The Courage to Begin!
‘Karen and Jay share thoughts on why it’s so vitally important to take that first step.’
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Or put simply in another context, the initiative of going for a run – or possibly working out, really begins with ‘putting on your shoes.’ And ironically – whether it’s a long journey or a short run or workout, often we find that the most difficult part is taking that first step – or even putting on your shoes. This much is certain – you can’t win if you don’t begin!
Back in 2015, German soccer star Andre Schurrle (pronounced shirl) was on top of the world. He and his countryman had just won the World Cup the previous summer and his club team Chelsea, based in London, would go on to be champions of the Premier League, Britain’s top soccer league. Yet only 5 years later, Andre found himself not getting any offers from teams due to recent injuries he’d sustained. Faced with a difficult decision, he decided to retire from professional soccer at only 29 years old, a sport he’d been playing since he was old enough to walk.
We often think or hear stories about athletes like Tom Brady or Ted Williams who play into their late thirties or early forties as if they are the norm. But the reality is, most professional athletes retire in their 20’s or early 30’s as the physical and emotional burdens become more difficult as they get older. And in the case of Schurrle, the sport he’d grown to love had become to feel more like a burden than a passion. So, when he retired, he was left with an ominous question: what next? To compound everything, he retired just as the world was coming to grips with the spread of covid-19 in the spring of 2020. For months he contemplated what direction he would go in. He admitted that it was one of the most challenging moments of his life having at one point been on the top of the sports world, to then find himself at the metaphorical bottom. Not knowing where to turn, he procrastinated for months on making a decision about what would come next, fearing that making a decision would lead him down the wrong path. Yet what he would discover is that by doing nothing at all, he was only achieving exactly what he in fact feared most, inaction and stagnation.
That’s when Andre was introduced to Wim Hof, a very eccentric Dutch motivational speaker and ‘extreme athlete’ whose breathing and training exercises are used by some of the world’s top endurance athletes. Perhaps you’re familiar with him. Known as the ‘iceman’ for making cold plunges an international phenomenon, Wim Hof is a true believer in the idea that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. In his own words, “I fear not living fully”. So, Andre decided to take up training again, doing regular breath work, running, climbing in a way that was drastically different than anything he’d done as a professional soccer player. Over time, with each little step, he saw progress and growth in his physical and mental well-being. That was when finally, he decided to take on what he called the biggest challenge of his life this past winter, bigger than the World Cup challenge he said, when he would climb the highest mountains in the Czech Republic with only a pair of shorts, hiking boots, and a winter beanie. Facing winds of more than 75mph and temperatures of -10, Andre would reach the summit. "The hardest mental and physical thing I ever did! An experience that I will never forget.”
Now this is not to say challenging yourself to something like this is what we should all be doing, certainly not as we each have our own boundaries and limits. However, what Andre demonstrated is that even as a professional athlete who’d achieved the greatest honors in his sport, there was still a fear of the unknown, and until he took a first step towards the unknown, he didn’t get anywhere. Once he did, he was eventually able to reach another mountain top, in this case quite literally. Each of us has the ability to achieve things greater than we could ever imagine, yet sometimes we may ‘get in our own head,’ tell ourselves we aren’t good enough, be scared about a potential outcome, when in fact the best thing you can do is simple, take action, doesn’t matter if it’s small or large. Following his summit, Andre shared, “What I learned: my body and mind are stronger than I thought. If I put my mind and soul to it, I can do everything." This is true for each of us, we just have to be willing to take that first step.
Stepping on to the Playing Field - Pilgrims Make a Triumphant Return to Football!
Earlier this summer, my close friend Dr. Wayne Lesperance, President of New England College, stood on the athletic field to herald the revival of Pilgrim football to the community. As recent as back in the early 1970s, New England College boasted a highly successful football team featuring quarterback alum Tom Farmen. This fall, New England College is beginning to play football once again!
Currently, Kevin Kelly, a college football legend, is at the helm as the football team's coach. With prior stints as Head Coach at Georgetown University and remarkable achievements such as bringing the Marshall football program an FCS National Championship in 1996, followed by being named the Patriot League Coach of the Year in 2011, Coach Kelly's reputation speaks volumes.
Commencing in 2024, the Division III football program has garnered substantial anticipation from the community and New England College's 5,000-strong student body. Dr. Lesperance and the entire New England College team deserve applause for revitalizing such a crucial program on their campus. My wife Karen and I eagerly await the chance to get our tickets and witness players achieving greatness both on and off the field.
The tenacity and drive cultivated on the football field have bred unwavering determination and commitment among individuals with lives beyond the game. Notable football figures like Tom Brady, who established the sports performance company TB12, and Cowboys’ legend Roger Staubach, who transitioned from a decade on the field to building a half-billion-dollar real estate empire, exemplify this phenomenon. Closer to home, we find inspiring examples in former Alderman Keith Hirschmann of Manchester, a West High Football alum who built a thriving Home Security and Alarm business, and Andrew Provencher of Bedford, a devoted small business owner and high school football coach shaping the next generation of athletes and leaders.
My own journey underscores the impact of football's conditioning and determination in the corporate world. Playing high school football for the Newport Tigers, I honed skills, learned elements of teamwork and the value of hard work and developed relationships that I still value today. The prospect of New England College's return to football fills me with excitement. Hats off to my great friend, President Wayne Lesperance who has taken the bold step of ‘beginning’ – and undoubtedly has put the courageous NEC Pilgrims on the path to a tradition of winning!
Sports Coverage at the Eagle Times is Stepping Up!
