Taking a Break

Maya Moore, arguably the best women’s basketball player in the world, announced that she will be taking a year away from basketball. In an article in The Players Tribune Maya said that “my focus in 2019 will not be on professional basketball, but will instead be on the people in my family, as well as on investing my time in some ministry dreams that have been stirring in my heart for many years.”

Now Maya is a professional athlete playing at the top of her game and women basketball players usually play year-round to subsidize their incomes. Maya’s announcement got me thinking, about the way we present sports to athletes. We ask them to start young, find a focus early, and commit year round. So the question that came to mind was, “do all athletes need to take a break from their sport at some point?”

When I finished my basketball career at the University of Minnesota, I didn’t touch a ball for a year or two after I graduated.  I was anxious to pursue and do many of the things that I had missed for hoops. Eventually, I was drawn back to the sport that had become my passion and I found different ways to be around the game. 

When I talk about giving athletes time off I’m not talking about taking an entire season off like Maya is doing.  I’m talking about being aware that there is such a thing as burnout and life balance for our athletes. We take it for granted that athletes will miss family events, time spent with friends, and often they will miss out on participating in extracurricular activities. There just may be value in allowing your student-athlete to find a no sport-zone, allowing the body and mind to recuperate.

Recently I had a conversation with Natalie Darwitz former Olympian and Gopher hockey player and currently the head coach at Hamline University.  She talked about the importance of making sure her team takes breaks when she senses their stress level is high. She may create a practice that is just centered around fun to remind them why they play the game in the first place. Yes, even college athletes need to be reminded that the game is fun!

It’s hard to know how much is too much and I’m sure it is different in each sport and for each individual athlete. But the next time you are sensing changes in attitude, interest in the sport declining or lack of motivation it might be time to ask yourself the question, could they use a break?


Connecting with the Community through Softball and Volleyball

My favorite part of my job is to get out in the public and speak to athletes from all across the country about their sport experiences. This summer Major League Baseball held their RBI softball national championships in Minnesota. The RBI programs serves young athletes from disadvantaged communities and gets them involved in softball and baseball. It’s a fantastic mission and the Minnesota Twins have done an excellent job with their RBI program.

I was thrilled when the Twins asked me to take a few hours out of my day and share my sports broadcasting career with the 140 softball players from around the country. There were many other female speakers who shared their varied work experiences from broadcasting to scouting to working as a C-suite executive

I think it is so important to always give athletes not only the opportunity to participate in sport around the country but to open up their minds to careers and opportunities they may not have even known even existed. This is exactly what Rethink the Win is all about — seeing the athlete as a whole person and making sure they leave their sport better and more informed than when they started.

A few weeks later I headed down to Northfield, Minnesota to speak to the St. Olaf Volleyball team. St. Olaf’s head coach Emily Foster invited me down to help prepare her athletes for the season.

One of the topics I spoke about was how so many athletes face different fears while trying to be the best athlete they can be.  Fear of disappointing parents, fear of failure, or fear of not being good enough. We talked about the importance of first acknowledging and being able to articulate what the fear is and then working on releasing it.

Building a championship team was another topic I talked with the team about. Being great means always putting the team first. This sometimes is not the easiest thing to do, but realizing that you may have to give up playing time to someone else for the betterment of the team is critical.

It was so great to connect in with the Oles and I was very impressed with the opportunities these young ladies were experiencing as a team both on and off the court.


Lea B.


Read more about the RBI softball national championships and the wonderful athletes it impacted:


New Rethink the Win and Fox Sports North Partnership

Rethink the Win has been brewing in my head for the last three years. I eventually moved the idea to paper and spent a year focusing on this mission. For one year I met weekly with a marketing specialist who kept me on task. I spent much of my time creating the content until I was finally ready to present my concept to the world.

When I brought the idea to Fox Sports North, I was honored that they would support me. They then helped me put together PSAs and proposed running the PSAs throughout their broadcasts. I have been a long time broadcaster for FSN, but this was a new venture for me. By backing Rethink the Win, FSN showed that they supported me, and for that, I am incredibly grateful.

On May 21, I headed out to Target Field and Target Center to shoot the PSAs. I knew all of the guys on the shoot, Jim, Ralph, and Pat, which made the day tons of fun. It was so exciting to see this vision come to life, and it was overall an amazing day.

My greatest hope with Rethink the Win is that we can get parents, coaches, and athletes to provide a positive experience for all people in sports. I’m hopeful that all types of athletes will get involved and share their own stories as well.

Starting Rethink the Win reminded me of when I started playing basketball at the University of Minnesota. I knew it was going to be difficult, but I also knew that the payoff would be so much bigger than the struggles. It reminded me that sometimes you just need someone to believe in what you are doing, and when they do, the sky is the limit!

Lea B.


Athletes Teaching Athletes

I believe most people are open to listening and learning from those who have already accomplished the goals they are striving for.  That’s why one of my biggest goals for Rethink the Win is to have former athletes speak and connect with young athletes. I believe telling another person your story is the most impactful way for an athlete to know they do not travel alone in their own personal journey through sports.

