Why Mentorship Matters: Ronald Fowlkes on His Role as a Sports Mentor
When one has been a Marine on the front lines, and a leader of a SWAT team in one of the largest cities in the US, how does one relax? How does one unwind, and decompress? Is it possible to continue to give even more than one has already given? For those who have amassed extensive leadership skills within such high-stress environments, these skills can translate all arenas of life. Thus, the heroic men and women who “do the right thing” on a daily basis serve as mentors to the civilian community, teaching the masses the importance of leadership, mentorship, and building the community spirit.
Ronald Fowlkes enlisted in the Marines in San Diego in 1989, and has never looked back. Throughout extensive service within the Marine Corps, he has perfected the areas of self-discipline, time management, and hard work. Later, as a tactician for the SWAT team, and a Security Contractor, Mr. Fowlkes expanded upon his previously mastered tactics in order to not only succeed within a professional environment, but also to serve as a proud example of a leader for his family, including his three children.
Ronald found an easy way of giving back to the community, while still participating within something he loves. Ronald’s son has been a member of the St. Louis Blues Triple-A team for three years, and while Ronald is not a Coach, he is the off-ice trainer for the team, and is also responsible for the team’s equipment. He regularly serves as a backbone for the team, keeping members motivated, and successful within their many obligations. When discussing the importance of mentorship and leadership, Fowlkes recalls the importance of learning these seemingly innate characteristics within his youth, and showcases the connections between his past, his present, and what he hopes to impart on the future.
What Shapes a Leader?
Choosing to enlist in the Marines, as opposed to any other branch, was merely choosing to “be the best of the best”. Fowlkes proudly recounted the fact that out of the 25 or so graduating peers who entered the various services, he became the only Marine, a fact that has brought him a great source of pride. Throughout his rigorous training with the Marines, Fowlkes learned how to cope with the stressors that came with such intense training. He developed the discipline needed to succeed on an individual level, along with the trust and loyalty needed to succeed as a squad with his fellow Marines.
The notion of brotherhood within the squad, and the idea that one “is only going to be as strong as your weakest link”, has become a mantra Fowlkes when supporting his family, mentoring his son’s beloved team, and maintaining success with his team professionally. By propping up the weakest member of any team, according to Fowlkes, the team as an entity becomes stronger. This important lesson, proven true throughout his time with the Marines, is one he carries with him as a leader in every capacity. Currently, he bestows this lesson onto his son’s hockey team, relaying the need for the team as a whole to care for the state of each individual player, in order to develop, and maintain, a strong core presence.
According to Fowlkes, he recognized the importance of paying close attention to the most minute of details throughout his military career. In an environment where one small mistake could cost the lives of an entire team, Fowlkes quickly understood the power of the details. He honed this skill, and proudly professes its’ power to this day, relating the idea that leadership often means being responsible for ensuring that all of the working details of an assignment are met with great care in order to garner success. Thus, even tasks that may seem mundane, minute, and otherwise insignificant, all make up a grand scheme of success, and all deserve attention, including handling the equipment, and especially handling the equipment.
Throughout his four year tenure with the Marine Corps, Fowlkes became a Corporal, responsible for the whereabouts of several men, and for the wellbeing of his squad during active deployment in the Gulf during Desert Shield, and Desert Storm. There, he utilized his leadership skills within the most stressful of times, and thus, upon returning to civilian life, has found it somewhat difficult to have perfected all of these skills, and have seemingly no outlet for these perfected skills. However, like a natural born leader, he quickly found ways in which to implement his previously perfected skills within his professional existence. Even currently, within a sales arena, Fowlkes has touted the importance of sales teams working in unison for the betterment of the entire team, and individual team members being able to take on various roles as needed in order to guarantee the overall success of the team.
The Equipment Matters!
