Something I did 30 years ago rewarded me in a fun way this week.

A couple of weeks ago I got a very interesting direct message on Instagram. It came from the great Bleav in Badger Football Podcast account. Here’s what it said:

Hey Adam! My name is Matt Perkins and I’m the producer of the Bleav in Badgers podcast (and a fellow Hanover high school alum) and I wanted to reach out to you to first connect in general and then see if you’d be willing to come sit down on the show with us and talk about your story. Former badgers FB and captain Matt Bernstein and I sit down with former badgers (mostly football players but not exclusively) to talk to them about their journeys on and off the field. We’ve had a couple former track guys before (Scott Brinen most notably) and I was hoping you’d be interested in spending a little time with us sometime. We had AJ Taylor on a couple months ago and I know he’s affiliated with your company so I figured I would reach out. Thanks so much and hope all is well, and On Wisconsin (and go Marauders!)

-Matt Perkins

I love it!

I was thrilled at the prospect of being a guest on the podcast. And just as importantly, I was thrilled about talking to Matt about our shared-but-unshared experiences of going to the same high school in New Hampshire and the Univerity of Wisconsin, Madison. So I responded:

Wow! I love Badger Marauders!!! I would love to be a guest. And I have a lot of angles that I could talk about. I have many connections to the football program that will likely surprise you. Let’s do this!

-Adam Albrecht

Then the story got even better when Matt responded:

Awesome! Also, quick Marauder story – I was also a thrower and finished HS 2nd behind you in all the school records. I walked on freshman year to the track team at UW too but got cut end of first semester. Would love to connect! Shoot me your email and we’ll get something on the books

-Matt Perkins

WOW!

I was blown away to make this connection. Matt’s DM combined 4 of my favorite things:

  1. Hanover High School Marauders
  2. Wisconsin Badgers
  3. Connecting with new people.
  4. Instagram (Next to my Grammy, and Teddy, Insta is my favorite type of gram.)

Connecting

I reach out to people I don’t know a lot. Like a lot a lot. I love connecting dots and developing new relationships with people. Especially when we have something fun or interesting in common. But I do it so frequently that it is a real surprise when someone beats me to it.

Inspiration

Matt told me that my high school shot put and discus records served as a source of inspiration for him beginning his freshman year in high school. My discus record was also the New Hampshire state record for 12 years, including the years when Matt was in high school.

Matt Perkins became a great thrower too. He hit 52′ 8 in the shot put and 156′ in the discus. He was the state champion in both events. But he also crushed in the hammer, throwing 194′, and winning the New England championship. Which is wicked frick’n awesome!

Matt, in the sweet headband, went on to have a great career as a rugby player after his throwing career ended.

Offer A Model

It is extremely rewarding to know that someone saw what I accomplished, and it served as a model to follow. Because when you see that someone who lives where you live achieved something that you would like to achieve, it is a reminder that you have the same potential to do great things.

Set Good Examples

Every time you do a good deed, or accomplish something worthwhile, whether it is large or small, you are setting a good example for others to follow. This creates a lasting impact of positivity and success that amplifies the good you do on a daily basis. Thanks for reminding me of that Matt!

The Podcast:

We talked about a whole lotta stuff! Including our opposite attitudes towards our high school weight room.

Matt Perkins, Badger football legend Matt Bernstein and I just recorded the podcast. You can hear the podcast here. (Hear! Hear! to that!)

Key Takeaway

I am excited to say that Matt Perkins and I have developed a quick and strong friendship based on our shared history. If there is someone you’ve always wanted to have a relationship with, especially if they have had a positive impact on your life, reach out to them. You’re likely to have a lot in common, which is the recipe for a meaningful relationship. And at the end of our days, the only thing that matters is the impact we have on each other. Go Marauders! And On Wisconsin!

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

A father-daughter track and field story.

This spring I took on a fun new challenge. My daughter Ava was a freshman in high school and was very interested in competing in track and field. She is a good runner and jumper, but she was most interested in throwing the discus and the shot put. I expect that had something to do with the fact that I used to throw the disc and shot myself. And that we have a few of each at home.

When Ava was in 7th grade she competed in the sprints and the throws for her middle school team. And because it was a minimal time commitment, I volunteered to help teach the kids some throwing techniques a couple of days a week after work.

