Kevin Carroll addresses the 2021 CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference

The power of play

‘Bring opportunity, possibility, and resilience to every situation,’ says ‘katalyst’ Kevin Carroll.

March 4, 2021

A red rubber ball saved Kevin Carroll’s life.

A difficult childhood fueled his drive to rise above his circumstances—“I’ll show you” became his daily mantra—and to find meaning.

“I found meaning with movement,” says Carroll. “Any time I see kids at play, I think about belonging and connecting. The red rubber ball represents community to me. Play saved my life. A ball saved my life.”

The author, instigator, and “creative katalyst” addressed the 2021 CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference Wednesday during the closing “Ed Talk” sponsored by the CUNA Councils.

Carroll took attendees though his varied background, which includes stints as a U.S. Air Force language specialist, head athletic trainer for the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team, and a “katalyst” for Nike, where he improved the company’s understanding of athletic product performance, team dynamics, and interpersonal communication.

A credit union sparked his next career move. First Tech Federal Credit Union in Beaverton, Ore., gave him a loan to self-publish his first book—the wildly successful “Rules of the Red Rubber Ball.”

Soon after, he left Nike to form Kevin Carroll Katalyst LLC, which elevates the power of sport and play around the world.

“The credit union believed in me,” he says. “They were my catalyst. Little did I know they would be so integral to my success story. I have nothing but gratitude for what they’ve done for me, my family, and my business.”

Carroll offers several lessons from his eclectic career:

• Be energetic. “Your inside is reflected on your outside,” he says, “so I bring energy and exuberance to every situation. Bring opportunity, possibility, and resilience to every situation.”

• Read. Curiosity and learning will make you creative and innovative. “Reading books makes you better,” Carroll says.

• Be a doer. Action is the key to turning hopes and dreams into reality.

Carroll recalls the mother of a childhood friend who became his “chief encouragement officer” with two words: “Why not?”

“Then she’d say, ‘Don’t talk about it, be about it,’” he says. “There are a lot of talkers but not many doers.”

• Find your passion. Have something that gets you out of bed in the morning—your red rubber ball.

“What are you chasing and why?” Carroll asks. “You need to know why you’re getting out of bed and keep pursuing that.”

• Shove people toward their destiny. Encourage people, but demand the best from them.

“Hold people accountable and demand their best,” he says. “Lovingly shove people to their destiny.”

• Find your tribe. Connect with people who want to advance the human condition.

“That’s a noble goal,” Carroll says. “Find people who are like-minded.”

• Embrace “reverse mentoring." Learn from those who are less experienced than you.

Carroll, for example, learns from kids in his neighborhood. “They teach me about curiosity and discovery. Go at it like kids do: with eyes full of wonder and possibility.”

• Dream big. “If your dream doesn’t scare you, it’s not big enough,” he says.

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