A distinctive facet of local news lies in its ability to spotlight matters often overlooked by national papers, particularly within the realm of sports. Fond memories arise of my mother sticking newspaper clippings on the fridge whenever either my brother or I would ‘make the paper.’ When we acquired the Eagle Times last year, the paper was undeniably strong in its coverage of local sports, albeit within a limited segment of the paper. And with great excitement, we are happy to announce that a new dynamic era has dawned at the publication, especially within the sports section, marked by the recent appointment of Chris LaClair as the esteemed Sports Editor—a local luminary with a coaching background and entrepreneurial ventures.
Guided by LaClair's stewardship, a dedicated cohort of writers and photographers now traverse a spectrum of games, from t-ball to high school football. Yet, the ambition for further growth remains robust, and LaClair's wellspring of innovative ideas seems boundless.
LaClair's brainchild, the ‘Eagles Nest' initiative, stands as a testament to his commitment to enhancing the newspaper's coverage of local athletes. This program aims to provide information that has been absent for a considerable duration—primarily individual athletes' statistics. In essence, the paper will weekly publish the stats of all participating athletes through the Eagles Nest. Athletes or their families interested in participating will contribute a fee of $29.99 per athlete per season to the Eagle Times. The interest in participating may originate from the athletes themselves, their parents, family members, friends, or various other sources. The funds accrued are designated to cover the associated costs and benefits tied to Eagles Nest membership.
For high school students, this expanded coverage holds immense significance as it not only showcases their growing skills but also serves as a conduit for community-wide acknowledgment of their achievements. This exciting new feature conveys the paper's profound concern and investment in the welfare of the community.
The Eagle Times’ sports department, under the visionary leadership of Chris LaClair, is poised to embark on a dynamic journey of reinvigorated sports coverage that celebrates the local athletes who contribute to the heart and soul of the community. This step not only symbolizes progress in sports journalism but also reflects a deep-seated commitment to nurturing the aspirations of the individuals who form the very fabric of our community.
Positive Profile of the Week: Cindi Woodbury
This week we are delighted to highlight a dedicated leader in the greater-Salem, New Hampshire area – Cindi Woodbury.
Less than a week ago, the Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce announced a pivotal change in its leadership with the appointment of Cindi Woodbury as the new Executive Director. This ushers in a new chapter for the Chamber, and it is a testament to the organization's commitment to fostering business relationships and community engagement across its service area, which covers Salem, Atkinson, Hampstead, Pelham, Windham and most recently Plaistow.
We called Cindi to congratulate her and to also learn more about her journey to this new leadership position. Woodbury's path is a testament to her resilience and dedication. Her career took a turn in 2020 when the pandemic led to the loss of her 22-year-long training, employee engagement and HR position —a job she had initially planned to retire from. Despite the challenges posed by the job market, she was determined not to settle into retirement just yet. "I gotta do it," she declared, acknowledging the uncertainty of the times and her need to stay active. Her extensive experience in community work and volunteering played a crucial role in shaping her decisions.
So, it’s no surprise that Woodbury's journey led her to the Greater Salem Chamber, where she took on the Membership and Engagement position with the intention that it would serve as her ‘passion’ job before retirement. As she had hoped, this role would turn out to be a perfect fit, allowing her to flourish and excel. Through her efforts, she has played an instrumental role in expanding the Chamber's membership to over 500 members—a remarkable achievement that showcased her dedication and capabilities.
Interestingly, Woodbury's taking on the position of Executive Director was not in her plans. Her contentment in her existing role was evident, and she never anticipated taking on a more significant leadership role. However, circumstances shifted as the Executive Director of 16 years departed, followed by a brief replacement. Woodbury found herself at a crossroads and, driven by her desire to see the Chamber thrive, she expressed her interest in the position to the board.
What truly sets Woodbury apart is her passion for community engagement. Her involvement as President of the Salem School District’s PTA and her leadership in the Veterans Appreciation Breakfast reflect her deep-rooted commitment to making a positive impact. The Veterans Appreciation Breakfast, organized by Woodbury, holds particular significance due in large part from listening to her dad’s stories about fighting in a war and the effect on a 19-year old leaving this country to fight for the cause of freedom. This event, which involves sixth-grade students of Salem’s Woodbury School along with veterans and community members, celebrates the service of veterans and highlights their importance through heartfelt speeches (often by the NH Governor, Senators and Woodbury students) and gestures of appreciation.
In her new role as Executive Director, Woodbury's dedication continues to shine as evidenced by the fact she was talking with us on her way to a ribbon cutting ceremony along with the Chamber’s Office Manager Liz Tsagaris. Her focus on fostering positive connections within the community, bridging businesses, students, and future leaders, underscores her commitment to building a harmonious environment.
Cindi Woodbury's journey from an unexpected career setback to the helm of the Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce exemplifies the power of resilience, community engagement, and the pursuit of one's passions. Her story is an inspiration to us all—a reminder that each step, even the unexpected ones, can lead to remarkable destinations. Through her leadership, Woodbury is steering the Greater Salem Chamber towards a future where businesses thrive, communities unite, and having a positive impact reigns. To learn more about the exciting programs led by Cindi and her team, visit the Greater Salem Chamber's website at Greater Salem Chamber
In closing, we extend our heartfelt appreciation to Cindi Woodbury for her unwavering dedication, her ability to transform challenges into opportunities, and her role in making Salem a better place for all. And if that’s not enough, she shared that in order to better meet the growing and changing needs of the overall community - a new name, logo and website will be officially revealed on September 27th - so stay tuned for more great things to come from our Southern NH friends!
Quotes of the Week: Winning Starts with Beginning
"You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great." - Zig Ziglar "The secret to winning is to begin." - Mark Twain "The future depends on what you do today." - Mahatma Gandhi "The most difficult thing is the decision to act; the rest is merely tenacity." - Amelia Earhart "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." - Lao Tzu