PEOPLE WORKING SIGNS

 

Yesterday, my daughter, Caitlin requested a special post. She wants me to share her story about trying to change “MEN WORKING” signs to “PEOPLE WORKING” signs. Because I believe in her, her message, and that anything is POSSIBLE. Here is Caitlin’s story.

In the car on the way to school…

Caitlin: Mom, I just don’t get it. Why does it say, “MEN WORKING”? It should say, “PEOPLE WORKING.”

Me: Yeah, I never thought of that. That is a really good idea. What made you think of it?

Caitlin: Well, I want to be an architect and that means I will be on lots of construction sites. Those signs don’t include me. I think that is unfair.

unnamed

Caitlin researched women in construction on the internet and found an interesting article. Here she is reading it and taking notes on the topic. She found it shocking that women make up only 2.6 percent of the construction workforce.

Two days later and after lots of research on the topic…

Caitlin: Excuse me, sir, can I fix your sign? It says, “MEN WORKING” and it should say, “PEOPLE WORKING.” I want to be an architect and I will be involved in construction.

Eversource Worker: Yeah, sure. Go fix the sign.

 

unnamed-3

Caitlin stands proudly next to the new “PEOPLE WORKING” sign.

Caitlin’s Steps & Tips for Making “PEOPLE WORKING” Signs

  1. Get some recycled cardboard. (Tip: Use long skinny ones, but any will work.)
  2. Cut the cardboard into a 6-inch by 24-inch strip. (Tip: Make sure it is long enough to cover the word MEN.)
  3. Cover the strip with Duck Tape (Tip: This makes it weather resistant.)
  4. Write “PEOPLE” in big bold letters. (Tip: Use Black Sharpie.)
  5. Go to the construction site and safely find a nice worker. (Tip: WEAR BOOTS!)
  6. Politely ask the worker if you can fix the “MEN WORKING” sign. Explain that it is not fair and doesn’t include everyone. (Tip: If you want to go into the construction field, you can say that too.)
  7. Go fix the sign. Use lots of Duck Tape and make sure you wrap it around the back of the sign. (Tip: Don’t go on a rainy day like I did, unless you really want to change that sign.)
  8. Talk to your friends and share this post.

    People Working Materials

    Here are Caitlin’s Supplies for PEOPLE WORKING signs.

A Gift of Love & Sunshine: Ian Stratton

Sometimes you just never know where you will go on life’s journey. Nearly three years ago, I started this blog to raise awareness about adaptive sports and share the sports stories of athletes who redefine ability. At that time, I didn’t expect to fall in love with someone I had never met. I didn’t expect to travel across the world with my family or to become a parent for the third time. But all of that did happen, and it has been incredible.

We met Ian on October 9th and became his family on October 10, 2017. It took nearly a year to get to that point. During that time, we would stare at the few photos we had of him and imagine our new life with him. Now, we can’t imagine life without him. Here is a glimpse of how this 7-year-old boy from China has melted our hearts, taught us about the power of love and shown us the beauty of the small things in life.

image

Some people are so much sunlight to the square inch. –Walt Whitman

 

  1. His smile. It is infectious. Ian isn’t just a happy boy. He is joyous and spreads joy like a pixie fairy leaving anyone in his wake smiling and feeling better about the world.
  2. His courage. Ian is the bravest person I have ever met. He has embraced his new life and all the challenges it presents like a seasoned champion.
  3. His heart. Ian loves wholeheartedly. He smothers us with hugs and kisses. He greets us at the end of the day like we have been gone for weeks, and he says “I love you” because he means it.
  4. His energy. Ian has endless energy, and I mean endless. Ian Nolan Swim
  5. His intelligence. Ian is smart and he is proud of it. He will tell you what a good student he was in China, but it is his big thoughts that amaze me. It is what he wonders about…like parking airplanes on clouds or afterlife in heaven, that make me stop and reflect.
  6. His sense of humor. Ian is always teasing us and laughing. He loves to have fun and laugh with others.
  7. His grit. Ian lives a one-handed life in a two-handed world. It is not easy, but he takes it all on with dogged determination.
  8. His future. It is simply so bright.

