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Meet Trailblazer Marti Reed

Today we’d like to introduce you to Marti Reed.

Marti, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am on a mission to teach life lessons through sports. I was born and raised in Long Beach, CA in a sports family– I have two older ultra-competitive siblings, and my dad was a pro baseball player, so we all pretty much grew up at the park playing outside every day. I was an extremely shy kid until I started playing organized sports at the age of nine. I started to break out of my shell and learn how to communicate with others and make friends. My mom took me to a UCLA softball game when I was 14 years old, and I saw a Black shortstop by the name of Nathasha Watley who looked like me, and the seed was planted– my dream was to play softball for UCLA, just like her. When I got to high school, I was being recruited by big-time colleges for softball and I got my first letter of interest from my dream school–UCLA.

At the same time, I was ready to quit. At the time, I had a coach that was very negative and demeaning. I would get physically sick walking to the softball field thinking about the verbal abuse that was about to come. He even laughed at me in front of my teammates when my letter from UCLA came and he looked me in the eye and said, “I thought they recruited good players.” It is said that 70% of kids drop out of sports by the age of 13, and usually, it’s because a coach or parent ruins the experience for them and they’re no longer having fun. My parents convinced me to stick it out until the end of the season, and that negative coach ended up getting fired and a new coach came in that had a completely different philosophy. The new coach’s philosophy was more positive, uplifting and helped me fall in love with the game again. I went on to play softball for UCLA, won a National Championship in 2010, got to meet President Obama at the White House, and won Senior of the Year when I graduated for the impact I made on and off of the playing field.

If I would have quit back in high school, I would have missed out on all of these amazing opportunities, and I wouldn’t be living in my purpose today. I understand the impact that competing in sports can have on a young life, so I now spend my time working with Positive Coaching Alliance and building my personal speaking brand that encourages athletes, educates coaches, and teaches life lessons through sports. I teach coaches how to take advantage of their influential platform to develop the character of the athletes they’re coaching–teaching them teamwork, leadership, resilience, integrity, work ethic, attitude and other life lessons sports have to offer. I teach athletes how to be utility players as they adjust and adapt to life after sports with the same courage and confidence they use on the playing field. Although I am no longer in school or on a team, I still consider myself a student and an athlete in life. I am always looking to learn and grow through books, podcasts, keeping an open mind, asking questions, and learning from other’s experiences. I stay active by working out every day and I fuel my body with healthy foods. I value my faith, family, friends, self-growth (mentally and physically) and service to others. These core values are the things I live by and have shaped me into the person I am today–a national speaker using my voice and actions to inspire those around me to reach their highest potential.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has not been a smooth road. Finding my purpose and identity came at a price. I knew I was going to play sports in college, but I didn’t take the route that I thought I was going to take. When UCLA recruited me, they only had one more athletic scholarship left and they decided to give it to a different girl, and I actually turned down full-ride scholarships from other schools in order to play at my dream school. With 2 other siblings that were in college and no athletic scholarship, I had to figure out a way to pay for my expensive education that my parents couldn’t afford. I always knew at a young age that keeping my grades as high as I could benefit me in the long run, so luckily, I had great grades and was able to apply for tons of academic scholarships to pay for UCLA. I began to apply for everything I fit the bill on… if it said “scholarship for black girl with curly hair” I was applying (LOL)! I ended up earning enough scholarship money to pay for my first two years at UCLA, and my last two years I was on an athletic scholarship—which I had to earn while I was there and worked hard on the team.

So, taking that quote-on-quote “Failure” of not getting that last athletic scholarship and bouncing back was crucial for me. I consider it one of the turning points in my life because in order to keep the academic scholarship money that I earned, I was required to go to tons of meetings on campus, do community service, visit schools and organizations, all while juggling my grades and competing on the competitive, intense top-ranked UCLA softball team. Because I had to be so highly involved on campus outside of sports, it allowed me to become the president of our Bruin Athletic Council (student council for athletes) and I spent a lot of time speaking and presenting on behalf of the athletic department. This all led me to eventually achieve UCLA’s Senior of the Year when I graduated. I consider my “failure” of not getting the athletic scholarship a huge blessing in disguise. Sometimes our messes become our successes. I could’ve gone to UCLA on that athletic scholarship and I would’ve just been a student-athlete and stayed in my athlete bubble and not involved or probably exposed to all those other things (which is a fine career) but God had something SO MUCH GREATER planned for me. As I think about the significant successes I have accomplished to date, I realize that anything worthwhile that I have ever accomplished took more than one attempt to get it. It never happened overnight. My plans don’t always work like I thought they would, but I’ve learned to bounce back quickly after mistakes and to never give up! Never let a temporary setback be a permanent defeat.

