Believing in Team Possible

Hello Everyone!

I wanted to start the new year with thanking the many athletes who have shared their sports stories with me. All of you have provided me with new insights and greater motivation to write. I also wanted to thank all of the readers who support Team Possible by sharing posts or leaving comments. According to my “end of year report” from WordPress, your enthusiasm for stories of athletes who redefine ability has fueled this blog to be read by over 8,000 viewers in 77 countries. Although I will not use numbers to define my writing success, it certainly is validating to have nearly 500 followers. However, what encourages me the most are the comments from friends of Team Possible like:

I share all of your posts with my colleagues who are working on an inclusion task force.

I shared your post with my students.

I am designing a playground at work, and because of your posts I am truly integrating the accessibility features for all the children to play together.

I shared your post with a family member who has a child that is exceptional.

My son loves the post about Winter. Now, he has me read it to him at bedtime.

When I get the email about a new post, I save it until I have some time in my day to sit back and read it. They always make me think and reflect.

Think and reflect…I do lots of thinking and reflecting. It is simply part of the writing process. After rereading every interview from 2015, I selected the words from Team Possible members that have truly made me sit back, think and then get moving:

Nick Springer: Strength has nothing to do with what you can do when you are at your best, but what you can do when you are at your worst.

David Yates: They saw Winter and thought, “If this little dolphin can lose her tail and still live a dolphin life, then I can handle my problem.”

Jesse Billauer:  Ability is following your passion and being active in life.

Mackenzie Soldan: Grit is a good word. I would say it is taking a situation and fighting your way through it.

Zack Bastian: I’ve noticed that in my life when things get really bad I have an ability to turn the situation into something positive, and that is my super power. When things get bad, I get inspired to work harder and be better.

Greyson Cage: I wish I had invisibility, teleportability, flight and super speed.

Jim Abbott: We have to challenge ourselves each and every day. You need to ask yourself if you are pushing the limits of your own abilities.

Abby Dunkin: Ability is what you can do and not letting anything hold you back, no matter the circumstances.

Emilia Scovel: What makes a good coach is someone who knows how to make the team believe in each other and makes the team do their best.

Kanya Sesser: I think of myself and imagine myself reaching the goal.

Sydney Collier: Don’t get discouraged. It seems like a long journey and it really is. There are all these ups and downs along the way. Just keep your eye on the goal.

Cortney Jordan: Ability is doing your best and putting all your effort into something. It is demonstrating what you are capable of.

Malat Wei: Always have a positive attitude around your teammates. A positive attitude will get you wherever you want to go in life, and not just in sports.

Nick Newell: I am more of a Batman type guy. I take what I have and make it work.  Then, I go about it the smartest way possible. No superpowers. Just always working with what I have.

Rio Woolf: You can do anything.

Impressive, I know! Those wise and inspiring words have motivated me to keep going and to interview more athletes in the upcoming months. In 2016 you can look forward to meeting more athletes on the Road to Rio and beyond. Since I LOVE children’s book, you can plan for some book reviews, and I may even sneak in a documentary or movie review. Finally, I will weave in a personal essay or two throughout the months. It should be an exciting year. Thanks for joining me.

Keep Believing in the Possible!

Jen

Nick Newell: MMA Fighter

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MMA Fighter Nick Newell Photo Credit: http://orangectlive.com/

I will admit I was really nervous to do this interview with MMA Fighter, Nick Newell. I don’t know a lot of mixed martial arts fighters, but I do know it is one of the most brutal sports. When I watched Nick Newell’s matches on YouTube, it confirmed my fear. I was about to interview a fierce competitor that dominated his opponents in the ring. You can imagine my surprise when I found myself talking with a mild-mannered gentleman who presented himself as “an every day kind of guy.” However, what doesn’t make Nick, “the every day kind of guy,” is his extremely high expectations of himself and a whole lot of grit. Here is his sports story.

