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Plant City Observer Friday, Apr. 21, 2017 5 months ago

What's on Kline's Mind? Athletes offer weekly advice

Justin Kline discusses one of his favorite questions to ask in Athlete of the Week interviews.
by: Justin Kline Sports/Associate Editor

When you encounter someone successful, no matter what field they’re successful in, it never hurts to ask for advice.

As someone who asks people questions for a living, I’m a firm believer in that idea. There’s always something you can learn from someone else, whether it’s what to do or what not to do. But, even though we adults are going to spend a lot of time learning new things in our careers, I’d say there’s no time more important to seek advice than childhood.

That’s why I often like to ask kids — especially high school athletes — for advice. It’s not so much for my benefit, though, as it is a way to show Athlete of the Week readers how these kids work.

I try to make Athlete of the Week as merit-based as possible for two reasons: so that each recipient sees their selection as something to be proud of, and so that readers see the feature as something to take more seriously than just a photo op for a small-town paper. I really want young athletes to read the feature, especially when the recipients have much to say, and aspire to get better at their own sports.

With those younger readers in mind, I like to ask athletes to tell me the best advice they’ve ever gotten from a coach, teacher, parent or
family member.

Sometimes, the answers I get concern the sports themselves. I’ve had plenty of kids tell me about technique advice from a coach that helped them take their game to the next level, or about a new way to see what’s happening on the playing field and make better decisions. There aren’t always memorable quotes there, as in other areas, but no one should ever turn down good performance advice.

Many athletes also talk about team play, telling me what a coach says about finding the right mentality to play team sports and contribute to something bigger than the individual. Or, they’ll tell me about lessons learned from older classmates that have since graduated and made an impact while on the team. I love when kids tell me about the classmates they looked up to, because every team needs a strong leader on the roster that the kids can relate to.

One comment in particular that stands out to me came back in November 2016, courtesy of Plant City multi-sport athlete Holly Eddins: “Follow your heart. The world’s tough out there, and you’ve got to be you and do what you love.” 

I think we would all do well to heed those words.

In my office, I have a small whiteboard mounted on the wall facing my desk. Taking a leaf from Woody Paige, whose chalkboard has long been featured on ESPN’s Around the Horn, I often like to write witty and/or inspirational quotes on it. Anything to either make whoever walks in here crack a smile or take a second to think. Last week, I ran with one of my favorite quotes ever: sage advice from Florida State University legend Bobby Bowden, who once said, “Don’t go to the grave with life unused.” As with the advice Eddins was given, I think Bowden’s words can apply to everyone. 

We just need to make sure that, like many of our area’s high schoolers, we have someone wise in our corner to help us get through this thing called life.

Justin Kline is the Sports/Associate Editor at the Plant City Times & Observer. He has been covering all things sports-related in the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World since 2013, and hosts the weekly Gridiron Report podcast during high school football season.

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