choices. They showed me I had great potential and inspired me to reach it.
Fortunately I was blessed at key moments of my life with strong role models who intervened.
While at Patrick Henry High School in North Minneapolis, Basketball Coach Larry McKenzie kept me busy. He freely told me he believed in me and said I had natural talent. He encouraged me to work hard and practice on my own outside of school. Moreover, he taught me that my grades and responsibilities at home, such as helping my mother whenever I could, were even more important.
For track, my mentor was Pastor Joseph Sutton at the Hospitality House Youth Development in North Minneapolis. This organization focuses on the spiritual, intellectual, and physical development of inner city youth. Pastor Joseph always started our practices in prayer and helped me truly understand the value of teamwork. He also molded me into a softer individual. By that, I mean he showed me how to communicate with respect to the youth without being rude, intimidating, demeaning, and shutting them down.
For football, my math teacher Mr. Bryan Damnann at Brooklyn Center High School had an influential role in my development. He really challenged me to stretch beyond my natural ability and said I’m going to have to let go of doing things my way. I was stubborn at times, but he spent a lot of time explaining the little things. His influence really mattered a lot to me. He was there to answer my questions about Christianity, and he helped me understand what living a life of integrity was all about.
I chose to attend University of Moorhead in Minnesota. After I obtained my Physical Education Bachelor’s Degree, I began working at a Christian college west of the Twin Cities called Crown College as a basketball coach for three seasons. It was during this time that my faith grew, as I was responsible for integrating and teaching Christian principles to my college students.
I knew college was the only way I could reach my full potential. With the help of key mentors, I became one of the top high school football receivers in Minnesota and was offered a football scholarship to attend Northern State University in South Dakota. I was also blessed with a track scholarship to attend the University of Moorhead in Minnesota, having achieved one of the highest high school national times in the 800 meter.
While I was at Crown College, I completed my Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership. I also established the Real Athletics Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides inner-city youth the opportunity to develop their leadership skills and abilities to make positive changes within their communities.
I was fortunate to have the right people in my path at key moments in my life, and now it’s time for me to facilitate the same in the lives of others. My mission is to change lives by planting strong “soldiers,” mentors, coaches, and influencers into youth development programs that will make a difference in the lives of hundreds and eventually thousands of youth in the Twin Cities area.
I truly believe that we all have a purpose and a higher calling in life. For me, since my early years, I’ve known that my mission is to inspire youth the way I was inspired by my mentors. This is my passion.
The type of support a child receives growing up makes a significant difference in their ability to be successful in life. We purposefully connect with children on an emotional level by treating them with respect and using stories and examples they can relate to. We demonstrate and teach the principles of leadership as a lifestyle and mindset that will help them mentally, socially, physically and spiritually prosper.
Our goal at Real Athletics Foundation is to truly inspire the youth from the core, helping them realize that they have great potential to succeed in all areas of their lives.
Other than allowing Real Athletics Foundation to continue flourishing, I am progressing my professional work in Education Administration. I have worked in a number of school districts at middle schools and high schools around the Twin Cities, as well as at a number of colleges. I want to continue expanding my influence in Education Administration alongside Real Athletics Foundation so that I can truly impact youth in almost every area of development.
All in all, my hope is that I've inspired others to make a difference in the lives of children. Each of us has great influence in helping to position them for future success.
Robert Ware - President and Founder, Real Athletics Foundation
Interviewed and written by Alyce Renee.
Another story about Robert Ware: See "Make Your Choice - Do You Want to be Great?"
For more information on Robert Ware, visit www.realathletics.org