Notes from over the pond: 2012 London Olympics and SOS |

Notes from over the pond: 2012 London Olympics and SOS

Theresa Papandrea
SOS Programs Director
Special to the Daily/Theresa Papandrea

“Dare you to move.”

These words were spoken to 56 youth at the conclusion of a week full of leadership, creating a lifetime of memories, during the 2012 London Olympics.

Among those 56 were 18 youth and three staff from SOS Outreach, a ski-country nonprofit that focuses on developing leadership and advocacy skills along with becoming an active member of the community. They attended the Olympics through the Playmakers program, part of Global Sports Development.

Summit County’s SOS program sent four of the 18 – selected for their commitment to SOS and for their execution of the SOS core values of courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom and compassion. They have been part of SOS for at least four years or more, as either junior mentors or year-four participants.

The SOS Outreach kids joined 29 youth from the London/Great Britain area and nine youth from Canada. They not only attended Olympic events, but they embraced the culture of London and the Olympics, practiced random acts of kindness, enhanced their leadership development, and practiced living by the SOS core values.

This adventure really brought to light how youth today can be given amazing opportunities and then use them to inspire and fuel their own goals and dreams. With the theme of this year’s Olympic Games being “Inspire a Generation” it blew me and the other SOS Staff away to hear our own youth’s stories.

Halfway into the trip, Bob Beamon, the holder of a 44-year-old Olympic record in long jump, spoke to the youth about working hard and being a leader when taking control of one’s life. His story is an amazing one and as he shared his story filled with heartache and a hard upbringing, the youth listened.

Mystic McFadden, one of the Summit youth on the trip was touched by Beamon’s story.

“His talk was very powerful especially because he has been through a lot,” McFadden said. “He inspired me to work harder in the sports that I play and that I can accomplish anything I want to in life.”

The youth were also inspired by interacting and experiencing new things with each other. While watching different Olympic events together they began to dive into what it means to be a leader. SOS youth were lucky to attended a variety of events – beach volleyball, boxing, badminton, gymnastics and tennis at Wimbledon.

One of the groups of youth from London that were part of the Playmakers program were at the badminton match when team China was deliberately trying to lose their matches to secure an easier run through the knock-out rounds. It was a great talking point and discussion began about sportsmanship and fair play among the youth.

They also had conversations about winning medals and training for years to compete in the Olympics. During the gymnastics event, the youth were blown away by the athletes and how one little step or wrong tweak could cost them a medal.

Another Summit County student, Jack Cline, who attended badminton and boxing, could not have said it any more inspirationally, “I saw how the athletes picked right back up from a fall and kept fighting to victory. The victory is not the gold. It’s more. It’s having a successful future after the gold is won. Becoming part of society, contributing the courage, honor, humility, wisdom, compassion and integrity that they learned from past experiences negative or positive, and using them to inspire us to be something great and to help society be great.

“No matter what background someone has come from there is still light at the end of the tunnel. So why not try and find the light be something great?”

This year brought us another Olympics viewed by millions of people across the world. I was lucky enough this year to trade in my spot next to the TV for an actual seat in the Olympic stadium. Never would I think that I would have such a great opportunity thanks to Global Sports Development and SOS Outreach.

As we arrived into the city of London, I knew I would be able to see some events as well as explore the city. Although this was a vacation, we also worked on developing our leadership skills that SOS already devotes so much attention to. Many of us were junior sherpas who were leaders already within the program. In addition to the development of our leadership skills, we also paid close attention to the continuous use of the SOS core values; courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom, compassion. We all had already demonstrated courage by venturing into a foreign country that hardly any of us knew much about.

With the exception of the few major attractions we knew we were going to see, like Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, everything else was still up in the air as far as Olympic events to watch. We all displayed integrity by representing SOS in a way that we knew was right and appropriate toward other kids from our rooms as well as the general London population. Although we did continue to develop our leadership skills in London, we also brought our wisdom as junior sherpas to the table as well. Many of us had to take in leadership roles between being interviewed for TV and newspaper or leading a small group through the hustle and bustle of the local tube (underground train) lines.

Our fifth core value is compassion and the SOS group demonstrated compassion every day when we would perform random acts of kindness to our peers or just people on the street. One of our first acts was allowing other groups to have the first pick of Olympic events they wanted to see and letting us take what was left. Everyone still was able to see many events. Even I got to see Olympic badminton which was a lot more action packed than I had ever thought. I remember playing this odd game in gym class a couple years back and just having fun but not necessarily taking it that serious. However, when I saw the sport played at an Olympic level, it became a lot more interesting and intense. This was a whole new world of badminton that I had never seen before – and what a great place to see it, London Olympics 2012.

