You are a Champion: How Marcus Rashford and Carl Anka are helping children to dream big
Published on: 09 June 2021 Author: Carl Anka
Premier League footballer Marcus Rashford isn't just a fantastic athlete - he made headlines last year when his campaign for children to receive free school meals over lockdown led to the UK government overturning their policy.
Carl Anka, co-writer of Rashford's first book You Are A Champion, explains why they both felt it was so important to write a book which tells children that with self-belief and hard work, anything is possible.
Carl Anka, left, and Marcus Rashford
“These children are our future. We must allow and encourage them to dream, because sometimes dreams are all they have.” - Marcus Rashford.
You Are A Champion exists because Rashford wanted to create a book to help all of the dreamers out there. Featuring stories from Marcus’ own life, life lessons he picked up from his family, friends and those at Manchester United, as well as tips from performance psychologist Katie Wariner, the idea of You Are A Champion is to help young people turn their dreams into a reality.
For Marcus, being a champion is more than just winning a competition and earning yourself a trophy or a medal. You can be a champion of a person or a place, a champion of cause and loads more. Ultimately the one thing he wants everyone reading to understand is that you are already a champion – every single day when you go out and give the best you can give, you are championing yourself, and hopefully, championing those around you that you care about. He wants people to take that energy we all put in our day to day tasks and connect with likeminded people wherever possible.
We’d like everyone interested in You Are A Champion to think big and follow their dreams. Here’s a few pointers we came up with while writing the book.
Help children understand they are allowed to do things
As Marcus puts it, “a person’s life is made up of all these different small puzzles, which come together to make one HUGE puzzle. When you start out, your personality and the world around you gives you different pieces to work with, and it's up to you how you want to make a picture with it. Your dreams are how big you want to make the puzzle.”
One thing we both believe is that everyone is allowed to have dreams.
It is not a privilege or something that must be earned, but that every child can dream. Of that special future. Of that good thing. Or even that strange thing. Everyone should be allowed to be happy and have that niche hobby. Everyone should be allowed to be understood and encouraged to look across the horizon and say “This thing excites me, I’m going to try it!”
Show there are options to your options
In chapter five of the book, Marcus shares a story about how some advice from his Nanna about breakfast when he was a child helps him solve problems as an adult.
There’s more than one way to do things. How to learn, how to problem solve and more. Everyone has different skills and talents and we all go on a journey learning how to use them well. What’s really interesting to Marcus and myself is that a personal journey can take you to places you might not expect, but can be amazing all the same. I once had a dream like Marcus to be a footballer, but as I got older I discovered I liked writing; eventually I found a way to put my two skills together to become a football journalist.
There are always options and things to explore, and I think it’s great to explore them wherever possible.
Everyone has a favourite band and you can find other musicians you like, if you spend a bit of time researching the bands that influenced your favourite.
Dreams are big and can take time to come to fruition, so keep learning whenever you can; about yourself, the things you like and more.
Remember setbacks happen
One of Marcus’ sporting heroes is Muhammed Ali, not only for his prowess in the ring, but also because of how he worked to help people around him and uplift those who needed it.
Ali is one of the greatest boxers of all time… but even he lost boxing matches from time to time.
Sometimes the best way to deal with a setback is getting back up, dusting yourself off and then immediately going back to the situation with more effort. Sometimes the best way is to get back up, dust yourself off before taking a break to come up with a new plan so you can go back to the situation later. Sometimes you need help to get back up, sometimes you need help to dust yourself off.
Unfortunately bad things will happen and that can sometimes be unavoidable. What’s been important to Marcus’ journey, and something he’d like to share with others, is what he does to come back from setbacks. For him, it’s important to find the positives from the times things go wrong. You have to find the good parts and try to carry them with you where possible.
Remind them that they are already a champion
As Marcus sees it there’s more than one way to be a champion, and everyone has the ability within themselves to do amazing things. You don’t need to come number one in a competition to say you’re the best, because everyone is already the best at something - being themselves.
You are a Champion is first and foremost, a book designed to help people recognise the potential within them, to get them to celebrate the brilliant things they have done already. You can only be one person in this life - yourself - so it’s important to be the best version of that person you can be.
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