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Kevin Carroll

Katalyst, Kevin Carroll Katalyst, LLC


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LIVE CHAT With Kevin Carroll: Can a ball save a life & change the world? What are the social innovation values of sports? June 15, 4-5PM EDT

Join us for a LIVE conversation with Katalyst, author, and speaker Kevin Carroll.

This conversation will open at 4:00PM EDT, June 15th, 2011.

"Can a ball save a life & change the world? What are the social innovation values of sports?"

They chose their addiction over raising three sons. The pinnacle moment of my parent’s neglect resulted in the three of us being “rescued” by a stranger, shuttled down to a greyhound bus station in Bowling Green, VA, in the summer of ’65, placed on a bus alone (ages eight, six, and three) and sent on a 200+
mile, one-way fare to my grandparent’s house in Philadelphia. Without parents in my life, I resorted to finding my life lessons from many sources: businessmen and laborers, winos and alcoholics, drug dealers and users, sport coaches, my peers and old-heads at the playground, merchants, war vets, school teachers, librarians, custodians, food service workers, other kid’s moms and dads. I learned to be constantly on the lookout for any nugget of insight that would assist me on my quest to rise above my suffering and circumstances. I spent endless hours at the neighborhood playground and it became my sanctuary. That playground plus sports and play proved to be a catalyst in my journey from dysfunction and hardscrabble to becoming an author, a speaker and an agent for social change invested in the sport for peace and development movement.

Sport and play are common human denominators and equalizers. No matter where you go in the world - regardless of socioeconomic, political or religious system – sport and play are present. Stories abound about the use of sport and play as social innovation tools versus foes of the human condition - HIV/AIDS,
gender equity, social inclusion, homelessness, literacy, natural disaster, conflict and many others - and there are human catalysts who utilize it to inspire change and action.

  • Jun 15 2011: Interesting story. As a volunteer soccer coach in NYC, I can say there are definite social and individual skills which sports provide. There is the physical and mental aspect of learning a sport and developing it. Team sports definitely teach communication and how to work along with others. While individual sports can help to mold your personal identity. Also, when thinking of fitness there is a nutritional aspect which may not be the primary focus but definitely plays a larger part as athletes become more disciplined and grow in their sport. We also see how major sporting events like the Olympics and World Cup can set the stage for healthy competition and bring people of all backgrounds closer together.
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      Jun 15 2011: You are absolutely right, Eduardo! Sports literally can "level the playing field" & bring people together & you can see the elite sitting next to the common man/woman & cheering for the same side.
  • Jun 15 2011: This is a great topic. One nice example where a sport is helping to connect people is shown in a video that Quatar created when bidding for FIFO World Cup 2022:


    The idea is that soccer can create common ground for peaceful engagement, cooperation and healthy competition. It helps to see that people are same regardless of where they were born and can share interests =)
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      Jun 15 2011: Indeed! Zdenek I think this is one of the biggest values that sports can teach in a way that I've never seen other disciplines/institutions/activities accomplish.
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      Jun 15 2011: Great video to illustrate the point, Zdenek. Thanks for sharing!
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      Jun 15 2011: it is truly a fantastic convening tool & this video is one great example of a country harnessing the power of sport for social good + celebrating the global game of soccer/futbol.
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      Jun 15 2011: But see, here's what I was talking about earlier. Quatar may have a nice video, not questioning that, but the doubts that they bought their way into the World Cup sheds a shadow on football. Why does this need to happen?

      And as a question - which I forgot in my last post - how can we improve things?
      • Jun 15 2011: We cannot blame football itself but rather a few corrupted individuals.

        I believe that with more transparency, reform and education we can improve the state of professional sport?
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          Jun 15 2011: I agree we cannot blame football itself, but I sometimes have a feeling it's more than just "a few".
          I like your idea of more transparency and reform, but how can we find solutions that do not depend on people at the top making certain calls?
  • Jun 15 2011: Sports is not only valuable for individuals but communities as well. Sports teams, even losing teams, offer a segment of their community the opportunity to bond as they participate, observe, or simply comment on the team. In business, we use sports as a way to short cut the longer process of building personal relations.

