Coming from Oakland, Calif., football standouts and cousins Marshawn Lynch and Josh Johnson know full well that finding the right role models can make all the difference in a child’s life.
“Growing up in Oakland is a little rough, but we have a lot of pride and a lot of spirit,” said Johnson. “Growing up here teaches you at a young age to find a focus whether good or bad. It gives you direction. Whichever direction you choose is up to you.”
“It’s very important for kids in Oakland to have role models because there is a lot going on due to trust issues,” mentioned Lynch. “It’s important for them to have people with similar backgrounds to look up to – not just in Oakland, but in any city.”
Another major factor in Lynch and Johnson’s development at an early age was the camaraderie they built through playing sports. Seeing their peers excel on the playing field, or in this case “the park”, helped develop their competitive drives that eventually guided them both to the NFL.
“My favorite memories playing ball were mostly being with my family and friends. The competitiveness. The challenge that we gave to each other to get better. We all pushed each other and that carried over to when we went into the pros,” said Lynch.
The passion they showed on the streets of Oakland never dissipated, but the ways Lynch and Johnson developed evolved as they passed through each level of play. With the advances in sports technology and social media, they know it’s as important as ever to utilize these innovations to speed up player improvement and to market oneself.
When it comes to developing as an athlete, Johnson and Lynch believe there are no substitutes for parent involvement and self-awareness.
“Parents are very important to kids’ athletic and academic development. That is where most of our structure comes from. If they believe in their kids then they will encourage them to be better. A child gains confidence if their parent believes in them,” Johnson said.
From providing positive and constructive feedback to taking an active part in games, parents have plenty of opportunities to steer a child in the right direction.
In addition to parent participation, video analysis is another way children can accelerate their learning and develop good habits.
Watching practice and game footage is a great way to engage youth athletes because it is often their preferred way of learning.
“It’s especially important for these kids now. Kids now are much more visual,” said Lynch. “When I can study myself and see what the coaches are telling me, it makes a difference in my performance. We all know the way it should look, but we don’t always listen. The eye in the sky does not lie.”
As for what a youth player should focus on what they watch film, Johnson offered the following advice.
“First and foremost, critique yourself to get better. You could be making the play but are you making the consistent play? Are you taking the coaching and applying it to your game? Understand everything else around you. Doing that allows you to play faster and you understand the big picture.”
“When I can study myself and see what the coaches are telling me, it makes a difference in my performance. We all know the way it should look, but we don’t always listen. The eye in the sky does not lie.”
Building Confidence & Careers with Video
Finding teachable moments is crucial to player development, but video is also essential to celebrating on-field achievements. Sharing highlights, especially at an early age, can help athletes develop confidence that can carry them throughout their careers.
“I think it’s important because it kind of gives them the confidence to see what they are doing. When you are competitive, you don’t realize that you did stuff. You can do special things even if you think you can’t,” said Johnson.
Recording games and creating highlights is not only a great way for parents to engage with their children, but also for faraway friends and family to follow a player’s career from afar.
Sharing highlights also nets exposure from people outside an athlete’s inner-circle, often attracting attention from recruiters. Lynch and Johnson stress to young athletes the importance of getting their names out there in order to garner opportunities to advance in their career.
“If you are not on the radar, you want to expose yourself to as many opportunities as possible. With social media and Hudl, you can send your film to coaches. Record yourself doing good things,” said Johnson.
When asked about how a product like Hudl would’ve changed his recruiting experience, Lynch was confident he would have attracted recruiting attention well beyond his immediate vicinity.
“Maybe I’d have more opportunities on the East Coast since Hudl allows the recruiters to see everyone. Budgets might be tight for them to go everywhere to find talent. [Hudl] would have broadened my opportunities to get recruited to different schools, especially East Coast schools,” said Lynch.
Technology has evolved to make sharing highlights easier than ever – now athletes can easily tell friends, family and recruiters where to go to see their athletic achievements. By starting early with video, young players can build upon success and capture their growth and achievements.
“If you are not on the radar, you want to expose yourself to as many opportunities as possible. With social media and Hudl, you can send your film to coaches. Record yourself doing good things."
Although their journeys to the NFL have taken them across the country, Lynch and Johnson’s stories have come full circle – they give back to Oakland and surrounding communities through their Fam 1st Family Foundation, an organization they formed in 2006.
Lynch and Johnson also leverage their football careers to get involved with other business and charitable ventures where they often talk about how sports can be a gateway to bigger and better things.
“Sports bring all walks of life together for a common goal,” said Johnson. “You never know who is watching, and who will be influenced. Everything is competitive even in the business world. How you carry yourself will be noticed.”
One of Fam 1st’s goals is to bridge athleticism with academia to serve at-risk youth across diverse populations – Lynch and Johnson feel the education and exposure gained through studying video and sharing highlights helps the organization work towards fulfilling this vision.
“It’s the avenue for students that we work with to get recruited. You need a way to showcase yourself through these videos,” explained Lynch. “Recruiters don’t take tapes anymore. You need a Hudl account. The programs we put together allow kids to see how important the video and that analytics that come with it are. Analytics in sports is big.”
Learn more about Hudl for youth teams and how you can hit the ground running on creating highlights by visiting our club and youth page.