So now you know…you know why I haven’t been writing as much as I would like. You know how I fell in love with a little boy across the globe. You know about Ian, my youngest son, who has redefined our family.

CIN Walking

Keep believing in the possible! We do!!!

Jen

 

 

 

Josh Kennison: On the Side Lines

Josh Kennison loves sports. He is a fierce competitor who has set records in track and field. Josh is also a mentor at Camp No Limits (CNL) for young people with limb loss. At CNL he is known not only for his sports accomplishments, but for his heart of gold. Now, Josh is finding that this combination of grittiness and kindness is perfect when you decide to trade in running spikes for standing on the sidelines with a clipboard. Here is my interview with this athlete turned coach:

jk-no-limits

Josh Kennison with the CNL family. Photo Credit: Camp No Limits

What sparked your desire to transition to coaching? This past winter, I could not train every day due to knee pain. I decided I wanted to know if I could transfer my competitiveness to training other athletes. In the spring I started  at Telstar High School in Maine as their head track and field coach. I soon realized that I loved helping young people. It was clear to me that the reason I was put on this earth was to help people.

How would you define your coaching style? I care a lot about my athletes. I want to push them so they bend, but don’t break. Coaching is not just about sports. I am there for them in life. I want to be someone they can trust.

What do you hope your athletes learn from you? I hope they learn to never give up in life. I don’t want them to ever loose sight of their goals.

You know I love superpowers, so what is your coaching superpower? Oh, man that is a good question. My coaching superpower is making athletes feel like they can do anything. I’m always like, “Let’s do this!” I have one athlete who wants to go to the Olympics. I believe in her and I am helping her achieve that goal. I would rather have an athlete fail trying 100%, than tell her to never try.

soccer-coach

Coach Josh on the sidelines with the Telstar Girls Soccer Team. Photo Credit: Duchess Killam

When we spoke last time, you defined grit as messy and said, “It is working so hard that you are reaching for every ounce of energy you can provide yourself.” How do you develop grit in your athletes? I have to ride them. I tell them that when you practice, you always have to practice like you are in a game.

What are your goals for your new coaching career? I want to be the best high school coach I can be. I want to be more than just a coach for my athletes. I want to be there for them in life and I hope someday to coach their children or even grandchildren.

jk-coaching-track

Coach Josh with his high school track stars. Photo Credit: Duchess Killam

In case you are wondering, Josh is a congenital quad amputee who coaches able-bodied middle school and high school athletes. I simply mention this awesome fact because Josh is breaking down barriers and redefining ability for himself and his athletes. Way to believe in the possible, Josh!

If you are interested in having this game changer speak to your students or athletes feel free to contact Josh at youcandoanything89@gmail.com.

My Favorite Four-Letter Word

In August we returned to Acadia National Park in Maine for a family vacation. We had been there five years earlier with Nolan and Caitlin. At that time Caitlin was just three years old and Nolan was five. During that trip, the kids hiked their first mountain and experienced the magic of Mother Nature. As a result, they too fell in love with the park.

This time Seth and I wanted to explore new and more challenging hikes with them. So we shared the trial maps, read the description of the hikes and let them decide on our daily adventures. They choose to start with some familiar, easier hikes where we shared memories from our first hikes in the park. Then, they wanted to try the more challenging Beehive Trail because of the cliff climbs and incredible vistas.

Caitlin bounded up the entire trail like a mountain goat. I tried to keep up, but instead of leaping like a billy goat I often found myself crawling on my hands and knees. The steel ladders stapled into the side of mountain left me shaking and crawling. To Caitlin’s credit, she waited at the top of each ladder climb reaching out her hand and asking, “Mom, do you want some help?” Each time, I eloquently responded through clenched teeth, “You can help by just standing still for one minute.”

