Founder’s Beijing Press Conference Speech on Volunteerism

Logan Melander’s Speech on Service and Volunteerism: ICF and ANC Consulting’s Youth Cultural Exchange 2011 28 July, 2011 Beijing, China

 

Thank you for allowing me to speak today….

I want to thank – Annie An of ANC-Consulting, Karen Zediker of the Iron Cross Foundation, each of the members of our Sport and Cultural Exchange.

This gymnastics and cultural exchange in China has been AMAZING! Highlights of the trip for me include….

…Climbing the Chang Cheng – the Great Wall of China,

…Training with Chinese gymnasts at the Beijing Professional Sports School, and

…Making new friends from China.

I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you a little about what gymnastics means to me – and why I felt it was important to give back and start the Iron Cross Foundation in the first place. I started ICF because I wanted to give back to my sport. I grew up giving back to my community in a lot of ways, and it just made sense to me to give something back to my sport.

Gymnastics is an amazing sport that gives those who are a part of it some important life lessons.

1 Gymnastics brings people together so you can learn about them and from them. (This trip is an example of that)

2 Physical and mental skills

3 Gymnastics builds character

First, This Sports and Cultural Exchange trip is an example of how gymnastics can bring people together and learn about each other. All of the kids from the US are gymnasts – and getting to come and train with gymnasts in China was great! We learned about how they train and live and how that is the same and different from us. We also got the chance to meet our new Chinese friends who aren’t gymnasts and learn about their Chinese culture.

Next, gymnastics is a physical outlet for people who have a lot of energy. It lets us do something that is productive rather than just bouncing off walls and furniture at home driving people crazy. It lets us get in shape and stay in shape. Gymnasts generally take good care of their bodies – we eat right and stay in shape mentally as well as physically.

The mental aspects of gymnastics include building confidence – the confidence you have when you know you are going to do well, your chances are going to increase dramatically. When you know you are prepared to compete, you know that you will be able to do most anything. And that sense of confidence is really important. There is a difference between being cocky and being confident. If you are cocky, that means that you are over-zealous and that you don’t believe that you can never lose. Confident gymnasts know that it is possible to fall at any time, but know they are prepared to do well – that they have practiced long and hard and can do what they are there to do.

Another mental aspect of gymnastics is focus. Before a routine, as you compete more often, you learn how to clear your mind before a meet. You focus on the event rather than the crowd. It is not like you cannot hear them, but the focus is on the gymnastics moves at hand. You learn to focus on one pass or skill at a time. Focus on the moment. When you are in the moment, then BE in the moment. Don’t worry about something else.

Finally, gymnastics helps people develop Character.

Three things about Character that I learned from gymnastics are discipline, respect, and sportsmanship.

Discipline: It is kind of hard to explain discipline. Structure and order is key to discipline. Gymnastics is very orderly and structured – the rules are strict and it is all cut and dry. Each event has element groups and they all have to be fulfilled. There are rules on top of rules on top of rules. Generally I don’t like rules – or at least I like to challenge them, but gymnastics teaches me to work within them. It helps me accept rules and structure. You also have to be disciplined in order to learn new things. You have to show up to practice every day and when you are there, listen to your coach, complete your assignments, and do the things that you might not like to do, but you know are necessary to succeed in the sport. There are times when I would love to stay home and just hang out with my friends from school, but I know that if I did that a lot, I would not be the gymnast I am today, or meet my goals for becoming the gymnast I want to be in the future.

Discipline goes together with respect. As a gymnast, you have to learn to respect authority and to respect people who are above you in the gymnastics world (whether that is another gymnast, a coach, or someone in the USA Gymnastics infrastructure). Respect is important not only in gymnastics, but in life. If you can’t respect authority in your everyday life, things are going to be difficult for you. There is always someone who is going to be above you, and whether you like them or not, you need to respect them for what they have done, what they know, or what they can teach you.

Sportsmanship is like disciple and respect in action. It is the epitome of an athlete’s character. Athletes who are good sports, are not only good at the skills in their sport, but are good at respecting others who are better than them and encouraging athletes that are coming up behind them. The men’s gymnastics community is a small one, and we support each other even when we are competing against each other. Of course, you want to do your best and win, but you also hope that everyone else does their best as well. We don’t want to win because someone else falls or fails. It is really common for guys from different teams to rotate together at a big meet, and you encourage and cheer for each other as if you are on the same team. In the grand scheme of things, we are all on the same team – men’s gymnastics!

You may be able to tell that what I have learned from gymnastics makes a difference in my life – and helped give me some of the values that influenced me to start the Iron Cross Foundation when I was 12 years old. My family taught me that giving back to others is important, and that even though I am an only child, the world is not all about me.

I want to talk with you now about the importance of volunteering and being a leader for serving others.