    In fact, we are seeing that even the mere support of a sports team can provide the instant "family" (perhaps with all of a family's dysfunctions), useful not only for youngsters but twenty-somethings as well.

    Over the last couple of years, I have been asked repeatedly to bring back soccer shirts for guys who don't even play soccer, and don't follow the country teams that I am visiting. They just want the "belonging" of following the sport - and belonging is so vital to our well-being.
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      Jun 15 2011: So true, Barbara! Belonging was my main motivation to be a part of sports in my youth.
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    Jun 15 2011: I must be a little late to this conversation but I love the interaction between sports and social change. I've been able to see if first hand myself. I work with a nonprofit that utilizes lacrosse as a vehicle for impact in urban Dallas.

    On micro level how do you work with parents who don't see the value in sports?
    • Jun 15 2011: Hi David,

      I'm interested in finding out more about non-profit. Could you tell me the name of it please?

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        Jun 15 2011: BRIDGE Lacrosse Dallas. We currently have 5 teams, boys and girls, in the south Dallas area. I'd love to talk with you and anyone else about the organization. It is a great group with a great mission.
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      Jun 15 2011: do you know about LAX Nation, David? They use LAX as a social innovation tool Research can be helpful for a lot of parents to better understand the power of sport as a social innovation tool. Give a looksee to: National Institute for Play - www.nifplay.org +
      Playworks - www.playworks.org + Beyond Sport - www.seyondsport.org
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        Jun 15 2011: Changing the mentality and culture in the homes is one of the biggest challenges we face. The kids are always advocates for fun and sports, the parents are much harder to convince. I will certainly look into these resources. Thank you very much.
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    Jun 15 2011: I found this TED conversation experience to be...inspiring, enlightening, insightful, passionate, compelling, invigorating, empowering & humbling. Sport & play can be a fantastic rallying point for all of us - we ALL speak ball! Thanks to all of you who took time to join in the convo. Peace + PLAY...

    KC Katalyst
  • Jun 15 2011: I love the work you do abroad AND here. At home (in Portland, your own turf), I've seen the principles we discussed together work in public schools here--and it is so needed. The values of sportsmanship, pure joy, and focus you encourage have all touched so many lives. Anywhere you go, we enjoy the fact you spread the gospel of Universal Values in Sport that tie us all together.
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      Jun 15 2011: Thanks for the shoutout & the Rose City LUV, Arlie! I'm just trying to do my part - each one teach one.
      Peace + PLAY, my man! Keep being a power of sport zealot too.
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    Jun 15 2011: My grandmother helped to raise me and with a young mom, it was extended family, the Y, and Girls Scouts that kept me safe from the harm of the streets. Were you bullied? Did you feel vulnerable?
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      Jun 15 2011: all great resources for belonging too, Katherine. I never had to deal with bullying per se but it did help that my older brother was quite big & strong & a bit feared in the neighborhood. Belonging is a big deal for young people. Finding a positive place to spend that critical time after school is key - 3p-6p is that important time for sure to find positive outlets. thanks for the comment!
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    Jun 15 2011: Hello Kevin! (We briefly connected last summer in Denver, and spoke about our mutual Katalyst, Gordon MacKenzie.)

