A National Alliance for Youth Sports resource helping coaches, parents and administrators provide the best youth sports experiences for children.
The life-changing power of a positive attitude
By Greg Bach
A positive attitude and genuine love for a sport can propel young athletes a long way.
Being able to push past setbacks and kick obstacles to the curb is a big plus, too.
Longtime FOX Sports soccer broadcaster and former Division 1 soccer player Kyndra de St. Aubin is certainly proof of that.
CONNECTING WITH SOCCER
Her journey began in Minnesota, where her parents put her into all sorts of sports and activities. But once she got on the soccer field she knew it was the sport for her.
“I really loved the true team aspect of the sport,” she says. “We had a great group of girls, a great group of parents and an awesome coach who didn’t make it like work and I’m a true believer in that making all the difference in the world – he made it enjoyable.”
So, as she entered her teen years her love of the game was as strong as ever.
And she had big dreams of lacing up the cleats in college.
“Quite honestly it was pretty much my only focus,” says de St. Aubin, who didn’t start playing competitively until age 12. “When you know that you want to play Division 1 in something you know that it’s going to take a lot of time and effort to put into it.”
It also means dealing with all sorts of twists and turns that accompany the journey.
And she endured – and conquered – a lot more than most.
In March of her sophomore year of high school she was dealt this news: she had systemic lupus, an autoimmune disorder.
That’s not what any 15-year-old wants to hear, especially one of the state’s most talented players who was entering an all-important summer of play where college coaches would be inspecting and evaluating her skills.
And making decisions affecting her future in the sport.
“I was on a lot of medication that just didn’t allow me to be coordinated,” she says. “Your brain is saying one thing and your body is doing something completely different. I was slower; I would trip on blades of grass; it was really awful.”
In Maryland that summer for a college showcase event, with many Division I coaches in attendance, she was unable to perform at her normal high level.
“My coach actually really hesitated to put me on the field because he didn’t want anything that the coaches saw out there to deter them from recruiting me the next year,” she says. “It was my worst time – he threw me out there for about 15 minutes and the ball hit me in the thigh and I fell over. I was just so weak and discombobulated. I was on a high dose of medicine so I had this big moon face and I didn’t look like myself. I went back to my hotel room that day and just cried and my dad held me and it was just one of those things that you just have to get through.”
In impressive fashion, too.
Instead of surrendering to the frustration and allowing a bad day to devour her dreams she pushed on.
“You keep plugging along,” she says. “You tell yourself ‘It’ll be better tomorrow; I’ll get through this; this is just a phase.’”
What an incredibly powerful message to share with all young athletes involved in any sport: A bad week of practices isn’t catastrophic, and an awful game day performance doesn’t mean it’s time to give up the sport or walk around in a cloud of depression.
They’re just challenges to be met. And a positive attitude is a great weapon for crushing them.
“If you’re not having a good day, or you had a bad game or bad practice you just have to pick yourself up again and tell yourself that there is always tomorrow,” de St. Aubin says. “Remind yourself that this is just a sport – this isn’t life or death here. You’re getting a chance to play a sport you love. It sounds so cliché but having a positive attitude and working hard can take you a long way in life.”
She’s certainly proof of that.
She fulfilled that dream of playing Division I soccer (at the University of Minnesota) that took hold of her when she fell in love with the sport as a youngster.
And she’s carved out a successful broadcasting career sharing her knowledge and love of the game. She was a game analyst for FOX Sports’ coverage of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup; she has called games for the Women’s Professional Soccer League and the National Women’s Soccer League; she’s covered women’s soccer, basketball and softball for the Pac-12 Network; and she recently made history as Minnesota United, making its debut in Major League Soccer this season, hired her to do color commentary, making her the only female color commentator in the MLS.
“I am completely humbled and honored to be given this chance,” she says of her new MLS duties. “It takes hard work and a commitment but I love the fact that other young females can see that there are no barriers or no limits to what you are capable of doing.”
That work ethic, commitment and perseverance was forged in large part through her sports experiences growing up.
“Sports teaches you perseverance, hard work, the importance of kindness and treating everybody the same,” she says. “It’s ok to be competitive but you need to have teamwork and you need to be respectful. You never get anywhere in life on your own – it takes a lot of people. Whether it’s people who have taken a chance on you, given you an opportunity or saw something in you that maybe no one else did, I think those are all lessons that you learn from sports.”
Young athletes can learn a lot of valuable lessons from de St. Aubin’s journey, too.
Adversity can strike at any time – and it can arrive in many forms.
But if you take on challenges with a positive attitude and a fierce work ethic, like she has from the soccer fields of her youth to the broadcasting booth, great things are possible.
Olympic champion swimmer Cullen Jones, who nearly drowned as a child, is heavily involved in the USA Swimming Foundation's "Make a Splash" initiative to save lives by providing kids opportunities to learn how to swim
Ruth Riley loved practicing and pursuing goals at every level of sports. Use the insights of this legendary Notre Dame player to craft practices that your young athletes love being a part of, too.
Press Box Signup Form
Press Box (weekly e-newsletter)
The Press Box is a weekly e-newsletter bringing you the latest news stories in youth sports, research on youth athlete safety and wellness, and more. Stories are carefully curated to bring subscribers only the best quality content and news.