sarah kay

Connection

When I was an undergraduate sport science student, I remember clear as day the time when Paul Gastin (my eventual research supervisor and mentor) told me: ‘Sport science is a people business, Jacquie’.

It’s a quote I have shared with every sport science student cohort I have taught, because its deep truth has been revealed over and over again as my experience in this industry grows. In the varied roles I’ve held in sport, a common thread between them has been the central place of connection and communication in my work.

I always find myself coming back to a small selection of ‘source material’ that inspires me to do better. To go beyond simply conveying the methodical and precise, and focus my efforts on building connection and moving others through story.

I have felt so drawn to these pieces over the years, re-watching, re-listening, and re-reading them to understand what it means to me to feel connected to a story. And I wonder: have I ever been able to move others with my work in the way these works move me?


Rives, ‘The Museum of Four in the Morning’

L.D. was my college romance. This is in the early ’90s. I was an undergrad. She was a grad student in the library sciences department. Not the kind of librarian that takes her glasses off, lets her hair down, suddenly she’s smoking hot. She was already smoking hot, she was super dorky, and we had a December-May romance, meaning we started dating in December, and by May, she had graduated and became my one that got away.

But her mix tape did not get away. I have kept this mix tape in a box with notes and postcards, not just from L.D., from my life, but for decades. It’s the kind of box where, if I have a girlfriend, I tend to hide it from her, and if I had a wife, I’m sure I would share it with her, but the story with this mix tape is there are seven songs per side, but no song titles. Instead, L.D. has used the U.S. Library of Congress classification system, including page numbers, to leave me clues. When I got this mix tape, I put it in my cassette player, I took it to the campus library, her library, I found 14 books on the shelves. I remember bringing them all to my favorite corner table, and I read poems paired to songs like food to wine, paired, I can tell you, like saddle shoes to a cobalt blue vintage cotton dress.


Sarah Kay, ‘If I Should Have a Daughter’

And yes, on a scale from one to over-trusting, I am pretty damn naive. But I want her to know that this world is made out of sugar. It can crumble so easily, but don’t be afraid to stick your tongue out and taste it.


‘Insomniac City’ by Bill Hayes (New York Times, 2010)

Sometimes I’d sit in the kitchen in the dark and gaze out at the Empire State and Chrysler buildings. Such a beautiful pair, so impeccably dressed, he in his boxy suit, every night a different hue, and she, an arm’s length away, in her filigreed skirt the color of the moon. I regarded them as an old married couple, calmly, unblinkingly, keeping watch over one of their newest sons. And I returned the favor. I would be there the moment the Empire State turned off its lights for the night, as if getting a little shut-eye before sunrise.


Ron Carlson, ‘The H Street Sledding Record’ (reading for This American Life, 2012)

We will go home, and while the two women will begin decorating the tree with the artifacts of our many Christmases together, I will thread popcorn onto a long string. It is a ritual I prefer for its uniqueness; the fact that, once a year, I get to sit and watch the two girls I’m related to move about a tree inside our home, while I sit nearby and sew food.

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