When I received an e-mail about the Young Ambassador (YA) position, I initially viewed it as an opportunity to advance my career, one more step to get to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). I quickly prepared my application, receiving support from my supervisor and CEO at USA Rugby. I figured I had a pretty good shot at the position since the work I was currently doing was in the field of youth development. I was also the right age, being between 18-25 and working for a National Governing Body. As most things in life, I had to play the waiting game after submitting my application in the beginning of December.
Christmas came early when I received a phone call from the Human Resources department at the USOC on my way to the airport. I had been selected for an interview the first week in January, just a few days after returning to Denver from good ol' Jim Thorpe. I spent my Christmas vacation preparing for the interview and researching the Youth Olympic Games. I felt this...it just felt right, this position was made for me. Ok maybe a little self-absorbed, but you know when you just feel that something is right for you, all the stars align? That is how I felt when I thought about interview questions and what the job would entail.
So before I talk about the interview, let's talk about the Youth Olympic Games. These games will be targetted at young, elite athletes aged 14-18. They will compete within 26 sports in the first ever Youth Olympic Games. The staple to the event is a Cultural Education Program (CEP) that will take place during the games. The CEP consists of seven activities that encompass five themes. The CEP will help young athletes learn about different issues in the world, as well as realize that the things that they are developing within sport can transfer to other aspects of their lives. For example, as an athlete you learn a lot about yourself as a leader, as a team player, a communicator, and so much more. These skills are also things that help you to be successful in school, in your career, in your relationships, and throughout life. The CEP will help to introduce these principles at a younger age and motivate these athletes to return to their communities as leaders.
I must admit that my initial thought about the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) was not that of a positive one. Having a degree in Sport Psychology, the idea of the YOG on the surface perpetuates the push for sport specialization among youth. This is something that I do not agree with. I think that kids should be able to explore many different sports and enjoy their years while they are young rather than pushed to be the next Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, or Mia Hamm. I initially viewed the YOG as one more thing to encourage parents and coaches to control the lives of our nation's youth.
Now before you question me on why I applied after just reading this, let me explain... After doing some research on the YOG I realized that the idea behind the CEP was pure and genuine. The developers have the best intentions with this event and the whole purpose of the YA is to make sure this intention becomes a reality. Equipped with my knowledge in Sport Psychology and my passion for youth development through sport, I knew that I could do it. I knew that I could be the one to help make this program a success. It just felt right...
The interview day came and I made my way down to Colorado Springs to the Olympic Training Center. I met with a team of five and spent about an hour going through my background and motivation for being there. I felt confident in my answers and walked away knowing that I did my best. I was told that in a week's time a decision would be made. To my great surprise, within three days I received a call with an offer to be the first ever Young Ambassador for the United States of America at the Youth Olympic Games. No pressure.
Following the phone call there was a brief press ceremony the next week and then some preparations for my first trip to Singapore. For one week there would be a seminar for all of the YAs from around the world. Since this was the first YOG, not every country would have a YA - that would be 205 YAs! The pilot program would have 30 participating countries. The seminar in March would bring these young individuals together to test out the CEP and learn more about their roles.
I have just returned from the YA seminar in Singapore and apart from suffering from some major jet lag, I had an incredible time. The next few posts will be about my experiences over seven days. I will talk about the CEP and the different activities that we participated in, as well as the cultural differences that I experienced. Enjoy!