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Elevator Pitches Suck.

Being in charge is hard.

Being in charge and trying to convince people that what you are in charge of is actually worth being in charge of is even harder.

My name is Robert. And I am in charge of a small non-profit organization with a wide-reaching target audience. What do we do, you ask? Well . . .

“We use creative ways to encourage young people to think outside the box. To question the way they have been taught to view other human beings . To question the conflicts they find themselves in. To lead. To initiate change in their communities first and then to think globally after that. ”

And yes, sports is one of the “creative ways” we do this.

As you can imagine, the foregoing is not your standard LinkedIn-approved elevator speech for a hopeful business.

When you are young, ambitious, and in charge, wise people will advise you on best practices for being in charge. They will give you a list of things you must do if you are to convince other wise people to get involved.

Personally, I have been on a four year quest to find a decent elevator pitch that doesn’t leave people confused, bored, or anxiously checking to see if their elevator stop is coming soon.

Most of the time, the responses I get from my attempts at describing our work provoke responses like:

“How nice! Sports are a great way to keep kids out of trouble!”


“I’m sure you are a great coach!”



These are three of the most common responses. Here are a few reasons why these responses tell me that my elevator pitches suck:

  1. I am a terrible coach.

  2. I’m not a coach! I’m in charge!

And . . .

Yes, sports can be a beneficial alternative activity for young people during leisure hours (especially for those who don’t have many other options), but

Sports can do much more than that . . .

So. After four years, I’ve decided to ditch the elevator pitches (sorry, LinkedIn gurus). I’m throwing in the towel.

From now on, when people ask me what we do, I’m going to answer them by telling them what we don’t do:

  • We don’t think sports has much value other than what it can teach us about ourselves, about others, and how it can help us become better people.

  • We don’t care if any of our students make the NBA. We would rather them make a difference. If they can do both — great.

  • We don’t think that those who use the phrase “boys will be boys” should get to use it to sign-off on harmful or violent behavior. We too expect young men to act a certain way —but our expectations set extremely high standards. These expectations are equally high for our young women students — for all of our participants.

  • We don’t think any achievement in sport could ever be more important than achievements in self-expression, self-exploration, self-reflection, and self-motivation.

  • We don’t believe that young people are too naive, too lacking in experience to make a difference. We listen. And we allow sports to provide a platform.

  • We don’t believe that competition and dialogue must be kept separate to be effective. We believe these two concepts can work together in harmony to build peace, just as we encourage our young people to work together in harmony to build peace.

Next time I’m on an elevator, I will tell the first person who asks me all of this — -

And then I will happily tell her that, yes, I have the blessing of being in charge.

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