    I never got into sports as a kid (or an adult) but do love to play, in general. What other analogies can you recommend that aren't sports-related. Could you say that creating art would be a good analogy?
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      Jun 15 2011: Hi Cami - it's great to reconnect with you! How about looking at other creative/inspiring outlets such as:
      books (public library), music (school music program), art/design (future sole project & PENSOLE Design School). It's always about belonging + being inspired by the activity. Be well, Cami...
  • Jun 15 2011: Can you give a few more examples of how sport and play are being used as social innovation tools against "foes of the human condition"?
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      Jun 15 2011: sure...Homeless World Cup (social inclusion), Right To Play(advocates for children in conflict regions), Beyond The Ball (belonging), Boxgirls (gender issues), The Girl Effect (education/sport access). there's a plethora of these organizations around the globe - check out www.beyondsport.org too for more examples. Thanks for the comment, Susan!
  • Jun 15 2011: Sorry for checking in late...and sorry again if this has been covered - but I seem to remember someone invented a soccer ball that, through movement, generated electricity and stored it. The idea being that countries w/ little/no electricity - the kids still play a lot of soccer - so through doing that activity, they could produce enough electricity to provide enough light to read at night or something. Has that taken off at all?
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      Jun 15 2011: yes, it's called sOccket - www.soccket.com - it's a brilliant idea + innovation. a perfect mashup of sport, practicality, necessity, innovation & the unexpected solution! Be well, Terry...
  • Jun 15 2011: I find it heartbreaking that so many schools have resorted to reducing physical education classes and recess for children of all ages. I find it incomprehensible that children, boys in particular, who struggle to sit still as a result of ADD/ADHD, learning differences or pure boredom, often have the elimination of recess used as a form of punishment. Is there are concerted effort to recognize and restore the value of PE and "outside"time to our children's school life? If so, can you provide the link? Thanks for your dedication to creativity and social change.
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    Jun 15 2011: Nice values indeed. :) I read your profile, and your "book and ball combination seems great. It reminds me of a couple friends I had once: one was a basketball player who was mostly interested in sports, and the other was essentially a bookworm, having spent most of her youth in her bedroom reading. Sometimes, they'd argue and diss each other's hobbies.
    How easy (or how difficult) was it for you to manage these two sides of you? Jocks and nerds never get along. :)
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      Jun 15 2011: when I was young it wasn't easy to balance my jock side w/my nerd side. As I got older, I learned to embrace both parts & to revel in the fact that I could shine in both areas. My friends eventually grew to respect me for having ability in both areas too.
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    Jun 15 2011: Hi Kevin,

    firstly thank you for your story and for this opportunity for a live discussion! I very much preffer this type of conversation to the typical forum posting.
    When looking at the stories of many of today's great athletes you find that one of the reasons they became so good at what they do is because they needed to do it, because it was vital to their existence for example top-class marathoners having had to run to their school every day during childhood. I think this is a different aspect of how sports can change or even save a life, not by being chosen as a pastime, but as a necessity.
    Now to your point, I can very well understand where you come from. As a child our household was not necessarily one of the most peaceful so I also often found solace and peace in playing football outside with my friends. I never became a top footballer because of this - although I still dream about it sometimes - but it helped me meet a lot of great people who sticked with me in tough times.

    So as a conclusion - yes, a ball can save a life.

    For it to change the world we need to rethink sports in general in my opinion. I'll stick with football because it's probably what I know best - scandals of corruption within FIFA and the situation of many top clubs who continously buy expensive players although they are making deficits whilst trying to sell their stocks at the stock market can only deter youth from being interested in pursuing this path in life.
    Same goes for cycling, an even better example. Who wants to become a pro if they know they will need to use drugs to be good enough?

    Enough for this post, looking forward to replies.
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      Jun 15 2011: Sabin, thanks for sharing your comment - well shared & insightful. It's great to know that you personally understand the power of sport. It is true that governing bodies of sport have "lost their way" & the BIG money is behind that fact. I want to believe that many of the people who are caught up in the controversies and scandals were not originally that way - they loved the game & all it stood for. We can only hope that many of the officials & athletes that are involved in scandals for $, PEDs, poor leadership can reevaluate the reason they are invested in sport. Be well, Sabin.
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    Jun 15 2011: I love playing pick-up soccer with all sorts of people - it's really a fantastic experience. It's not just about meeting new people and seeing new skill, it's testing your own adaptability, understanding of style and flow - real time collaboration with others to create purposeful motion. Sports are built on gesture, which is really an exploration of space - how you are in space and what you can imagine in space.

