With Thanksgiving coming up, I give thanks for having the opportunity to share my story with people of all ages – to encourage them to reach for higher and greater goals than ever before. The only thing that’s better than winning a gold medal is watching someone that you’ve helped as they transcend their current limitations and reach for new levels of excellence, achievement and possibility than ever before.
It was a great gift and a humbling honor to speak to all the sports teams from Wichita North High School, a 6A high school. In addition to the students and coaches, a number of supporting alumni were there as well as the Athletic Director. I spoke about how each and every student can reach success in the classroom and in their athletic programs. I think every child and young student athlete wants to be successful at their endeavors in sports. Many times, it just takes a spark to help them visualize success more clearly. They’re so eager to succeed that they can turn that into something great, making the necessary sacrifices and putting in the work to achieve their goals.
Once I started telling my story, I noticed many of the student athletes were taking an interest and they wanted to know how I’d turned things around. I told them that I’d gotten to where I was through faith, hard work, and focus. There is no shortcut to success, and the saying “NO PAIN, NO GAIN” is true.
We can’t be afraid to fail at whatever we try and that’s what can open the door to success in life for us. When my brother invited me to run the Peachtree road race, because he had seen athletes racing there the year before, I didn’t give it a second thought I just went! I wasn’t afraid to fail… I just wanted to compete. Even though I was out of my element in my old hospital chair and racquetball gloves. Even when I saw those other athletes in those racing chairs that looked more like drag racers than wheelchairs. I still never lost my resolve and faith in my ability to finish that race, even though I didn’t even know how far a 10K was (or even what 1 K was)!
As student athletes, I know each of you faces situations that you fear from time to time. Sometimes it’s bad things out of our control that happen: parents divorce, our families face financial problems, etc. Most people aren’t successful because they look for something to blame instead of looking for what they still can do to make their lives successful. As student athletes you have to look for, and find ways that will help make your dreams and goals a reality. I’m sure if you all look closely, you’ll find you have a lot to be thankful for. Many of those things you are thankful for can be your key to success when you set your goals and get going and your not afraid to fail.
If you’re going to set goals in your life, why not set huge goals?
What does it take to succeed? You’ve got to aim high when you plan for success. You write out your goals and post them everywhere around you…on “posters” pinned on your wall, in notebooks you write in every day or on Post-It notes stuck to your computer monitor…anywhere you will see them without having to think about it. Why? Because sometimes you don’t want to do something that you have to do, and you’ll be tempted to skip a workout, avoid a practice session or just take it easy. When you see that goal you receive a reminder that you have to practice hard and stay focused if you want to make to your dreams come true.
I love speaking at schools. Students are some of the best audiences, and I feel it’s important to encourage kids to stay in school and to take responsibility for their education and for their success in sports. After all, success in later years is easier when they commit to “Finding the Champion Within” while they are still in school. After my presentation, many of the students came up on stage to ask me questions and to tell me about the specific goals they had set for in their athletic careers at Wichita North High. It’s a great feeling to share my own experiences (and those of other successful people) in this way.
Photography: Dale Stelz
As I like to do, I hung around signing autographs for over 45 minutes afterwards. After the kids were dismissed lots of young student athletes came up to ask questions, tell me their goals and get their picture taken with me. One girl in particular, a sophomore by the name of Gabriella Reyna, waited to the very end and we talked for a long time (most everyone had left the auditorium by then). She runs in Cross Country and in Track at the distances of 800m, the mile and the 2 mile. Her HUGE goals were to win State in Cross Country and also to win the long distance races at the State track meet in the same year.
She was very determined as she spoke with me and I knew she wanted to learn everything she could to make her huge goals a reality! I have a feeling she’ll put all those techniques to work, and she now knows there is: “NO SHORTCUT to Success except for Good Old-Fashioned Hard Work!” I have a feeling it won’t be long before she realizes her dreams and we’ll be seeing her on the winner’s stand at State in both Cross Country and Track! I want to wish her all the very best in achieving her goals and to NEVER GIVE UP because “THERE’S ALWAYS A WAY!” I told her to GO FOR IT! – to reach for her dreams and goals with everything she had and to Never Give Up! – and to keep in touch.
I want to wish all the student athletes at Wichita North High School great success in sports and in the classroom as well!