Leaders often learn from those who came before them. This is the case for Devin and Jason McCourty, who credit their mother and other athletes for pushing them, and now, they are turning around and helping the next generation find their voice.
In a town hall event hosted in partnership with the Players Coalition, Devin and Jason addressed the Boston College football team about leading on and off the field.
Throughout their careers, Devin and Jason have thrown themselves into advocacy work, whether it is their Tackle Sickle Cell campaign or educating themselves on criminal justice reform. They have truly leveraged their platform as NFL players to speak out on issues, lending their voices to affect change.
For college athletes who may be dipping their toes into volunteering or activism, it can be daunting, but Devin and Jason offered advice from their own experiences. First up, they said, is to reflect on what's important and do things that fall under that umbrella.
"Understand who you are and what you're passionate about, and move in that direction," Jason said. "[Learn what] things that don't align with your goals and what's important to you. It's easy to kind of move out of the way and stay clear of those things."
In order to do this, you've got to learn how to say no to things that don't align with your passions, Devin said.
"I think when you're young, it's a little harder. When people ask you for things or need you to do different things, you always kind of want to people-please. You want to do things for other people. When you look at the things Jason and I do, it seems like a lot, but it falls into exactly what we care about and what we want to do, things we're passionate about," Devin said. "There's a long list of nos. There's a lot of things that you say no to … I think every year, every month, every day, you improve on how to prioritize, how to figure out what you want to do."
Once those areas are identified, Jason encouraged the group to truly dive in with everything they have. Like they are preparing for a game, they need to equip themselves with as much information as possible to succeed.
"It's no different for us in the social justice area. We're preparing, we're educating ourselves so now when the moment comes we can step up and be in front of somebody and advocate for somebody and lend our voice to the voiceless, we actually know what we're saying and what we're talking about," Jason said. "We know who we're trying to help. It's work, but when you're passionate about something as I know you guys are with football and different things in your life, it doesn't become work."
While this work is exactly that, Devin said it shouldn't scare them away from getting into it in the first place. Yes, there may be extra reading outside of the courses. There may be events after a long day of practice.
But being able to support groups, organizations and causes by simply advocating on their behalf can create real change, and that alone is worth the effort.
"It's a good amount of work, but you got to pick and choose the role that you want and whatever role you feel that is calling you. Don't back down from it because of the work or anything," Devin said. "Just go in open-minded. I would say one of the biggest things, enjoy helping other people with your teammates with your friends. It's a great feeling when you walk out of a building and someone's genuinely saying thank you. Thank you for your presence for spending time. Really embrace that and take that on."