But as Ava entered high school I reflected on my own high school experience and recognized that the only reason I was successful was because I had a great high school coach named Jude Dutille. Jude guided me to 2 school records in the shot and discus, 2 New Hampshire state titles, 2 New England championship titles in the discus, and a state record in the discus. What Jude taught me created the amazing opportunity to throw for the University of Wisconsin’s track team. Which was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

I debated whether or not I could commit to the demands of coaching at the high school level while leading my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. Ultimately, as with entrepreneurship, I decided that I would rather fail at my attempt than regret not trying. So in April I officially became the throwing coach for the girl’s track team at Homestead High School in Mequon, Wisconsin.

I immediately recognized how little I knew. Because participating in a sport as an athlete and coaching are very different. I tried to learn as much as I could about coaching the throws by reading and watching videos on YouTube. I followed great throwers and coaches on Instagram. And I sought out insights and advice from experts, including my great high school coach, Jude Dutille, and Dave Astrauskas, the throws coach at the University of Wisconsin, who is one of the elite throwing coaches in America.

The season started with a lot of lifting. And masks. And blurry photography.

I enjoyed the experience very much. I had 9 girls on my team. Thanks to Covid-19, only one of them had ever thrown a shot or discus in high school before. So we had a lot to learn in a short amount of time. And while I would love to talk about all of my athletes here I don’t want to violate any coach/athlete confidentiality/anonymity issues. So I will only talk specifically about the athlete I sign the waivers for.

The Season

We started the season strong, and Ava won the discus in her very first high school meet. Which I thought was crazy, because I don’t think I won my first meet until my junior year of high school. Then, she went on to win her second meet in the discus too, throwing 12 feet farther than the first meet. And no, I didn’t set up a series of 1-person meets so that she would win, although that sounds like a great idea. (There were 20 throwers in both of the first 2 meets. And I was as surprised she won as anyone.)

The third meet of the season was our conference relay meet. In a relay meet you total the distances of your top 3 throwers’ best throw for a team score. Homestead won the discus and took 3rd in the shot put. And Ava had the second farthest throw in the meet.

A.C. was not afraid to work hard, or get dirty.

But then we began to struggle. And we couldn’t hit the same distances again. The low point was at the conference championships when Ava fouled all 3 of her throws and had no mark at all.

I felt the frustration of being a new and inexperienced coach. I was frequently disappointed that I wasn’t able to help Ava or the other girls more. I saw all of their challenges as my failures to help them with the guidance, feedback, and input they needed. While I have never experienced imposter syndrome as an entrepreneur, I felt it big time as a small-time coach. I felt like I was a phony baloney coach who didn’t have the answers my girls really needed to improve.

But we kept working and things began to improve again for Ava and her teammates. In the last meet that all 9 of my girls competed in, I think that we set 7 personal records in the discus and 7 in the shot to end the season on a high note, like Mariah Carey.

More hard work. We got busted for being in the weight room on a Sunday night, without having signed up for the time slot. I didn’t know you have to sign up for late night lifting sessions. Now I do. So now we sign up.

After that, we had a final regular-season varsity meet with all of the teams from our conference again. I had 4 girls competing. And all 4 of them threw their personal best. It was capped off by Ava’s last throw in the discus that not only won the event, but was the farthest throw in the conference all year as we wrapped the regular season. In Ava’s 3 meets with all the teams in our conference she came in 2nd, then dead last, and then first. Which was a great sign of resilience that will serve her well in the future.

The Post (Malone) Season

Last Monday we had our state regional meet, which was a mix of success and disappointment for my girls. The top 4 finishers in the meet move on to sectionals. But in the shot put, my 2 best throwers came in 5th, (just 3 inches shy of qualifying and moving on), and 6th, less than a foot from qualifying. We were close, like Glenn. But just short of our goals.

In the discus, my 2 great senior throwers both threw their best ever, one throwing her personal record by 4 feet! But they finished 6th and 7th, just shy of moving on. Ava was in 3rd place going into the finals. But then got bumped down to 5th when 2 other girls hit big throws in the finals. She then hit the distance she needed on her 5th throw to move back up to 4th place and qualify for the sectional meet.

The Sectional Meet

Thursday night was the sectional meet. Despite starting the season with 9 girls and having 4 in the regional meet, I only had one athlete left. A freshman named Ava, who also happened to be my daughter.

My parents drove up from Indiana for the big meet.