Seth and Nolan were behind me because Nolan has a fear of heights, and I was to be his “guide.” However,  Nolan just kept yelling at me, “Mom, stop saying, ‘Oh my God’ in that shaky voice. It’s NOT helping.” So our trek up the Beehive wasn’t always pretty, but we did make it to the peak. And like seasoned hikers, we proudly celebrated our accomplishment with a few photos, apples and trail mix.

img_2982

Nolan and Caitlin posing proudly after completing the Beehive Trail.  Photo Credit: Jen Stratton

Over dinner, we retold our versions of the climb which sounded as triumphant as climbing Mt. Everest. With this boost in confidence, the kids decided they wanted to try a two-peak hike. The next day we would climb to the top of Acadia, enjoy a snack, and then transverse to the top of St. Sauveur Mountain. It would be a four-mile up and down journey, but we felt ready for the trek.

However, it didn’t take long before our confidence bubble started to deflate. Only a mile in we realized that I had left the second water bottle in the car that was parked at the trailhead. Who needs water when hiking four miles up two peaks in oppressive August heat? Okay, maybe we weren’t totally prepared. But more importantly, we had faith in ourselves.

Within an hour we reached the top of Acadia. It was stunning to look out over the mountains and ocean. Between the cool breeze, healthy snacks, and a few sips of water from our one bottle, we were ready to traverse to our next peak. The terrain was rocky, and we often found ourselves scrambling up boulders. It was a tough 2.5 miles. As we approached the summit of St. Sauveur, our pace slowed even more and the kids started to ask, “How much further?” One behind the other, Caitlin and Nolan trudged along. Nolan started to describe how the sweat was dripping down their backs. Caitlin shared that her legs burned. But…they never complained. They never asked to stop or give up. They just kept going one foot in front of another. After a long hour of slow yet steady steps, we rounded the bend to the summit.

At that moment, Caitlin exclaimed, “Mom, I have GRIT!”

Yes! Caitlin used my favorite four-letter word to describe her experience, her triumph…herself. She recognized that there will be times when we want to give up on our journey, times when we are experiencing physical and/or emotional pain that will make us doubt our own abilities, but it is during these times that we need to stay focused on our goal and to dig deep. 

img_2981

All of us on the top of Acadia Mountain. Photo Credit: A Kind Hiker

Caitlin experienced the power of grit on a mountaintop, but she learned it from her cousin, Nick Springer. He is one of the grittiest guys we know. She also recently observed grit in action when we watched the 2016 Rio Paralympics Games. During the Games, she watched Team Possible members Abby Dunkin , Mackenzie Soldan  and the gritty USA women’s wheelchair basketball team win a gold. In the pool she watched Cortney Jordan add to her medal count; while the gritty veteran, Brad Snyder set a world record in 100M freestyle. These champions embody grit and grace.

Caitlin and I love how Mackenzie Soldan defines grit:

“Grit is a good word. I would say it is taking a situation and fighting your way through it. Sometimes you have to fight for a long time, and sometimes it’s for shorter periods of time. Grit is having the drive to achieve something you want and not letting anything stop you. Even if it takes beating down the same problem or obstacle again and again. To have grit you don’t have to be a tough person, it is just a choice that you can make for yourself.”

So what choice are you going to make for yourself? We choose GRIT!

#RoadtoRio

As the athletes train hard preparing for Rio, I thought I would share five bits of information about the Paralympic Games and Team Possible to help you get ready for Rio.

#1 The Paralympic Games were founded by Dr. Ludwig Guttmann, a Jewish doctor born in Germany who sought refugee in England during World War II. “Poppa,” as he was called by his patients and staff, Guttmann was in charge of the spinal cord injury unit for the Stoke Mandeville Hospital where he revolutionized care for patients and introduced sports into the rehabilitation of injured soldiers. He shared his vision of the “Paralympic Games” with the world on July 28,1948. It was the same day King George VI opened the post-war 1948 Olympic Games in London. During this first adaptive sports competition, 14 athletes (12 men and 2 women) competed in archery.

Guttmann paralympics.org.uk

Dr. Ludwig “Poppa” Guttmann    Photo Credit: paralympics.org.uk

#2 This year 22 different sports will be played at the Rio Games. Many sports are also played by able-bodied athletes such as track, swimming, triathlon, archery, and table tennis. However, some are unique to the Paralympics like wheelchair rugby, boccia, and goalball. To learn more about the classification of athletes, rules of the sports and to view video highlights on each sport. Check out the Rio Paralympic Games website.

