For the past four years I have had the privilege to speak at the United States Naval Academy swim camp. Each spring Navy’s swimming coach invites me to speak to his campers, and each June I visit the Yard to present to the swimmers.
Some swimmers return year after year; some coaches return year after year. Not to hear me speak, but to attend an awesome camp. But this does mean that year after year, they (have to? get to?) hear me speak.
Sometimes this makes me a bit nervous. My story doesn’t change that much from year to year. My slides change, either with a new picture or as I learn the graphical fun of PowerPoint; and sometimes the lessons I have learned expanded or change.
But that doesn’t seem to matter. My favorite part of these talks is meeting with the swimmers and coaches afterwards, hearing their stories and answering their questions. As I have mentioned before, there are some questions I am asked at all (or most) talks: “Do you still have back problems?” or “Do you your children swim?” (Although, I didn’t get this one tonight.) Every once in a while, I get a “new” question, one that has never been asked before. I love this! And it usually comes from a younger child.
Children ask the best questions! They are real, they are honest, they are often blunt and to-the-point, and sometimes they shock or embarrass the teacher or coach in the room. But I still love it…because they are sincere and they genuinely want to know. What could be better than connecting with a young person in such a way that stimulates them to think about their emotions and conjure up the motivation to ask to learn more. That’s awesome. That is the gift I receive every time I give a talk - even year after year.