By: Shane Baglini, Living Sport Advisory Board Chair
In April 2017, Alicia Marinelli approached me and asked that I consider being a mentor on her inaugural trip through her newly formed company, Living Sport. The trip would be 8 days 7 nights in Barcelona, Spain. It took me less than 30 seconds to say yes. I had planned to go with Alicia to Milan, Italy later that year, but I guess I could sacrifice and settle for Barcelona to help a friend (*wink, wink*).
As a mentor, I’d be passing along my sport industry knowledge to 22 young and eager college students/graduates, most of which were Sport Management majors. We’d be working at the Red Hook Crit: Barcelona, a cycling event. What a great way for me to stay connected and help young people succeed in whatever small way I could, I thought.
Not really knowing what to expect from the group, I went in with an open mind but tempered expectations. Millennials, and whatever we’re branding the even younger generation, get a bad rap. I’m a millennial, technically, I think. Who knows? People say we’re lazy, entitled, don’t want to work hard, blah, blah, blah. Those stereotypes can alter your opinion of a group before even meeting or interacting with them. As this group arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport that Monday morning, I greeted each of them one by one, learned a bit about their background, where they were from, etc. I introduced them to the collective group, and they were immediately welcomed by all. I knew this was a good group.
Not knowing much about each person (despite Alicia’s detailed profiles that I merely skimmed, sorry Alicia) the student that stood out right away was Amairani Ramirez. Amairani, a Houston native, had flown to New York to pursue her dreams and goals while her hometown was under water due to Hurricane Harvey, and would be for some time. When we arrived in Spain, “Roni” as we came to call her, was our early trip MVP, as she was fluent in Spanish which allowed us to communicate with staff and locals. After one of the worst natural disasters in the history of our country, and flying hours to get to JFK, and flying MORE hours to get to Spain, Roni was willing to help at every turn. What was that about millennials being entitled and lazy? Roni was certainly not the only student that stood out. All 22 of them stood out in their own way.
As I got to know each one of these students throughout the course of the week, my faith in the next generation was restored tenfold. A group of 22 students, most of them strangers, from a generation glued to their cell phones at all times, quickly formed bonds and friendships that will last a lifetime. Strangers now friends, 22 kids in a group chat who had known each other for 3 days, now attending each other’s homecomings at college. Throughout the week not one of them got in any kind of trouble. Not one of them was late for a meeting, bus trip, dinner, assignment or anything else. Not one of them complained about working long hours, or being assigned multiple tasks. They were only worried about soaking up as much of the experience as they could. They did eat at Barcelona’s version McDonald’s several times, so they weren’t perfect…
They worked in the sun for what seemed like 24 hours on Friday. On race day they worked from about 7:00am to 11:00pm. They were exhausted but still cleaning up even when we told them they could stop. Erin Dorsey and Jess Garcia dragging pounds of banners to the dumpster at 11:00pm. Elias Riginos hurdling barriers and sprinting across the center of the track to fix branding that had fallen off. Ross Campbell pumping his fist in excitement as he fitted the last of dozens of go-pro cameras he fitted to bikes throughout the day as the men’s final of the Red Hook Criterium was ready to start. The entire crowd and field of riders, and race director stared at Ross as he worked. But he got the job done.'
All 22 of them taking such pride in their work, that when we arrived the morning of the race to see the majority of the course’s barriers blown over by wind, without hesitation they began fixing it, and providing solutions to prevent the problem again.
I’ll ask again, what was that about millennials being lazy and not wanting to work hard?
If you’re one of the people with this mindset, and think the generation coming up is any of the stereotypes I’ve listed above, I’ve got 22 names that prove you wrong.
Jessica Garcia, Mike Wasco, Josh Clarke, Alyssa Riker, Eran Hami, Chelsie Bingham, Connor Herlihy, Jessica Guzman, Amairani Ramirez, Grant Gittins, Ross Campbell, Mary Sinnot, Jon Kleiner, Nora Wade, Erin Dorsey, Samantha Clark, John Surrette, Caitlyn Schiano, Matt Reynolds, Elias Riginos, Wes Trask, and Dean May.
If you’ve ever said the phrase “millennials are the worst generation ever,” you don’t know the right millennials.
As I prepare to go on my second trip as part of Living Sport, this time to London to work at the Royal Windsor Triathlon, my expectations aren’t as tempered. This group, like the Barcelona group, is filled with eager young professionals looking to make their mark in an industry that is not for the faint of heart.
I doubt I’ll see anything but the same work ethic and willingness to learn and grow. Outside of the sights and history of London, and the experience of the Royal Windsor Triathlon, I’m most looking forward to seeing another group of 20+ students form lifelong friendships through sport.