Home Sports LaVar Arrington’s Complete Athlete – Empowering the Next Generation

LaVar Arrington’s Complete Athlete – Empowering the Next Generation

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“Dream big, work hard, and don’t give up.”

LaVar Arrington is a legend in football. Widely regarded as one of the top linebackers of all time coming out of Penn State University, he was selected #2 in the NFL draft by the Washington Redskins, where he went on to a legendary career as an all-time top linebacker. Famous for his spectacular ‘LaVar Leap’ on the field, Arrington has spent the years after football leaping into business as a successful entrepreneur and advocate for the development of youth. His career trajectory is a prime example of how pro athletes can continue to shine after their athletic careers have ended.

Sport is a common denominator around the world. It is the great unifier, the great motivator, and the global pastime. Regardless of which sport an individual plays, watches or supports, the attributes of an athlete are generally the same across all sports – the ability to function as part of a team, leadership skills, decision-making, patience and self-discipline. LaVar believes that, “While talent plays a role in levels of achievement, talent alone does not turn an athlete into an elite athlete. You must infuse the attributes listed above in order to become a ‘complete athlete’”.

Sport, specifically football, was the foundation of LaVar’s life from the time he was a young child in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – a city well-known for cultivating some of the greatest players in football history. LaVar was fortunate to have mentors and role models such as Dwight White, a legendary football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who was a neighbor in his community; and Jerome Bettis, from whom LaVar had the opportunity to learn many significant career and life skills.

“Sport is a common denominator around the world. It is the great unifier, the great motivator, and the global pastime”

“To be a complete athlete, LaVar represents that an athlete must be physically fit, but perhaps even more importantly, they must also prioritize their emotional, mental and financial well-being”

Over the course of his career LaVar came to recognize several learning gaps that impact the growth of an athlete, and his development as a businessman was based on an endeavor to fill those gaps for others – to help them build the attributes that make a complete athlete. To be a complete athlete, LaVar represents that an athlete must be physically fit, but perhaps even more importantly, they must also prioritize their emotional, mental and financial well-being. Committed to developing and nurturing youth to achieve their full potential, LaVar promotes the complete development of youth, providing an ecosystem of growth and development, focusing on helping youth to build the attributes which will allow them to be elite athletes and well-rounded human beings. LaVar is dedicated to shaping the future, one athlete at a time. Through the Complete Athlete and his Up on Game podcast, LaVar aspires to give young athletes the knowledge, tools and resources to help them develop themselves. In LaVar’s words, “If you can build winning habits as a person, and have winning thoughts and have a winning mindset and apply those attitudes to your life, then for me, we will have succeeded in putting one more positive person into our society; who can make a difference and will give back to others”.

The definition of success changes as we age and mature, and this is no different for an athlete. For the longest time, until LaVar got to an age where he was actually able to comprehend what success looked like and have physical interaction with top athletes, he saw success only as a dream. Now, as an entrepreneur and businessman, LaVar understands the important role that business leaders can play in preparing an athlete for success after their sports career. It is only when industry leaders humanize success – by opening up their daily routines, their decision-making strategies and methodologies – that the youth can see a real pathway to success, the actual steps they can take to achieve their goals. “I never took my talent for granted, pushing myself to always reach new levels and go beyond the limits that our minds – and sometimes our bodies, set for us. By never taking my talent for granted, I was always achieving new levels of personal success, which allowed me to be recognized as one of the greatest linebackers at Penn State University and continue to perform at a high-level in the NFL”, noted LaVar. “Now, as a businessman, I have the opportunity to influence young athletes in a different way – both helping to refine their talents on AND off the field.”

As an elite athlete, LaVar recognizes that his greatest responsibility is to enable youth to reach their full potential by empowering them to measure success through the personal and professional development necessary to become a complete athlete. According to LaVar, the methods of building success are truly a learned and applied process, and it’s not something that drops out of the sky. “You are not randomly chosen to be successful; rather, success comes to people who are willing to put in the time and energy and develop the beliefs that make success a reality”, notes Arrington.