My time competing on the softball team at UCLA was filled with challenges. I broke my arm (ulna bone). I had to have surgery where they inserted a plate and seven screws in my arm and had me in a full arm cast for a couple of months. I wasn’t able to throw or swing until January, and the season started in February, so starting off my collegiate career with an injury and set back was very difficult. My second biggest struggle was how I was used to being the top dog or “big fish in a small pond” before I got to UCLA, and when I got to UCLA, I was among other big fish in a massive ocean. I had never sat the bench before, and being around a culture of excellence and the best talent was something I wasn’t used to and had to adapt to. Basically, I was always fluctuating in and out of the lineup so focusing on the things I could control (my effort, preparation, and attitude) was how I was able to get through it. I also had a great support system with my family and friends who were constantly encouraging me in moments of weakness at times when I was ready to give up. It’s important to surround yourself with people who lift you up and see things in you that can sometimes be hard for you to see in yourself.

I tell young people all the time that in those moments of difficulty and adversity is where true character is practiced and displayed. Having to go through hard situations prepared me for life beyond the playing field because nothing worth having is easy to attain. If I never had to go through the challenging times or if things were handed to me and it was easy, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Sports helped me learn to manage failure and bounce back after mistakes. Competing in sports helped develop my work ethic and being on a team helps me work well with others as I build relationships with a positive attitude and team spirit.

For those that are just starting on their journey, finding yourself and who you are is an ongoing process, but I recommend starting with your core values. Understanding what you value at your core and your guiding principles will help you create a solid foundation on who you want to be and who you’re becoming. Having strong core values will also guide your decision-making process when things get tough. Secondly, get to know your strengths and abilities and what you can offer others that bring value–focus on what you can give. Lastly, build your roster! Connect with others. Similar to having a tutor in school, or a coach on the playing field, you can have a mentor in life. Someone that you look up to, trust, and admire. Seek people that know the things that you don’t and are willing to help you learn. Ask for help, ask for advice, ask for the experiences of others and take notes so you can learn from them!

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Utility Player Life – what should we know?
I am currently the Development Manager of Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA). We are a national non-profit that develops “Better Athletes, Better People” through our leadership training and character-building workshops for coaches, athletes and parents in youth sports. I love that we are transforming the culture of youth sports from a win-at-all-cost mentality that we often see in entertainment sports, to a development zone where kids are having fun competing while learning and growing in life beyond the playing field.

Outside of PCA, I have developed my personal brand of the utility player, helping athletes prepare for the real world using the transferable skills they learned in sports. I speak at schools and conferences across the nation motivating and inspiring young people to live their potential and approach life from a competitive mindset.
A utility player is someone capable of playing multiple positions well, and in life, we are called to play numerous positions: a family member, friend, student, athlete, professional (career focused), and community member. When you are prepared for all of them, you are ready for bigger, better successes than you can even imagine. I show people how to become a utility player in their own life and leverage their experience as an athlete to help them grow in their career! I teach people how to create opportunities regardless of where they are and what life throws at them. My training involves a unique sports outlook on life lessons. We build the strength of character, flexibility in opportunity, stamina in creating habits, and sportsmanship in life. One of my training is all about “Building Your Roster.” Just like a coach needs to build a team to compete in games, or as a CEO needs to build a workforce to grow a company, we need to build a squad of people and info in our lives to help us grow and succeed. Building Your Roster means surrounding yourself with people that you can trust, people that support you, hold you accountable, challenge you, motivate you and help you reach your potential. It goes beyond networking and finding mentors. It’s about actively selecting the type of energy you want in your life–from the things we watch, the things we listen to, the people we hang out with and choose to follow on social media; anyone taking up space in your mind, thoughts or energy needs to earn their place on your roster. You can visit my website to train with me or book me to speak at your next event.

Do you recommend any apps, books or podcasts that have been helpful to you?
I am constantly reading and listening to podcasts… I’m addicted to self-growth and learning from others.
Here are the top five books that changed my life:
-Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
-The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
-The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy
-How to Win Friends and Influence People by Steven Covey
-Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson

Here are the podcasts that motivate me and are just really GOOD:
-WorkLife with Adam Grant. This one teaches you how to make work not suck.
-the NewsWorthy with Erica Mandy. I listen to this every morning to get the daily news in less than 10 minutes.
-Why Sports Matter. HUGE motivator for me in my work and passion to teach life lessons through sports.
-2 Dope Queens. This one makes me actually laugh out loud.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Carson Nicely

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