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Looking back on my teen years, I realize that I took for granted many of the lessons I learned from my teachers, coaches, and other role models. I wanted to be independent, and I thought I knew the ways of the world. I wanted to make my own choices, to be an adult.

That’s not to say I wasn’t a good student or athlete. In fact, my report cards and game stats show that despite my preoccupation with growing up and moving on, I was absorbing more than I realized.

It wasn’t until I entered the “real world,” though, that I began to truly respect all that I’d learned from these influential people. They taught me about the importance of community, teamwork, creativity, innovation, commitment, and hard work — values that are central for me at home and at work today.

As I became more immersed in the world of health and fitness, by way of Experience Life specifically, I began to see some of the more practical lessons I’d learned as a teen reflected in its pages. It hit me that not only were the people who’d taught me about these things smart; they were also pretty progressive.

Most of my early fitness learning came in the late ’90s courtesy of my junior-varsity basketball and strength coach, Mr. Schulte. He was passionate about helping his basketball players be the strongest they could be, both mentally and physically (and, from what I hear, he still is). Every season, he committed a good amount of his free time to researching new training methods, watching game tapes, and strategizing how we could improve as individuals and as a team.

I feel lucky to have gotten an early introduction to things like strength training, plyometrics, and visualization from Mr. Schulte. I’ll never forget hopping over those orange cones and dots painted on the floor in a variety of patterns. In fact, when I do plyo moves now, I can still hear him encouraging me to go faster, to jump higher, to set a new personal record.

The heaviest lifting I’ve ever done was during my senior year in high school, when I trained for months to eventually box squat 250 pounds. Strength training is my favorite form of exercise to this day, and I credit that to the positive experience I had in my high school’s weight room.

I was more hesitant about visualization — let’s just say my teammates and I spent most of the time trying not to laugh as Mr. Schulte guided us to imagine ourselves making the shot and winning the game.

What’s funny about that now is I use visualization all the time. I have a vision board in my office, and before big events I try to envision how I want these experiences to go. Mr. Schulte was definitely on to something.

This issue of Experience Life is all about those life lessons that shape who we are and who we will become — and it’s about celebrating the people and programs that are preparing the next generation for the challenges they will someday face.

In “Learning Opportunities”, for instance, we explore four amazing programs that are teaching kids important social, physical, and nutritional skills. And in José González’s cover story, we learn how he’s helping Latino kids understand the healthy benefits of time in nature.

These kids may or may not appreciate these lessons now, but my guess is that they definitely will someday. It almost always takes a while to remember such gifts and put them into practice.

Thoughts to share?

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