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One Coach’s Mission: A Journey to Radical Change


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“When you change yourself, you change your future.”  – Sam Bracken

As Global Director of Marketing with FranklinCovey, the world’s largest leadership training organization, Sam Bracken spent the last four years reworking Franklin Covey’s corporate identity. Who better to do that after “rebranding” himself – from an at-risk youth on the highway to a hellish destination to an academically successful young man with a full football scholarship to Georgia Institute of Psychology?

Now general manager of media at FC, Sam Bracken still does hands-on coaching, most recently of 30 at-risk youth, ages 15-18, from Georgia’s foster care system in a FranklinCovey / State of Georgia pilot project.

The training session, which Sam conducted with Brent Jorgensen, Richard Becker, and Echo Garrett, was based on Sam’s new memoir, with co-author Echo Garrett, My Orange Duffel Bag.

“Coaching kids is more difficult than working with executives,” observes Bracken.

When you’re working with executives, the assumption is that the person is a complete individual – creative, resourceful, and whole. “Kids, especially at-risk kids, may be creative and resourceful, but they’re not whole,” Sam points out. “They are working through tremendously difficult issues. You have to nudge them along and offer more energizing activities to keep them engaged — music, art, videos, exercise.”

The first thing he did was to capture their interest emotionally by sharing his own story.

Growing up in Las Vegas, Sam was abused by his stepfather and a sadistic older stepbrother who set him on fire. Sam was drinking and doing drugs by age nine. After his mother suffered a mental breakdown and abandoned Sam, he was homeless throughout high school. But he managed to graduate with a 3.9 grade point average, and a full football scholarship.

When he left Las Vegas, everything he owned was in an orange duffel bag, which became a symbol of success that Sam shares with others through his book – and My Orange Duffel Bag Foundation.

“Telling them my story established a safe zone. Then we turned to their stories, what was unique to them, their hopes and dreams, which created a connection.” After that, the team explained Sam’s 7 Rules of the Road that are the keys to change.

• Ignite Desire
• Gain Awareness
• Find Meaning
• Use Choice
• Choose Love
• Change Yourself
• Express Gratitude

Each participant began a “vision book” like the one Sam’s football coach helped him create as a college student. The idea is to take a personal inventory and develop a vision, mission, values, and goals. Sam will be checking in with the participants by phone over the next seven weeks and coming back to gauge their progress. At the end of eight weeks, the kids will be certified as My Orange Duffel Bag coaches, and be able to pass on their experience to others in peer-to-peer training in the foster care system.

Hope is not a strategy for these kids. “There’s a sense of urgency to make an impact because they will have to be self-reliant soon and if they don’t get it figured out the writing on the wall is grim for them,” says Sam.

As with executive and management teams, however, it is not the strongest, or most intelligent who succeed, but the ones most responsive to change, who can adapt and grow.

With coaching and mentoring, these kids have a chance to change not only their own lives, but the lives of other kids in the foster care system.

About the Author

Judy Kirkwood is a freelance writer who specializes in book proposals and book doctoring as an editorial consultant, ghostwriter, or co-author. Recent projects include self-help, career management, and executive coaching, as well as memoirs. A former travel and spa writer, since settling in South Florida she is happy to stay put for a while. Judy is a member of American Society of Journalists and Authors and on the Parent Advisory Board of Partnership for a Drug-Free America. She blogs at and She thanks her life coach, Cat Purcell, for validating her journey and keeping the affirmations flowing.

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There is 1 Response so far...

Rey Carr on September 14, 2010

Helping young people learn to be Orange Duffel Bag Coaches is a great idea. I really like how they can take what they learn and use it to help others within the foster care system as well as people they interact with external to that network. The peer-to-peer connection will reinforce and strengthen what they learn and provide them with life long skills they can use in a variety of settings.

Sam’s team might want to consider including John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success as part of the tools in the Orange Duffel Bag. This model can be a great tool in working with others and helping them place themselves as to where they are now and where they want to go. It typically rings true for young people, particularly those from troubled or troubling backgrounds.

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