According to Mahatma Gandhi, “To find yourself, you need to first lose yourself in the service of others” While you may not believe in losing yourself to find yourself, many people in the US believe that community service is a good idea. But in my own experience – and even a survey of teens and young adults, only some people actually engage in it already.

Reasons people give for not volunteering include:

– They think that doing community service is boring – -They don’t know how or where to start -They believe you have value altruism to serve the community

BUT SERVICE IS A GREAT THING – Both for you and the people you serve!

Even small acts of service matter. You have the potential to make life better for somebody by doing something that is simple and easy.

What are some examples of easy service that matters? Since I was a little kid, my parents taught me to go out and help my neighbors with their yards. In the summer I would mow their yard or pull weeds in their gardens. In the winter I would shovel snow off their walk. These were easy tasks for me – I was a little kid and I did what I was able to do. But those small acts of kindness could help them maintain their homes (especially our neighbors who were old or who were sick) and it kept them safe. It also makes the image of your part of the community better when houses look good from the outside.

I volunteer at a church in my hometown that provides a hot breakfast once a week for people who are homeless. I get up early in the morning and go downtown and start fixing breakfast for them. Cracking eggs and mixing them is not hard. Making lots of toast is not hard, Making grits (kind of a porridge) is not hard. Handing someone a plate of healthy, hot food is not hard.

But, for the people who don’t have anywhere to cook for themselves, and who live on the streets or under bridges, that hot meal really matters. It’s easy for me, but it makes a huge difference for them. The meal I help cook and serve may be the only food they have that day.

Another thing that I can do that makes a difference in their life is to sit down and talk with them – mostly listen to them. Everyone has a story that they want to share, but so often people who are homeless don’t have anyone who is willing to listen.

Some of you may believe that people who are in need must have done something bad to mess things up in their life, so it’s not up to you to help them. Some people call that Karma. You might ask, Why should you go out of your way to help people who have had a chance and screwed it up? Even if you feel this way, you can choose to serve because it is good for you! At least in the US, you can get a scholarship for college or even a job because of a good record of service. Serving others also makes you feel good. It doesn’t have to be for the “down and out” but for your own future that you engage in community service.

I want all of you to give back to your community in some way, shape or form. You would be surprised at what you can do if you just start with what you know or what you alr

Little things can grow into bigger things.

Acting on what you believe is a good idea and can sometimes make the biggest difference.

I started with my neighborhood, and then to people in my community. When I got hurt as a gymnast, I took the opportunity to give back to my own sport of gymnastics that had already given me so much.

 

I was injured when I was 12 years old – about the same age as some of my new Chinese friends – and I was forced to take 6 months off from gymnastics. At the time, my orthopedic specialist didn’t think I would be able to return to the sport. The time away from my regular 20 hours of training each week gave me the opportunity to act on what I had wanted to do for a while I just didn’t know how to do it, which was the desire to give back to my sport. I started the Iron Cross Foundation with the help of family and friends in Washington state and gave out my first two scholarships when I was 13. Now we work throughout the United States and ICF hosts major meets to raise money and has been able to provide scholarships to over 17 male gymnasts throughout the country (even some guys who are on the US Junior National team).

 

The Iron Cross Foundation supports gymnastics dreams. We help athletes in the United States whose families don’t have enough money to continue in the sport of gymnastics. We provide a supportive community for gymnasts and their coaches and families. We also provide educational resources about gymnastics through our website. ICF also helped with this sport and cultural exchange. All of the US members of this exchange are members of the Iron Cross Foundation and were able to save some money on their trip to China because they support ICF. I hope that ICF will be able to continue to bring gymnasts from the US to China to have the amazing experiences we have had here – things that have been dream come true experiences. I also hope that many of the Chinese athletes that we will trained with this summer will be able to come to the to participate in the Iron Cross Challenge in January of 2012 in the Unites States and their own cultural exchange opportunity.

 

As I said earlier, gymnastics gives people an outlet for physical activity. It also teaches you how to overcome fear, to focus, and develops character. We learn discipline, respect, and sportsmanship.

 

Learning how to get back up when you fall or fail, and that with dedication and effort, anything is possible is important not only in gymnastics, but in volunteering for others – and for life in general.

6 months from now, what if each of you did something to help your community? What would be different than it is today? There are 22 of us kids on our sport and cultural exchange.

What if each of you inspires 21 more people to do something because of what you did, just like I am trying to do today? That would be 441 people.

And what if those 441 people inspire another 441 people? That would become 194,481 people doing something to help strengthen and support your community.

I want to leave you with another quote from Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I have this posted on my mirror in my bedroom as a constant reminder that there are people out there that need help and that I can be someone who gives them that help.

Go be the change in your part of your community. Go serve your community in any way, shape or form!

ICF is dedicated to helping young men of all socio-economic backgrounds participate in the sport of gymnastics by providing financial aid, social support, and educational resources.