On a blistering hot day in Costa Mesa last week I addressed a group of football players at Costa Mesa High School that were far younger and smaller than my normal football audiences.
They have been participating in a uniquely beneficial program designed to broaden their horizons. Katrina Foley, a parent with a son on the team, created a speakers series to bring experts from the world of football and other disciplines on campus to share their wisdom and experience.
The players reminded me of my own early years in Los Angeles. They were Latino, black, Pacific Islander as well as white ethnically, and 65% of them come from economic circumstances that would be described as disadvantaged.
I went through junior high in that world and it never would have occurred to me that I was "disadvantaged" in any way. The players showed the same optimism.
I talked to them about their leadership position on the campus and how they could set the trend on issues like bullying. If they show tolerance, other students will follow their example.
I described how my clients established charitable and community projects at the high school, collegiate and professional level and saw themselves as role models. They are capable of leaving a legacy and making the world a better place because of the popularity of football.
Coach Wally Grant has challenged the team this year to concentrate on detail and routine with the slogan "It's The Little Things."
I explained how Football Hall of Fame clients of mine spent time studying film on their next opponent and worked with teammates after practice and concentrated on their own weaknesses. Football provides all the skill set they will need to succeed in life: self discipline, mastering a playbook, focusing on detail, teamwork, courage under pressure.
My clients have been very successful in business, media, coaching and philanthropy by using what they have learned. I stressed networking practices so the athletes could form relationships with some of the powerful and wealthy fans who surround most programs.
It is difficult to stay focused in a meeting room with a rigorous schedule, little sleep and enervating heat and some of the players were yawning or catching up on sleep. There was one player who sat at the front and was completely tuned in from start to finish. I later found out his name was Oronde Crenshaw and he played running back. In their first game this year he ran three kickoffs back for touchdowns, a feat I have never heard of before at any level. He scored two more touchdowns and gained 127 yards from scrimmage. Based on his focus during our meeting, it was not surprising.
Heavy kudos to Foley and Principal Dr. Phil A'gostino along with middle school Principal Aaron Peralta for endeavoring to make Costa Mesa High School a learning center that offers enlightment and encouragement for the future. They are helping students see a much bigger world of opportunity for themselves in the years to come — a critical role for education.
LEIGH STEINBERG is a renowned sports agent, author, advocate, speaker and humanitarian. Follow Leigh on Twitter @steinbergsports.