Where is your hometown? I grew up in Milford, Connecticut. I went to college at Western New England University in Springfield near where I train.

What sport or sports do you play? I train in mixed martial arts at the Fighting Arts Academy in Springfield and I will be opening a gym soon in Connecticut.

What is your sports story? When I was growing up around the age of five, I decided I wanted to play soccer. So, my mom signed me up.  I wanted to play soccer because you don’t need two hands to play soccer. Then in third grade, all of my friends were playing baseball.  So, I decided I wanted to play baseball. My first year was a little rough. But then, the next two years I made the all-star team.

When I got to high school I decided I didn’t want to do soccer or baseball anymore and I decided to wrestle. I lost my first 17 matches. I was wresting in the 103 pound class, but I was only about 97 pounds. By my senior year, I was All-State. I broke the school record for career wins because I made up for my first year over the next three years. And my senior year, I also set the state record with 53 wins.

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WNEU Photo Credit: WNE Wrestling

I went on to college where I wrestled for Western New England University. I was a two-year captain, but I was never an All-American or anything very prestigious. Although, I would have liked to reach that level. So I moved onto mixed martial arts (MMA), and the rest is history.

Did your wrestling background help you with mixed martial arts? Yes, tremendously. Not only did it help me skill wise, but wrestling also helps you determine where you want the fight, which is a huge advantage in MMA fighting. But, really it is the mental toughness and mindset you get from wrestling that is second to none.

What accomplishments in sports are you most proud of? The thing that I am most proud of is that I have always strived to be the best version of myself. I never compared myself to anyone else or envied anyone else for what they accomplished. It’s just me competing against myself. I am always trying to be the best version of myself and I think that is what helped me be successful.

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Nick posing with his XFC champion belt. Photo Credit: 5thRound.com

Going 4-1 in the World Series of Fighting is certainly an accomplishment, as well as, winning the XFC title. But, I am simply proud of the person that I am.

What is your workout schedule? I train 11 times a week. I workout twice a day Monday through Friday. I train once on Saturday and I take Sunday off. My training consists of kickboxing, wrestling, grappling, and strength training. There are two different types of workouts. There are cardio workouts where I do rounds, and there are technique workouts where I go slower to improve my techniques. I also lift. You can check me out lifting on-line at #liftingonehanded or #newellworldorder.

What songs are on your workout playlist? I like alternative music the best. I am also a hip hop fan. I have a friend, Danny Evans, who does hip hop and he has an album out that I listen to a lot. I listen to everything, but country music. I don’t like country music. I’m not saying I don’t like people who like country music. I am just saying, personally, I just can’t stand it.

What books inspire you?  (Long pause…) I could read a little bit more; I definitely could. I am more of an audio-video guy. I was a communications major, so I like videos more. I did read The Hunger Games books because I liked the first movie.

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Nick with his opponent in a choke hold. Photo Credit: MMAjunkie.com

What’s your mantra that keeps you going during tough workouts or bad days? I  don’t like to lose. I am very hard on myself. I hold myself to pretty high standards which motivates me to work hard and to work through unpleasant situations that other people wouldn’t want to work through.

What superpowers do you possess? (Another long pause…) I am more of a Batman type guy. I take what I have and make it work.  Then, I go about it the smartest way possible. No superpowers. Just always working with what I have.

How would you define ability? Ability is the efficiency at which you can get something done. It is how well you can do something.

How would you define grit? Your willingness to push through. If you really have grit, you can push through anything.

What advice do you have for other athletes? Doesn’t matter what sport you are doing… if you want to the best in it, you have to earn it. You have to earn everything. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, just be the best you.

Who would you like to thank? I want to thank Fighting Arts Academy in Springfield and my coaches- Jeremy Libiszewski and Scott LeBrie.

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Instructors at Fighting Arts Academy Photo Credit: fightingartsacademy.com

For a little more on Nick check out this video: A Day in the Life of MMA Amputee Fighter Nick Newell by STACK