The Norman Transcript

October 16, 2013

Author Kevin Carroll inspires students to ‘do,’ not just ‘talk’

By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Can you really make a difference, no matter how old you are? Eighth-grader Ivy Emerson said she believed she could after listening to author Kevin Carroll and considering what inspires her.

Carroll, acclaimed author of the “Rules of the Red Rubber Ball” series and a popular motivational speaker, spoke to Whittier Middle School eighth-graders Tuesday and inspired them to embrace their spirit of play and creativity.

“I don’t talk. I do,” Carroll said before presenting Whittier with a challenge to help them maximize their potential and sustain personal growth.

Carroll’s dynamic talk presented several big ideas, facts and philosophies for students to consider:

· Keep your eyes open for opportunities.

· There are 86,400 seconds in a day for you to do something.

· Dedication, responsibility, education, attitude and motivation build dreams.

· Everyone has an idea.

· You win or lose a match before you even get there, based on preparation.

· Staying energized is key.

· Anything is possible.

· Build relationships and reach out to others.

Carroll emphasized that everyone could be a leader and everyone can do a kind act every day.

Carroll then challenged Whittier to come up with a project to make a difference in their community. If Carroll approves of the project, he said he would donate $250 to help it come to fruition.

At the end of his talk, Carroll continued to task students with another challenge: take a red rubber ball paper cutout and write down what inspires them.

Red rubber ball paper cutouts from all Norman Public Schools Carroll visits — along with cutouts filled out by University of Oklahoma student athletes — will be put on display at Carroll’s exhibition “The Art of Sport + Play,” which opens Friday at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

Laura Lemmon said Carroll’s talk gave her a chance to think about what inspires her and that she was excited to read his books.

“I wrote music on my basketball because I like to sing, and I play clarinet,” Lemmon said.

Other students, including Isaac Stoops, said sports like basketball and football inspire them.

Carroll said he hoped students learned that the biggest circumstances don’t dictate an individual’s end story.

Earlier in the week, Carroll emphasized this sentiment when he donated sports balls, outdoor play balls, hand pumps and books to Briarwood Elementary and Plaza Towers Elementary. Carroll delivered more than 100 balls to each school and said he believes play connects everyone as much as music does.

In September, OU’s Office of Leadership and Volunteerism launched a ball drive to build momentum for Carroll’s visit.

The ball drive is a donation effort to collect new playground balls to benefit Plaza Towers Elementary School, Briarwood Elementary School, Longfellow Middle School, Irving Middle School, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County and other local and after-school programs.

“When I saw what happened (May tornadoes), I thought, ‘Those kids are losing their play.’ I wanted to help,” Carroll said. “We should never marginalize play. Kids need a chance to express themselves.”

Briarwood Elementary principal Shelly McMillin said the school was grateful for Carroll’s donation because the school can never have enough playground balls. Physical education teacher Kevin Hixson said the school started with nothing this year.

“It’s wonderful and overwhelming, the outpour of help we’ve received,” Hixson said.

Donations for the ball drive can be delivered during regular work hours to the Leadership and Volunteerism office in rooms 249-253 of Oklahoma Memorial Union, 900 Asp Ave.

Donations also may be made prior to Carroll’s “We All Speak Ball” presentation Thursday at the Oklahoma Memorial Union, Molly Shi Boren Ballroom, and during the public opening reception of his exhibit Friday at the Sam Noble Museum. Any new athletic balls will be accepted.

For more information, visit

All of Carroll’s appearances were sponsored by the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, OU Leadership and Volunteerism, the Division of Student Affairs, Sooner Parents, the OU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, OU Information Technology, OU Enrollment and Student Financial Services, the OU Alumni Association and OU Web Communications and through community collaboration with the OKC Thunder.

Katherine Parker