A.C. (short for Ava Claire) was now competing for a chance to go to the Wisconsin State Championship meet. Only the top 3 make it through. And it was obvious that all of the competitors were feeling the pressure. A.C. opened up with a decent throw, but then fouled her next throw. In fact, I saw more fouls per competitor in this competition than I had seen all season as the girls pushed to try to qualify for the state meet.

The finals were intense. Each throw had the potential to re-shuffle the girls. But after the final throws were made and the results were announced, my athlete, my daughter, the reason I got involved in coaching, was in 3rd place. She qualified for the Wisconsin Division 1 state meet as one of only 2 freshmen in the state to make it.

The podium at sectionals.

I am looking forward to the state meet next Saturday in La Crosse. A.C. But the win was simply getting to the meet this year. Anything else is a bonus.

Profound Reflections

At the end of every practice, and after every meet this track season, Ava has come up to me and said, ‘Dad, thank you for coaching.’ She recognizes the commitment of time and energy it takes. And all that I had to do to work my day job at The Weaponry around the coaching by going into the office early and working late into the night.

I have told Ava there is only one reason I am coaching. And that is to steal time with her. Because as a freshman in high school I recognize that I only have 4 years left with her at home. So I am stealing 2 hours of her life every day that was supposed to go to someone else. And while this season she may have won medals, taken first-place finishes, and qualified for the state meet, I was the big winner. Because I took home the most valuable prize of all: irreplaceable time with my daughter.

Me and my girl.

Key Takeaway

Remember to volunteer your time and talents to help others whenever you can. Pass along your knowledge. And spend as much time with your kids as you can, while you can.

Happy Father’s Day from one very happy and thankful dad.

Why you should approach self improvement like a sport.

I first published this post a few years ago while reflecting on my track & field career. I recently shared the post with some track athletes and coaches who really appreciated the message, especially the Key Takeaway (so you could just jump to that). So I decided to repost it again during the heart of track season.

Pre-Note: Wednesday I was at a track meet and took the cover pic of our family friend Eva Brandenburg hurdling. Eva and my daughter Ava (confusing right?) have played basketball together since 5th grade, and are now having fast starts to their freshman track seasons. Keep an eye out for Eva. She is going to do special things!

Here is the original post, now in an unoriginal post...

I love track and field. I first got involved in the sport as a freshman in high school, mostly because I was terrible at baseball. But also because it was co-ed. And, I thought the fact that it was a no-cut sport significantly improved my chances of actually making the team.

Trying Everything

I have competed in a wide variety of track and field events. My resume includes the 100 meters, 400 meters, 1600 meters, high jump, long jump, shot put, discus, javelin, hammer, 35-pound weight, 110-meter hurdles, 4×100 meter relay, 4×400 meter relay, and, yes, even the pole vault (which I approached more like the high jump with a stick).

I have enjoyed every event I have ever competed in (except the 1600 meter run). I love the energy and atmosphere at track meets. But you know when track and field becomes really fun?

The Second Meet.

The second meet is the most important and impactful event in a track athlete’s career. In your first meet, you are just setting a baseline. But once you get to your second meet you walk in with a time, distance, or height to beat. And most of the time, the results in the second meet are a rewarding step forward from the first meet.

In track and field, every result is measured in minutes and seconds, or feet and inches. Which means that your linear progression is clear and quantifiable. Your undeniable improvement in the second meet gets you thinking about the third meet. It makes you think about practicing more, training harder, lifting weights, warming up smarter and getting some better hype music. You start wondering just how much better you can get. The seeds of self-improvement are planted, fertilized and watered in that second meet.

The Broader Lesson

This is not just a track and field thing. This is a life thing. The same principle of self-improvement applies to our careers, our relationships, our responsibilities and our hobbies. Our first attempts simply set a baseline. The second time we do anything we start the improvement process. We recognize that as we pour more energy, time and focus into any activity we get better and better. This is true of presenting a closing argument in court, hiring good employees and folding fitted sheets (although my wife, Dawn is so good at the fitted sheet thing that I focus on the closing arguments in court instead).

Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to try something new because you think you will be bad at it. You will be bad at it. Or at least you will be the worst you will ever be. But that first attempt creates a starting point. The climb from there is both exciting and rewarding. As you improve, remember that first attempt. Recognize how far you have come since you first started. It is one of the most rewarding reflections in life.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.