Get to Know George Selleck

Dr. George Selleck, a PAC-12 and Stanford Basketball Hall of Fame athlete and former counseling psychologist... 

has spent over 40 years working with youth. Most recently, Dr. Selleck is responsible for the development and direction of Leading2Play, a youth-driven sports, fitness and leadership program that encourages participation in sports and fitness activities while promoting healthy living, responsibility and development of such key skills as organization and management. The mission of the Leading2Play is to put kids in charge of creating fun and meaningful sports and fitness experiences that are open to all regardless of athletic ability. Dr. Selleck developed the program as an antidote to the 75% of kids who drop out of youth sports every year; an opportunity for schools whose physical education budgets have been slashed; a way to combat childhood obesity by making fitness fun and habit-forming; and a chance for kids to learn leadership and organizational skills that will benefit them in school, work, and life. His goal is to make fitness, play and sports INVITING to all kids by putting the kids themselves in charge of creating activities so exciting and engaging that everyone wants to join in on the fun.

What was your first impression of the Riekes Center?

Interesting. Some place to spend some time and become much more familiar with all aspects of it. I was impressed with what I saw. Lots of activities, people who were smiling and engaging each other in a positive way.

So was that your primary reason for coming here?

I think it was that the person (who recommended Gary & I meet) said that we should get to know each other that we shared a lot in common and the same view of the world as well as what we were trying to achieve in the world.

What was/is your impression of Gary Riekes?

Well Gary’s a good model for energy. A good model for in-depth thinking. A good model of clarity about what he’s about [and thus, what we might be thinking what we were “born to do”] and what he thinks best serves kids, and adults as well. You need time and energy to internalize and reflect on all that he’s done and all that he seeks to do.  Gary is also a clear model of the distinctions between job (pay bills), career (climb the ladder), and calling (intrinsic meaning) and that intrinsic meaning is what drives him.

Do you think coming to the Riekes Center has helped you define your goals better of what you want to accomplish?

Yeah I think so. I think the clarity of what the Riekes Center does, and a bit of the history has been instructive to me. My work (Leading2Play) is a start up and there’s no model to follow and it’s just a one person start up, like most start ups are. So I think that the Riekes Center has helped me to focus more and be more concrete about things than I might not have been. I see myself much more as a program-oriented person than a CEO precedence type. But when you’re a one-man show you have to try to do all those things. So it’s nice to watch Gary [and receive his support], he understands, because of the challenges he faces.

So you said there were a lot of friendly people, smiling faces, how has that impacted you on a daily basis?

Well it’s confirmation that many things are being done correctly and powerfully. It’s a testament i guess you would say to the importance of our investment in our youth. And it confirms my basic opinion, belief, that we as adults we underestimate kids. Therefore the tendency is for them to underestimate themselves. I think also it smacks right in the face of a culture of adults that think that their job is to create the pathway for their kids, rather than prepare the kids to create their own pathway.  I might add - it supports the concept that vision and culture must be aligned for real-world success.

From your experience if someone was coming to the center for the first time what approach do you think is important to have?

I think attitude or mindset is really a big deal. But I think when someone shows up here they’re  obviously going to be in an environment they’re not used to so they’re likely to be uncomfortable, if not even anxious, and likely to have a limited perception or perspective about what they’re getting into. So I think you need to start where they are. I’m one of those people that believes that all communication begins with the other person. So nothing happens between two human beings until one is onto a topic that’s of interest to the other. Prior to that point of interest, nothing’s really happening. So I would start with the kids, where are you as you come? Now how you frame the question for them to understand where you’re coming from needs thought and time taken to let them unravel what they are thinking at that point. So i’m not sure there is a good answer to your question. All learning in life is unlearning. The old way of looking at things has to be illuminated because it crowds out anything new. As a psychologist I’ve said I think I can tell most people on this planet, in one hour, enough to keep em busy the rest of their lives. But once they left the consulting office they wouldn’t remember a thing I said because all of the old ways of thinking come in and crowd out [the new]. We are creatures of habit and it’s hard to challenge the way we perceive things.

What are your reflections on the work being done with Veterans         

There are opportunities with the program that I’m doing in collaboration with the Riekes Center where some Veterans could find employment in being site coordinators, what we call “adult facilitators”, on local school campuses. Part-time kinds of jobs. I think life is all about meeting somebody where they’re at. Leadership is about the commitment you make to help somebody get to where they wanna go. The conclusion I guess is that you have to stick by that until it happens.

I think the whole idea is that, the kids love to help other kids. The Riekes Center says help yourself by helping others and there are no programs to speak of, in the schools anyways, that are not more than one-offs. You know volunteering to register people at marathons Saturday or Sunday, that’s a nice thing to do. But that’s not the same as coming together with a group of other people, working on shared goals and shared values. Over a period of time you become a community that works together as a team to make something happen. So we’re (Leading2Play & The Riekes Center) is providing something unique, as an outreach to the community, as a way of connecting with some people that maybe the center hasn’t yet connected with and being seen as a community service.

Is there anything that you would like to add about the center that we haven’t talked about?

Well yeah I don’t think we’ve talked about what I consider the magic of the Riekes Center. I think Gary, perhaps as well as anybody in our generation, has really not only recognized, but celebrated and exploited experiential learning. That people learn by doing, if they reflect on what they’ve done [experienced]. And so I think that there’s real magic in that. And the magic I think is the ability to step aside and let the experience happen and to recognize that something has happened or to recognize that something hasn’t happened. But that’s been the experience so how do we revisit that. There’s the value system, the continuous commitment to helping people get to where they wanna get and the support for that and the nurturing for that. I think that’s magical and I think there’s more people who are “the helping professions” it’d be awfully nice if they’re recognized there’s magic that goes beyond their individual skills.