Through the Gibson Foundation, we set up a day for former Viking greats Carl Lee and Henry Thomas to tell their story to the football team at St. Paul Como. The coaches and players gathered in the school auditorium and listened to two Vikings legends who have achieved their goals at the highest level.

Athletes Teaching AthletesHenry Thomas spoke about his struggle with a knee injury when he attended Louisiana State University and how he ended up flunking out early in his freshman year. Feeling depressed, he knew he had to re-dedicate himself to football and school. Henry spoke honestly about how difficult college academics are and how important it is to hit the books in high school. Henry also spoke about his amazing career playing 14 years in the league, and becoming one of the 50 greatest players to ever play for the Vikings. He also shared how he struggled with depression when he retired as he had really only identified himself as an athlete.  The young athletes felt his honesty, asking questions and listening intently to his story.

Carl Lee brought a different kind of story that the young athletes could relate to. Carl was only 155 pounds when he graduated high school, so he didn’t have a lot of colleges coming after him like Henry did. Carl attended school and played football at Marshall University in West Virginia. He went there before the school was recognized for having Randy Moss, former Minnesota Viking and future Hall of Famer. Carl won eight games in his entire college career. Yet he was incredibly driven to make his dream of playing in the NFL come true. Carl was drafted in the 11th round of the NFL draft and ended up playing 12 years in the NFL. He told the football players at St. Paul Como that he struggled in school and that everyone in that room knew if they were struggling or not. He urged those struggling to get the help they need. It was clear his words resonated with the kids as he spoke from his heart and made no excuses for himself. Carl’s message, that you have to work harder than everyone around you, made it clear to the kids about how you find success on the field and in school. Carl, like Henry, is one the the 50 greatest Minnesota Vikings.

Henry Thomas second to left, Lea B. Olsen, Carl Lee and St. Paul Como football Coaches. Front row: Donnell Dnell-Nyce Gibson
Henry Thomas second to left, Lea B. Olsen, Carl Lee and St. Paul Como football Coaches. Front row: Donnell Dnell-Nyce Gibson

“The path to collegiate and or professional sports can be very challenging for young athletes and their parents who are sometimes unaware of the reality of this process. Former athletes understand just how unpredictable and difficult this journey can be. Because of that, we welcome this type of platform to assist with educating young athletes, parents and coaches.” – Carl Lee, former Minnesota Viking

As a former athlete, I kept thinking how much I would have valued meeting successful athletes who looked like me and who really wanted to share their stories. Henry and Carl were both outstanding football players, but I think their greatest work is happening now. They’re helping young athletes find their path to greatness, helping them understand the importance of school, and letting them know that sports end for all athletes at some point, and hopefully you leave the game a better person than when you arrived.

Athletes teaching athletes, it’s a powerful thing!

Lea B.


Educate and Graduate

Remember the old myth about how athletes were a bunch of dumb jocks? Well the student-athletes of the Minneapolis Public School System have sent that rumor to the sidelines in the last couple of years. According to this article out of the Minnesota Star Tribune, 99% of the seniors who participated in sports graduated last year, and their average GPA was 3.15 on a 4.00 scale.

If you’re playing along at home, that’s 659 out of 666 seniors who both participated in sports and who graduated in the Class of 2016.

This is outstanding news, as sports budgets have been cut in Minneapolis public schools at all levels.

A huge shout out to Trent Tucker, who is both my broadcast partner for the Minnesota state boys’ basketball tournament and a friend of mine. In 2013, Trent took over as the athletic director for Minneapolis Public Schools.

Lea Olsen with Trent Tucker
Trent Tucker middle, Lea B. Olsen right

As a former college All-American at the University of Minnesota, first-round NBA draft pick, and NBA Champion with the 1993 Chicago Bulls, Trent is someone who understands the importance of sports in the lives of young athletes.

Educating our young people is the single-most important component of the athlete’s experience. It is the most important win for our kids to achieve on their way to success later in life. When our student-athletes move on with a solid education and a resume that boasts of their athletic prowess, their futures become open to all possibilities.

As a graduate of Minneapolis South High and a proud Tiger basketball alum, I can speak first hand how doors opened up for me with the winning formula of education + sports = success. In this formula, there isn’t the win-at-all-cost mentality which often permeates programs, schools, even entire districts, and leaves behind the focus on education in order to perpetuate the obsession with winning.

While we all love watching great athletes do their thing, there is nothing better than watching a student-athlete strut across the stage with their cap and gown, armed with a bright future!

Here’s to a happy and prosperous 2017 and making sure we educate, graduate, and enjoy watching our student-athletes win both in sports and in life!

Let’s continue to Rethink the Win at all levels of competition and make sure our athletes are being given all the tools that sports has to offer on how to be successful in life.

Here’s to winning!

Lea B