    I think knowing your body is a huge part of placing yourself in the world, there are other lessons in sports - perseverance, focus, dedication, cunning, spirit - but for me the most important is learning gesture - it's the fundamental element of our communication.
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      Jun 15 2011: pick-up games require quick adaptation to others + creating spontaneous "non-verbal" language or gestures to communicate with your new teammates to play well together. I t really is a great test of one's ability to be resourceful, clever, adapt quickly + have a great playing experience. The magic is when you connect with someone you hardly know or just met in the pick-up game & you really have a true game connection as if the team has been playing together for years. Belonging, respect for each others gift/talent, & the mutual love for the game can go a long way!! thanks for the comment Aleksey!
  • Jun 15 2011: I'm interested in using my vast experience in coaching tennis players at all levels to teach creativity and entrepreneurship. Any key thoughts you can share on implementation?
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      Jun 15 2011: finding ways to create civic engagement/leadership with your tennis players is a great call-to-action opportunity, Carlos. Please take a look at the work Right to Play is doing with athletes - www.righttoplay.com
      we can also discuss this more offline.
  • Jun 15 2011: Kevin! I had several opportunities to interact with you and hear you speak while I worked at Nike a few years back… I've followed you on LinkedIn, blogs, etc. over the years… you never cease to inspire me with your new thoughts on things! Thanks! I have a picture of the "red rubber ball" hanging up always here at my work station - reminding me to play! (among other things!) I've been through some tough things with my husband's addiction and recovery, raising teen agers, etc… the past year or so, I'm just wondering - is there one or two practical things I can do/say to instill the "always look for innovation" "don't forget to play" "look on the bright side" sort of thing with my family that is not cliché? How do I make innovation & inspiration a way of life instead of a one-time thing?
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      Jun 15 2011: Hi Anna, thanks for the kind words! Start practicing one LOOK UP day per/wk with your family. Make them share a story about something they discovered that didn't see before & share the story over a meal with the family. Positive message for them: circumstances never dictate someone's destiny. How's your WANT-TO?! You can't accomplish anything with a broke WANT-TO! Hope this info is useful. Be well, Anna!
  • Jun 15 2011: Hey Little Fast Kid! I heard you speak for Florida Virtual School two years ago and never forgot it. What are your opinions about the current climate toward education in this country? What do you think we educators can do, incorporating your lessons from sports, to continue to bring forth positive energy these days?
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      Jun 15 2011: Fight for RECESS! As an educator you know that recess is an important part of the day for students. You should check out the work of Playworks - www.playworks.org Thanks for the kind words, Alyssa!
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    Jun 15 2011: this topic and the comments below open a critical eye to instances of recess or play being restricted in U.S. public schools and the detriment that may result. social bonding most certainly occurs within the realm of sports and play
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      Jun 15 2011: you are absolutely right, Alberto! Lack of recess for students in the US is a BIG issue with BIG ramifications. There are some great organizations that are fighting a "noble" fight to enlighten + encourage civic leaders to recognize the role & value of play/recess/sports. social bonding is a great outcome from sport too! thanks for the comment!
  • Jun 15 2011: Mr Carroll - What are the biggest issues you are fighting to change?
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      Jun 15 2011: Right now I'm supporting personally literacy/education & access to sport/recess/play. I also support global organizations that are using sport/play as a social innovation to address - social inclusion, HIV/AIDS, homelessness, conflict resoulution.
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    Jun 15 2011: Look at the movie Invictus.
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      Jun 15 2011: What does this have to do with social innovation values in sports? We don't have the time to do a quick stop and watch on a movie for this Q&A ;-)
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      Jun 15 2011: Actually, I got to hear the Invictus story directly from AB Desmond Tutu before the movie came out in theaters - he shared it beautifully! Btw, I did see the movie & enjoyed it.
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    Jun 15 2011: Hey, Kevin. Thanks for sharing your story. I wonder, which values exactly did sport instill in you?
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      Jun 15 2011: Thanks Sergio! Sports provided a sense of belonging, taught me discipline, how to problem-solving + to be inventive.
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    Jun 15 2011: Hey Kevin,

    I find sports can go a long way in helping kids understand not only teamwork, but cultural differences in a way that encourages them to embraces other cultures to achieve a common goal. Has this been your experience?
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      Jun 15 2011: Sports transcends ethnicity, culture, language barriers - we all DO speak ball & there's many stories supporting this insight. check out: www.beyondsport.org for global examples of sport for social change.