Thursday, January 7, 2010

What did Derek Jeter teach me about stuttering?

Good evening everyone,

As the calendar turns the pages to 2010, I realize that some things never get old. Maybe it's the feeling of putting on that favorite sweatshirt you have, the atmosphere you experience when you walk into a neighborhood restaurant and the host greets you like the regular you are, or getting together with your friends for to watch a game. We always identify cities by their sports teams and their characteristics. For example, Pittsburgh will always be Steeler Nation and the "We Are Family" Pittsburgh Pirates. Montreal will always be the cathedral of hockey, although some Maple Leafs fan may disagree. But we also take great pride in studying our athletes and relating to them, and applying the lessons they teach us everyday. In many cases, it's not just sportsmanship. It's about how to be as a person.

Living in the New York area as I do, I have always been a Yankees fan. And although I take it for granted that I can spend summer nights watching baseball being played in the boogie-down Bronx, I have also had the opportunity to watch one of the most influential athletes to every play in this city. Of course, I'm talking about one Derek Jeter, who is the captain of the New York Yankees, and a four-time World Series champion at that. New York has had many great sports teams and legends, but few have ever captured the heart of the city like he did. I can count on one hand the number of players who have.

It goes without saying that there is always intense scrutiny playing in a scene like New York. But regardless, the lessons he has taught me and many other fans can apply to us, as people who stutter in so many ways. I wanted to use this blog and share those insights, to see how we can apply them:

1. Respect-not just for others, but for ourselves. As a person who stutters, for the longest time growing up I never felt like I had the right to basic respect. If someone came up to me and said hello, as much as I wanted to respond in kind, I felt that I had no right to do so and to even attempt it would be futile. I think because of my stuttering, I have become more compassionate and giving in my life as a result. When you experience so much scorn and hurt, it's a natural response to say "I never cared about anyone, so I want to turn my back on the world." Sure, the world can be rough. But we can deal with it in a number of ways. If you respect yourself, and others, you know that you can find a positive, in the most trying of situations. When Joe Torre was managing the Yankees, the captain would always call him "Mr. T." And here's the best example of respect: We all know there's a red-hot rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox. If you asked players on the Red Sox who they admire and respect the most, even if they can't stand the team he plays for, it's Derek Jeter. If that doesn't show respect, then what does?

2. Be willing to hustle and do what needs to be done: There is no room for complacency in this world. When it comes to our stuttering, it is only controlled by one person, and that's ourselves. We can't blame our parents or anyone else. If you do not go to speech therapy, then there are other confidence-boosting exercises that you can do with regards to your speech. If you do go to speech therapy, understand that when you work with your SLP, once you step out of that office, it's up to you to apply it. Apply what you learn every chance you get.

3. Accept the responsibility you have: As some of you know, I hold a leadership position with the National Stuttering Association. In many ways, this was the greatest thing that ever could happen to me. There are some people who don't want to lead, and that's their right if they wish to do so. But when you are a leader, you are in the spotlight and what you say and do will be heavily watched. When you study how Derek Jeter meets the media after every game, he never says anything defamatory. He's always cordial, accommodating, and understands the responsibilities he has placed before him. I have a responsibility to all those people who stutter around the world. We all owe it to each other to be the best people we possibly can, and to represent stuttering in a positive light!

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

1 comment:

Manohar said...

yes, being inspired everyday is cardinal, regardless of how you are getting inspired. you could be drawing your inspiration from sports fraternity, for me it's the hollywood, especially the actors like denzel washington, tom hanks, al pacino and sean penn (to name a few) who have inspired us through ages.