Kevin Carroll has done it all. He has served in the United States Air Force, played soccer in Germany, was the former head athletic trainer for the Philadelphia 76ers, worked as a motivational and creative director at Nike and now runs his own company, Katalyst Consultancy in Portland, Ore.
Carroll has no plans of slowing down. He travels the world as a motivational speaker, talking to executives from mega-corporations like Starbucks and Nike and to school children alike, spreading his message of inspiration, passion and dedication. What is the story behind this “daredevil” whose drive to achieve sees no end?
Carroll, a native of Philadelphia, was abandoned by alcoholic parents at just six-year-old, along with his two brothers. He moved in with his aging grandparents, who left the three brothers at their own devices simply because they were too old and frail to tend to young and energetic boys. six-year-old Carroll, known as lil’ Carroll by his peers, did not take to a life on the street like most would have expected.
“I know I was not in an easy situation,” Carroll said. “But, at the same time, I didn’t know it was bad either. It just is what it is. I never made myself feel like a victim, I did not want to be one. I was always the problem solver kid.”
While growing up, Carroll immersed himself in books and learning and relied on fiction, comics and academic work to help him escape from the troubled world. He took on the character of “Daredevil,” his favorite comic book and strived to become like his beloved super hero, “the man without fear.”
A dedicated student and loyal friend, Carroll also found love, support, guidance and care at the home from his best friend’s mother, Miss Lane.
“I have a remarkable relationship with Miss Lane,” Carroll said. “We were always friends. She’s a teacher and has been the key person in my life and I have [a] tremendous amount of respect for her. She is the person who gave me the permission to chase my dreams.”
This is the message Carroll preaches to his listeners, who are sometimes as young as 10-years-old. In his best selling book, Rules of the Red Rubber Ball, Carroll shares his personal stories about his passion for sports and how it changed his life and fueled his motivation to succeed. The book provides encouragement and a solid plan to achieve success and fulfillment in life.
Carroll’s emphasis on the power of play, the red rubber ball and sports to realize one’s potential and stay dedicated to one’s aspirations and dreams might seem confusing to some. However, the dynamic speaker gives examples from his own life to illustrate how the red rubber ball saved his future.
“I walked on to the playground and there was this red rubber ball there,” Carroll said. “I started playing with it and the other kids asked me to join, no questions asked. They didn’t want to know about my parents or where I came from. They just wanted to play with me. It was so egalitarian and I was welcomed instantly.”
“The playground was my sanctuary. I tried new moves with the ball and always pushed myself to get better. I loved sports and in order to play, you have to keep your grades up so I pushed myself to do well in academics too.”
“The red rubber ball gave me creativity, urged me to try new things and I wasn’t afraid to do that. Once you realize your potential on the playground, it should be extended in the outside world and you should strive to flex your creative muscle in everything that you do,” he added.
In a message to college students, Carroll said:
“Students should use their college years to identify what inspires them. They should not major in something just because it is going to get them a job after they graduate or because their parents want them to do it. They should explore, seek and find something that really tickles their brain, find something that they love, enjoy and value,” he said.
In the future, Kevin Carroll plans to write more books to inspire and urge people to fulfill their ambitions and dreams. He wants to be the “great example” that children need to model their behavior. According to Carroll, children need to have an example that looks like them because their task then seems more real and attainable.
“I want to be a story teller. I want to be the Bill Cosby for this generation. I want to bring people and communities together through sports. I am hoping to inspire the next generation of dreamers.”
Amna Rizvi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.