Mentoring is about more than just giving back to the local community, according to Ronald. Currently, he is the Manager of Business Development at First Spear Tactical, an organization which supplies tactical equipment to soldiers, and peacekeepers on a global scale. Thus, he understands both the literal connection between physical preparedness and imminent success, as well as the game changing psychological link between feeling ready to tackle upcoming adversity, and the confidence that comes with this psychological contentment. As Ronald’s first exposure to the concept of “gear confidence” occurred when he was in uniform himself, his in-depth familiarity with the equipment with the equipment while in uniform, literally, the “stuff” that makes a soldier more efficient, is a realization that he’s never lost.
First Spear served as an inspiration for Ronald. He mentioned in passing that he “used to see their product in the field all over the world, and the stuff was so well designed”. Upon his leaving the service, and entering the workforce as a police officer, he began to see First Spear products within his professional environment as well. Thus, when Ronald received the offer from First Spear to join their team, he welcomed the beacon to join a company whose mission statement greatly aligned with his own moral compass. He recognized his entering the field on a global scale as a return to the mission of helping the country, and to further involve himself in an arena of defending the freedoms of people.
Ronald has mused that his role as the equipment manager for the team has provided him with the opportunity to “teach kids about the importance of looking after their gear.” As a direct result, he has corroborated the notion that “when they understand that well-maintained equipment can sometimes be a deciding factor between winning and losing, well then – they definitely get it and put in the extra effort!” This real-world example of taking pride in the minute details of life has given credence to Fowlkes’ military based credo, and has allowed him to successfully impart his own leadership, and personal responsibility, onto the next generation of potential future leaders.
Ronald Fowlkes’ Career History: A Life of Service
Like many veterans, Ronald has honed a deep and abiding love for the country, and the ongoing desire to continue helping it become a better place. Having an opportunity to help guide, lead, and shape the next generation of kids is something that he embraced. Recognizing the idea that Americans have enjoyed liberal freedoms due in part to the leadership and brave nature of people like himself, he has worked to instill the same values in the younger generation, and to take great pride in being a tiny part in the spirit of the American people, which allows the entire population to thrive together. During his time with the Marine Corps, the needs of the individual were surpassed by the needs of the entire team, and thus, Fowlkes has recognized the needs of the country, in order to maintain the civil liberties that its’ inhabitants are used to, as being crucial toward the overall success of the country. Such patriotism has encouraged Fowlkes to view “giving back” as a means of shaping young minds to become the leaders that will be needed in the future to secure the successes of the land that he loves so much.
Drop and Give me Twenty
As the team has a Head Coach, Ronald has been more than happy to allow another leader to take the reins when it comes to working on the ice. As a confident mentor, he has recognized the importance of allowing individuals with more experience, knowledge, and background within a particular niche to spearhead certain aspects of making a team succeed. Thus, Fowlkes sees no detriment to relinquishing control within this aspect. Happy to create schedules, and care for the behind the scenes aspects of the triple-A team, he recognizes the benefits that his aide directly provides to the Head Coach. Namely, removing some of these responsibilities from the Coach’s plate allows said leader to focus solely on logistically leading the team, while Fowlkes, along with other involved parents, acts as stage manager in the theatre production setup of the hockey arena. Being able to delegate tasks according to skill set, according to Fowlkes, remains an important aspect in the overall success of a team. While all team members should strive to be able to take over in the absence of other teammates, it is also important to recognize when to allow individuals to take the lead within a team.
As the off-ice trainer for the team, Ronald has focused on working with the team on targeted weight training activities, helping the coaches get the most they can from their players. Ronald has confidently mused that “if there’s one thing he knows, its physical fitness and training!” With such an extensive background with the most rigorous of physical training, Ronald has recognized the long term benefits of not only maintaining peak physical conditioning, but also the self-discipline that comes with regimented physical exercise that pushed one’s boundaries and limits.