Yes, badminton was very entertaining to watch, but the event that I most thoroughly enjoyed, hands down, was boxing. I was lucky to see almost 10 fights ranging from low to middle weight classes. The crowd roared as the British fighter Ogogo came out. Right then and there I knew this was going to be a great fight just because of the intensity of the crowd. The fight was between Ogogo and the number one ranked fighter from Ukraine. The whole stadium was so loud and excited for this British fighter and they really knew how to show it through their unique chants and instruments.

All in all this was the best vacation thus far in my life. I had so much fun spending time in the historic city of London, as well as experiencing the Olympics all in one trip. I was able to cheer on Team USA as well as become a fan for some new British athletes. This trip has allowed me to take my first plane ride, travel outside of the U.S. for the first time, as well as experience the 2012 summer Olympics in London. In my book that’s a great trip!

On my trip to London with SOS Outreach, I learned how to be a better leader through a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. One thing that was very special for me was going to see the Olympics. I was already grateful for the trip but the Olympics was even better.

I saw tennis in Wimbledon and also gymnastics. It was cool to see athletes who have been practicing for years of their life performing and representing the USA and other countries. The athletes are leaders too because they have to practice their own values to get to where they are. I had to be a leader myself and do what I had to do to go to these events. SOS helped me learn to be a leader. This made me realize that you cannot be a procrastinator and you have to buckle down on what’s important.

Also I learned how to communicate with people from other places and communicate information back to a group of kids. This helped me to become a more courageous person and I now am more willing to try more new experiences and step up in unfamiliar situations.

I felt like this experience allowed me to be a better person and also a better leader. I learned so much more about the core values on this trip: discipline, integrity, courage, compassion and wisdom. These values will help me in life throughout everything I do. SOS is a wonderful program and is also a very great experience to participate in.

Altogether I was very grateful for this terrific opportunity. I also have to thank Global Sports Development and Bob Beamon. Bob’s talk was very powerful because he has been through a lot. He inspired me to work harder in the sports that I play and showed me that I can accomplish anything I want to in life.

London 2012 probably one of the best weeks I have ever had! It was an amazing experience that taught us so much about leadership, culture and just how to be a better person. It was a time when people from three nations mixed for a week developing close bonds and friendships that will never be forgotten.

After this trip I came home inspired by the Olympic athletes after seeing them be champions and hearing their story about how they made it all the way to the Olympics. They all have incredible amounts of courage because some of the athletes you see on TV and in the magazines come from households with poverty, drugs and alcoholism, and gang violence created an environment where you couldn’t imagine even going to college.

I had the chance to meet an athlete who grew up in those conditions and became one of the best long jumpers ever: Bob Beamon.

As a kid he never expected to be an Olympian but one day he joined the track team and his life went down a new path. In high school, he received a scholarship to the University of Texas where he became an All-American in track and field who then made it to the 1968 Olympics and won a gold medal and set the world record for long jump.

His story inspired me: Just because you grow up in the hood doesn’t mean you can’t be great. Also, his story showed me that this man has a lot of courage, will, and incredible mental strength to push him to victory. I am very honored to have had the opportunity to meet such an amazing man. Some people are inspired by athletes like Michael Phelps – and he is inspiring too – but people like Bob Beamon I am truly inspired by because of how far they came and their experiences that make them amazing. Along with the athletes’ stories it is so incredible to see how talented these people are and how each event they compete to their fullest and they get incredible results. Watching them on TV is an experience but then being there seeing these things happen in front of you is truly amazing and an experience of itself.

Along with watching all the amazing athletes, it was impressive to see all the culture in London. I had a chance to talk to one of the people from London about the differences between England and the U.S. One thing he told me was in England they don’t celebrate Halloween because most people in England are not very superstitious. Also we talked about the food and what each other watches on TV. I really enjoyed talking to him and we later became friends. Also, just seeing all the history that’s there compared to the United States was interesting. It’s also just the little things that you can learn a lot about the culture of London, like seeing how the people there interact, dress, and even which way they walk up the stairs. After learning so much about the people and the culture of London, it has helped realize what life is like outside the US.

Overall, this trip was absolutely amazing and an incredible life changing experience. Hearing the stories of the athletes and seeing them compete has changed my life. Along with the athletes, the people and culture have changed me. I would also like to thank all the people involved with SOS and Global Sports Development for making this trip happen and by making it awesome. I am just so grateful that I got to go on this trip. It was one of the best trips I have ever been on. After going on this trip I have come back a new person and I will always remember this trip and it will continue to change my life forever.

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