Archive for Thursday, May 10, 2001

Parents, educators share common goal to make a difference

May 10, 2001

So many times, I sit and wonder if what we are doing is working? There is one goal that we as educators, even parents, have and that is to make a difference. We use different methods of motivation and try to inspire our young children the best we can. Yet, only time will tell. There is nothing more disappointing than seeing young people with talent and doing nothing with it. On the other hand, it is those children that work so hard in efforts to succeed.

The following story hopefully may make a difference in one person's life. I found it in a book that I have and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and perhaps share it with someone who you aren't able to get through to.

His palms were sweating and he needed a towel to dry his grip. The Astroturf he sat on was hot as the competition he faced today at the National Junior Olympics. The pole was set at 17 feet, three inches higher than his personal best. Michael confronted the most challenging day of his pole-vaulting career.

The stands remained full with 20,000 people even though the running events were over. The pole vault combines the grace of a gymnast with the strength of a body builder. It has the element of flying and the thought of flying as high as a two-story building is a mere fantasy to anyone watching. Today though it is not only Michael's reality and dream-it is his quest.

As a young boy, Michael dreamed of flying. His mother read him stories about flying when he was growing up. Her excitement and passion for details made Michael's dreams full of color and beauty.

He often dreamed of flying as this coincided with his mother's stories. His dad on the other hand, was not a dreamer. His dad was a hard-core realist. He believed in hard work and sweat and his motto was: If you want something, work for it!

Since age 14, Michael did just that. He began a regimented weight-lifting program and worked out every other day with weights and some type of running on alternate days. The program was carefully monitored by his coach, trainer and father. His dedication and discipline were a coach's dream. Besides being an honor student and only child, Michael continued to help his parents with the farm chores. Michael's persistence in striving for perfection was not only his obsession but his passion.

Today however, all of Michael's vaults today seemed to be the reward for his hard work. If Michael was surprised, thrilled, or arrogant about clearing the bar at 17 feet, you couldn't tell. He seemed oblivious of the fact that he had just surpassed his personal best by one foot and that he was one of the final two in the National Junior Olympics.

When he cleared the bar at 17'2 and 17'4, he showed no emotion. Constant preparation and determination were his vision. As he lay back and heard the crowd moan, he knew the other vaulter had missed his final jump. Since the other vaulter had fewer misses, he needed to clear this vault to win. A miss would get him second place which was nothing to be ashamed of but he would not allow himself the thought of not winning first place.

He went through his ritual of finger-tipped pushups and found his pole. As he stood and stepped up to the runway he was now facing the most challenging event of his 17-year-old life.

The runway felt different this time. It startled him for a brief moment. Then it hit him like a wet bale of hay. The bar was set nine inches higher than his personal best. The intensity of the moment filled his mind with anxiety. He began shaking the tension from his body but it wasn't working. He became more tense. Why was this happening now, he thought. He not only was nervous, he was afraid. He had never experienced these feelings and then out of nowhere, he envisioned his mother. Why now? What was his mother doing in his thoughts at a time like this? It was simple. His mother was telling him to take deep breaths. So he did along with shaking the tension out of his body.

As he began sprinting down the runway, something felt wonderfully different. He then took a deep breath and it happened. He began to fly. His take-off was effortless and everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. It was either the eruption of the people in the stands or the thump of his landing that brought Michael back to earth.

He could only envision the smile on his mother's face and he knew his dad was probably smiling too, even laughing. His dad would sort of giggle when he got excited but what he didn't know was that his dad was hugging his wife and crying. As his parents sat in tears, they were tears of pride. For what you didn't know was that Michael is blind.

Michael later went on that day to clear 17'6 1/2 inches which set a National and International Junior Olympics record.

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