Rick Celebrini

    • Good afternoon,
      Mr. Chancellor,
      Mr. President,
      Distinguished Platform Guests,
      Members of Faculty and Staff,
      Ladies and Gentlemen,
      Boys and girls!

      I am truly honoured and humbled that Capilano University would deem me worthy of an honorary doctorate degree. I have such fond memories of my time here (more than 30 years ago now) and am forever grateful for the people – like Joe Iacobellis – that gave me my start in academics and in athletics. They provided such a positive environment as I transitioned from a high school kid from Burnaby to a young professional and academic.

      First of all, congratulations to each and every graduand sitting here today. You have achieved something very special that you will have for the rest of your life. Every one of you knows the sacrifices it took for you to be sitting here today – the time, hard work, dedication... the money! You should all be very proud.

      Bravo... well done!

      This moment in the proceedings is meant to provide you, the new graduates, with words of wisdom and inspiration as you head out into the larger world. But, truthfully, I don't feel that I am old enough or wise enough to provide that type of guidance. However, I have been where you sit today and I do remember the mixed feelings and emotions – the excitement and the anxiety, the challenge and the fear, the uncertainty and the determination to make this transition to the next chapter of your life. I also remember the desire to party with my classmates and friends rather than listen to long winded speeches – so I'll try to keep this short.

      When I sat where you sit today, I wasn't looking forward, excited about the future – I was looking back. I was looking back at a soccer career that never really materialized because of injuries. I couldn't let go of my identity as an athlete and I didn't want to face the reality that I would never fulfill my dream of playing top level soccer in Europe. It took me a long, long time to overcome this.

      But then came another dream – a new purpose in life: to positively impact young athletes and ensure they didn't make the same mistakes I made. I didn't want any of them to follow my path to an early retirement from sport. This is an exciting aspect of life – that dreams are not static. They can evolve and change over time. Dreams may or may not be realized but, then again, other dreams may take their place!

      For many years, I gave a talk to the graduating class in rehab medicine at UBC. One of the most important points I tried to get across during my talk was that for most of them, they were embarking on a wonderful job and career. However, for a select few of them (and I couldn't tell them who they were), they would be following a passion where every patient that came through the door would be an opportunity to learn and grow.

      That is truly something special, when what you do to earn a living transcends just a job or career and becomes your obsession, your reason for waking up in the morning, your purpose in life. I feel so blessed and fortunate that I live with that passion for my work and that it aligns so well with my life purpose. Today, I'm living my dream – I oversee the care for all the athletes in my 2 favourite sports within the two professional sports teams – The Vancouver Whitecaps and the Vancouver Canucks – in the city where I grew up. But... it certainly wasn't a linear path to get here.

      My younger brother Randy, the artist, said something quite profound many years ago that has always stayed with me... he said, "Find your passion in life and create the discipline to achieve it". I reference this often with the young athletes that I work with... and certainly try to instill this understanding in my own children.

      Having worked with many top-level athletes through the years, they all share similar attributes – hard work, perseverance, focus, dedication and discipline. As my good friend Dr. David Cox, the renowned sports psychologist, would say, "we teach life skills through sport" but I would add that we also learn these life skills through effectively pursuing our passions in life whether it be in the arts, music, business... or family.

      If you asked me 30 years ago, my dream and purpose in life was to be a professional soccer player, if you asked me 15 years ago my purpose was to positively impact young athletes, and while that still remains my professional purpose, if you ask me today what my life purpose is – it's simply to try to be the best husband I can be to my wife Robyn, and the best father I can be to my 4 children – Aiden, Macklin, Charlie and RJ all who are sitting here today. For me... today... that's it – that's a life well lived.

      So if you're sitting here today and you're not sure – about your dreams, about your purpose, about your future. It's ok. Your dreams and your purpose will evolve, they may change. But the fundamentals are always the same – hard work, perseverance, focus, dedication and discipline. Take these forward and don't look back.

      Graduands, I wish you all a career and lifetime full of purpose and dreams.

      Thank you.