A life of impact
By Greg Bach
Tampa Bay’s All-Pro linebacker Lavonte David is thankful for the life-changing impact his coaches had on him growing up.
Their encouraging words, praise and motivation – beginning when he was an 8-year-old playing in a local football program in one of Miami’s notoriously troubled neighborhoods all through his high school years – still resonates.
“My coaches impacted me in a positive way,” says David, one of the NFL’s fastest rising stars who spoke with SportingKid Live 48 hours before recording a game-high 11 tackles in a win against the Atlanta Falcons this month. “My coaches all the way through high school always pushed me to be the best I could be. They told me I was a good player but I could be a great player. I’ve taken that mindset and carried it with me the rest of my life. I don’t try to be a good person – I try to be a great person.”
When he’s not terrorizing offenses – he leads the league in solo tackles since entering the NFL in 2012 – he gives freely of his time helping others.
Whether it’s shaving his head to help raise funds and awareness for children battling cancer to visiting veterans to promoting volunteerism and community service, he’s a real difference maker both on and off the field.
And, as someone whose life was helped shaped by positive and encouraging coaches, he urges today’s volunteer coaches to take their roles seriously and strive to make a positive difference in the lives of their players.
“You always have to be in the kids’ corner,” David says. “Let kids know that you care for them and that you have their back. If kids are having a rough day don’t be hard on them – let them know that things will get better. Everyone has tough days but if you let them know that if they continue to work on what they need to work on things will get better and work out.”
Here’s what else David who – no surprise – leads the Buccaneers in tackles this season had to say about good sportsmanship, leadership and motivation:
Following NFL games it’s common to see players gathering at midfield to exchange handshakes and hugs, and those can be great teaching tools when working with your young athletes that win or lose it’s the right thing to do.
And the only thing, too.
“Sportsmanship is a part of the game,” David says. “You play hard during the game but at the end of the day you have to pay your respect and let the other person know it was a great game and wish them the best. You should never say anything bad.”
BE A POSITIVE MOTIVATOR
A big part of coaching kids is motivating them and finding the right buttons to push to get the best out of them while boosting their confidence in the process.
“Always have positive and encouraging words to say,” David says. “For me, I want to be remembered in a positive way.”
If coaches operate with David’s message front and center they’ll have a tremendous impact on their young players.
BE A GOOD LEADER
For David, it’s about being positive and building people up, not tearing them down. And that’s wonderful advice for working with young athletes, too.
“It’s all about having a positive mindset and trying to get everybody to the level of focus that you are at,” he says. “You’ve got vocal leaders and guys who lead by their actions and I try to be a little bit of both. I try to use encouraging and motivating words and stay consistent with my actions.”
David appreciates what he has, and all the hard work it took to get there. And he’s fully embracing the opportunity to be the leader of the Buccaneers defense for years to come, as well as a difference maker in the community by being a wonderful role model for youngsters.
And his outlook on life is one that should be delivered to all young athletes: “For me that means always staying humble, and always staying positive in everything you’re going through – good or bad – because anything is possible,” he says.
Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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