LaVar recently launched the Up on Game podcast with fellow football legends, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Plaxico Burress, allowing them to explore relevant issues in the world of sports and life. Through Up on Game, LaVar, T.J. and Plaxico endeavor to be a positive role models for youth, exploring issues and challenges relevant to young people today – at all levels of their game, helping them to overcome these challenges through their experience and lessons learned throughout their career. Additionally, he prioritizes bridging the communication gap between coaches and athletes, parents and kids, using Up on Game as a vehicle to spur conversation, discussion and positive impact.

Up on Game examines the issues and current events in sports, tying it to life, making it relevant for everyone. Edgy, honest, dynamic and raw, Up on Game allows Arrington, Houshmandzadeh and Burress to providementorship, experience, perspective and commitment to athletes of all ages.  “Up on Game allows us to contribute to the development of athletes around the world, allowing us to impact lives, shape the character of athletes, developing the perspective and understanding of athletes, coaches, parents and families, who are integral to the success of the athlete”, notes Arrington. His aim is to build a culture of giving back, and to mentor athletes from a young age that a service mentality – embracing the impact that we must all make on society and for one another – is the most important ingredient to success at all levels of life, and it has been a fundamental pillar of LaVar’s life as an athlete and businessman.

“It is only when industry leaders humanize success – by opening up their daily routines, their decision-making strategies and methodologies – that the youth can see a real pathway to success, the actual steps they can take to achieve their goals”

“You are not randomly chosen to be successful; rather, success comes to people who are willing to put in the time and energy and develop the beliefs that make success a reality”

With the Complete Athlete and Up on Game, LaVar aims to familiarize the youth with critical self-development experiences. He believes that if you make youth aware of how important it is to learn who you are and to develop who you are, they will be on a course for a more enhanced life and future. “Had I done this, my life could have potentially been more enhanced, which may have even made me a more phenomenal athlete. In the end, I look at things from the very simplistic standpoint that, undoubtedly, I am more than enough, and also valuable enough to continue building and growing who I am, and that is my ‘magnificent obsession’, as C.T. Fletcher would say”, says Arrington.

Transitioning to the next stage of his career beyond football was easy for LaVar because of his love of helping people and being a person of service. He stresses that his awards and achievements in sports don’t amount to anything if he doesn’t use those experiences to help others achieve at a high level – high enough to potentially be an all-pro, pro-bowler or professional athlete. The Up on Game podcast allows him to have the opportunity to communicate with and mentor younger athletes, which is something he has always excelled at. “I’ve been a better teacher and a better mentor than I’ve ever been an active player. I take a great deal of pride in my ability to communicate clearly the different ways to approach sports AND life to be as successful as you can possibly be”, remarked Arrington. Helping to develop athletes into the complete athlete is something that has been a tremendous passion of his, and he recognizes that he has been blessed to have enough success where he can make this commitment to young athletes his daily focus in both life and business. He acknowledges that, “It is not about what LaVar can do for LaVar, it is about what impact and influence LaVar can have on humanity, and since my lane is sports, that’s where I endeavor to begin my ‘crusade of service’”.

Prioritizing personal development, professional development and continuing education programs for youth is critical to preparing young athletes to excel not only in sports but in their careers and life – by refining key life skills and building on the attributes of leadership that are found in athletics. When businesses commit a portion of their corporate social responsiblity budgets to programs that support the development of the next generation, they make a commitment to the sustainability of our collective future. Contributing to the development of youth means preparing them to be future elite athletes, entrepreneurs, innovators, and humanitarians – better equipped to take the reins of leadership in our metamorphic future.

LaVar’s advice to young athletes is to put as much effort into their personal growth as they do to their athletic growth, urging them not to neglect their mental health. Take risks. To quote William Shedd, “A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what a ship was built for”. Greatness doesn’t come from comfort zones. As LaVar says, “Dream big, work hard, and don’t give up.”

Career Ahead offers a view into the real-life experiences of accomplished individuals from all arenas. The magazine also features first-hand insights into student life along with career tips, inspiration, and relevant news for young people and professionals.

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