A Gold Medal Mindset

By Sandra A. Trach

Childhood obesity is rampant and excessive sitting is hurting students. Shannon Miller is seeking to change this epidemic through her inspiring life as a famous athlete, entrepreneur and parent. She offered a powerful message for principals about being a leader of physical activity and wellness, and focusing on the whole child.

Maintain a gold medal mindset

When asked which is harder—winning the gold medal or being a parent—Miller says hands down: It’s being a parent. The loss of control as a parent that is hard. We want to do everything we can for our children to keep them safe. Principals have the unique opportunity to help students be safe and successful, because they are invested in educating the “whole child.” It is important that we keep kids excited. It takes a special “gold medal mindset” to meet success. “It’s too important to fail.” It’s about having “an attitude of 100%.” It’s about “winning every day” and “making every moment count.”

Writing short- and long-term goals is critically important in achieving your dreams. It is also crucial in personal motivation and overcoming obstacles. Miller spoke to principals about how even writing this on an index card can be powerful to sometimes review and keep your will power strong.

Miller described a time when she made a mistake in one of her Olympic vaults that was totally unexpected. She fell—in front of the world watching the Olympics. Then, it all came down to the balance beam event. Although she had been taught as a gymnast to block out the audience, this time she soaked in the audience entirely. When she ultimately felt her feet hit the floor, she felt the surge of euphoria where all of the hard work for her and her team came through. “It was a moment in time.” She said, “We all remember the highlights, but also forget about the injuries and insurmountable obstacles along the way.” She said that “Training for the Olympics was training for life.” Miller advocates that setting goals, being inspired, and being held accountable is very important. This is also important for our children. They need to know that what they do is important.

Make physical activity fun

Miller has started her own foundation, where she is committed to getting kids active. In some schools, physical activity is almost non-existent. She wants to help children break sedentary lifestyles. She acknowledges that although life has changed (digitally, media), we can help make physical activity fun. It affects their self-esteem, and impacts how they approach and conquer challenges.

Childhood obesity is a national epidemic and directly contributes to Type II Diabetes and many other serious health issues such as cancer. We have an opportunity to use wearable technology, including heart rate technology, to help kids live a healthy lifestyle. Miller argues, “We cannot remove P.E. and recess and expect a change.”

Even adults have to get up and move in order to help brain learning. Aerobic activity helps children and adults take control of their own health. Adults must be the models in what they eat and how they move. Sometimes we are so focused on the students, that we forget about ourselves as adults. We have to “double down” and “increase our efforts” as adults. Failure is not “falling nine times ... it’s refusing to get up.” She says, “Find one thing and others will feed off that positive energy”, and “Don’t let negative energy in—it leads to a downward spiral and gets in the way of your success.”

Your health is important

Miller described that just when her entrepreneur work and parenting were going well, she learned that she had a tumor on her ovary. Surgery and chemotherapy followed, and consequently changed her life. She says that cancer is a game changer. She lost her hair and even could not hold her own baby son (due to her treatment) for 8 weeks. She is recovered today, but advises women and men: Do not take your health for granted. It is these types of moments that define your character.

Keep a healthy attitude for a healthy life

The greatest obstacle to a healthy life is “a bad attitude.” It will have you lose hope quickly. “Keep the positive attitude no matter what,” Miller said boldly. She thanked a packed house of principals for advocating for children and removing obstacles in their lives, saying to never forget that “principals change children’s lives.” She asked that principals spread the message of “the whole child,” and keep physical fitness and movement at the forefront. Winners are people who set goals and strive to achieve them. When you have a difficult situation, think about “a winning mindset.” “Create a winning atmosphere!” she said. “If principals bring a gold medal mindset, think about the change you can make!” The principal audience gave her a standing ovation for her gold medal inspiration.

—Sandra A. Trach, principal of Estabrook Elementary School, Lexington, Massachusetts

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