Ready, Set, Gold! features some truly amazing Olympians and Paralympians in its program, which serves many schools and students. But have you ever wondered how athletes are selected to participate in the Ready, Set, Gold! program and what impact they have on students? Read on to learn more about the athlete selection process featuring our very own Michaela Reynolds!
How long does the process take for Olympians and Paralympians to become participating athletes?
The process is very long and detailed because we want to make sure the partnership is long lasting. We take our time to talk to the Olympian or Paralympian to understand their expectations and time commitments. On top of that, we want to make sure the athletes are from that community. We want the kids to relate to the athletes. The athletes can be that local hero in the community for the students. The students can see themselves as that athlete. The impact of the program on the students explodes when those meaningful connections are made. That’s why there needs to be a committed athlete who speaks highly of the program. The athletes are not a one-off guest speaker for the entire school. Instead, they work one-on-one with the students and teachers. It’s unheard of. You don’t hear about this personal experience.
What is required of the athletes before committing to the program, and what options do they have?
It’s going to be an hour of their time, once a month, for five months. And that’s a commitment, especially if they’re training for the Games or they have a full-time job. We need to consider that. It’s no fault to them. It might not be a good fit. What’s great is that we’ve developed this virtual program. All we need is one hour of their time, and their videos impact 10,000 students in a single year. They can choose from the in-person or virtual program or even both.
What role do you play in the athlete selection process?
I’m the matchmaker! We want the kids to see themselves in the athletes, and we also want the students to feel at home, comfortable, relaxed and to open up to the athletes. Ready, Set, Gold! researches demographics and who would be a perfect fit to make the most impact.
How long do the Olympians and Paralympians engage with the students and teachers each visit?
It’s an hour long. We usually come in during what would be their P.E. time. We work with a lot of elementary schools; they don’t have a designated P.E. teacher. We’ll plug and play into their P.E. time slot.
Describe what goes on during the visits.
The first visit is an assembly with the Olympian/Paralympian and the entire school. After that, a core fitness goal (such as endurance, strength, flexibility and balance) is focused on during each visit. During the same visit, the athletes share a pivotal moment in their career that’s related to a social-emotional learning topic. The lessons can start with goal setting and follow up with feedback and then be followed by a lesson on perseverance and then congratulating yourself. There’s structure, but there’s room for adapting. We adapt to what the school needs. For example, the social-emotional learning and growth mindset learnings are flexible. This is because at each school, the students face different situations and challenges compared to students at other schools.
What is your favorite part about the whole process?
I like going in and watching the students, the Olympians and the teachers connect. I love being the fly on the wall after it’s all come together and seeing the sparks in the students’ eyes. Students see the athletes and are so excited and run up to the athlete when it’s time for the athlete to return to the school for their monthly visit.
What is one of the best moments you ‘ve experienced with the Ready, Set, Gold! Program?
I went to a meeting where the Olympian meets with the entire school. One school had an opening ceremony, and all the grades took part in it. The school does it every year. One fifth grader came up to the visiting Olympian and told him, “I was in first grade four years ago, and you signed this on opening day for me when I was a first grader.” She brought [the item] in, and he signed it for her a second time, signed and dated it. The students looked forward to working with [the Olympian] year after year. They talk about goal setting in the program, and she had set her goal to meet this particular Olympian.
What is one thing you love the most about working with the athletes?
Our Olympians go above and beyond. At one of our schools in LAUSD (Emerson Community Charter School), their kids take part in the L.A. Marathon. John Moffet went above and beyond and brought in medals for all the students who completed the marathon.
Do you have anything to add that we may not have covered already?
Be your best self! That’s what our athletes represent because Olympians and Paralympians are the best of the best athletes. They’ve made it to that elite level, so let’s help you get to be your best self.
We hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at the Ready, Set, Gold! athlete selection process. If you want to see some of what our athletes do as part of the RSG! program, and get a good workout in at the same time, make sure to register for and check out the RSG! Spring Series! You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more news and updates.