Having the opportunity to bestow his extensive knowledge regarding physical wellness on to another generation is something that is a source of great pride and joy for Ronald. Perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, this is an area that the kids are not as enthusiastic about. Ronald is a hard taskmaster, and he knows the innate strengths, as well as weaknesses, of his players. With the targeted plans that he has built and devised, the team “puts in the effort, and the results show.” The intrinsic lessons based on the results of physical conditioning on the overall state of the whole team coincide monumentally with Ronald’s ideals about being only as strong as the weakest link. As his team’s players are individually responsible for their own physical wellness, and conditioning, their individual successes build upon the overall success of the team as a whole. If an individual member of the team has been slacking, the results will be felt by not only said member, but also the entire team that this member will be letting down. Thus, this cause-and-effect scenario has allowed Fowlkes to garner real-world teachable moments for the team, and impart his wisdom to the team in a capacity they can immediately understand.
The Importance of Mentorship
Ronald has mused that “sharing his personal stories” has helped the kids realize that there are others out there putting it all on the line for them, and their families. In today’s global society, the idealized concept of a local close-knit community has been deemed almost extinct. Conversely, through the understanding that local community leaders have placed great energy, time, and consideration into an institution like triple-A hockey, the spirit of the local community has been revived.
Most importantly, Ronald has recounted that when the kids have realized that they have “someone they can trust, and have an honest conversation with, they really open up. It’s great to be able to provide feedback based on my years of experience in the military and the public sector, as I often have a completely different view of life than other people in their life.” With the been-there-done-that agenda providing Ronald with the street cred needed to earn trust with the younger generation, he has been able to successfully penetrate the generational barrier. As a direct result of earning their trust, Ronald is able to provide real-world guidance to his team, and to honestly answer questions that the kids may not feel comfortable enough to discuss with other adults within their daily lives. Utilizing his own experiences as the backdrop, Ronald has been able to impart the importance of personal responsibility, leadership, and teamwork in a manner that feels natural, not contrived, and current.
Ronald has found sports to be particularly useful as a means of getting through to younger mentees. Through leading by example, he has found that the response elicited from the team has historically been the most positive when he has shown the same motivation as he demands from the team. With some guilt, Ronald did make the point of stating that no longer being in uniform also meant he didn’t get as many opportunities to stay as fit as he would like. Thus, being in the gym, he gets to push the kids while pushing himself as well. The most crucial part of mentorship in Ronald’s eyes, the need to create a cohesive unit to be truly beneficial, is perhaps what also keeps him personally in check. With a steady Mountain Dew habit, Ronald’s “do as I do” attitude is fortified by his own dedication to physical fitness as a means of motivation for his team.
For the Love of Family
While Ronald has cited many personal motivations, and a strong moral compass, as the driving forces in the manner in which he has lived his life thus far, he has cited his family as being epitomal when making decisions. Partially responsible for his decision to leave the military in favor of a more stable life for his then-young family, the drive for the success of his entire family unit has been a great motivator for Ronald. On several occasions, Ronald has mused that the reason he gets up in the morning is his love of his family. Thus, having an opportunity to be so closely involved in his son’s life, while also helping the community at the same time, is a win-win in Ronald’s eyes. Though spending precious time with his family is a priority, developing his son as a future leader, along with his teammates, remains an added bonus that Fowlkes has been extremely proud to be a part of.
Though his hard work has certainly paid off intrinsically in ways that cannot be quantified, they are also evident within the success of the team as an entity. Currently, the team is ranked 27th in the nation, and has been performing exceptionally well in local tournaments. As a leader, mentor, and inspiration, Fowlkes has continuously shown the strength of character that is rare to find, but so crucial in shaping the future of today’s youth. His selfless devotion to providing mentorship to a team of teenage hockey players is not surprising, given the breadth and scope of influence he has instilled upon the various people in his life historically. However, it deserves to be revered as a shining example of humanity, humility, and leadership through mentorship.
Looking for mentorship opportunities but not sure where to start? Reach out to Ronald on his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/public/Ronald-Fowlkes