Goalball telegraph.co.uk

Paralympic Goalball  Photo Credit: telegraph.co.uk      

#3 Over 4,000 athletes from more than 170 countries will compete in the Games which begin on September 7th and run until September 18th. For the first time in Paralympic history the Games will be televised by NBC and NBCSN for over 60 hours of coverage. To learn more about viewing hours in the US, check out Team USA’s website.

#4 Team Possible Update: Sydney Collier will be riding for Team USA. McKenna Dahl will be shooting in Rio, and Cortney Jordan hopes to be swimming her way to the podium.  Mackenzie Soldan and Abby Dunkin will be playing together on the women’s wheelchair basketball team.

#5 Team Possible Hugs: Para-equestrian rider, Sydney Collier, recently hugged First Lady, Michelle Obama, at the 100 Day countdown to Rio. Blade runner and aspiring Paralympian, Rio Woolf , got a huge hug from Prince Harry at the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida.

Rio and Prince Harry dailymail.co.uk

Rio gets a big hug from Prince Harry at the Invictus Games in Orlando. Photo Credit: Getty Images 

Now, get ready to cheer on all of the amazing athletes who are on the #RoadtoRio. 

Remember, keep believing in the possible!

Jen

Tristan Carroll Loves to Run & Encourage

Most of us remember our kindergarten teacher, but how many of us left such a positive impression on our teacher that s/he would nominate us years later to be featured on a sports blog? Tristan Carroll is that type of student athlete. He is in fifth grade now and still sees his kindergarten teacher, Judy Bates, regularly.

For Tristan’s interview Nolan, Caitlin and I met up with him and his family at a local park. Instead of getting right to work, the kids first played on the playground together and then after a while gathered on a picnic table to talk about sports and life.

IMG_0695

Tristan with his brothers Spencer, Porter and Carter. Photo Credit: Tracey Carroll

How old are you? I am eleven.

Do you have any pets? No. We had some pets in the past, but they all died.

What foods do you like? Pizza!

What do you like on your pizza? Just cheese.

What books do you like to read? I like to read My Weird School series. They are funny.

What movies do you like to watch? I like action movies and superhero movies.

What is your favorite movie? Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.

This led to a big debate about the ending of the movie and the reviews. The kids told me that I can’t share the details of their conversation on the blog because it would spoil the movie for everybody.

What sports do you play? I do speed skating. I play soccer through the Special Olympics*. I do track again through the Special Olympics*.

*Tristan actually plays on unified teams through the Special Olympics because there are limiting offerings in his area for youth with physical exceptionalities. Since many of you may be wondering about the similarities and differences between the Olympics, Paralympics, and Special Olympics. I plan to discuss them in an upcoming blog post. I will also talk about unified sports and the access to adaptive sports programs for youth. Because we know, everyone has a right to play!

What accomplishments in sports are you most proud of? I was so proud when I stood up ice skating. I was always falling down, but I finally stood up all by myself. It took a couple of years to learn.

With admiration Nolan confesses he is still learning to stand up on ice skates. Tristan and his younger brother, Porter, then start giving ice skating tips to Nolan about pushing his feet out to the side and the importance of gliding. Tristan concludes with the best advice, “You need to be determined.”

IMG_0696

Tristan competing in track. Photo Credit: Tracey Carroll

What are your ultimate sports goals? To run a marathon.

Who will you run the marathon with? Porter will run it with me.

What about your mom? Oh my goodness, are you kidding me?

What makes a good teammate? They need to be encouraging. They need to be like, “Go! You can do it!”

What makes a good coach? That they help you improve. They tell you how to get better.

What advice do you have for other young athletes? To never give up. Don’t be afraid to fail. Trust me, I have failed tons of times.

Caitlin responds, “That is really good advice!”

How do you define ability? Something you are really good at.

Porter then asks to share his definition, Ability means you are physically and mentally able.”

A deep conversation starts with the kids discussing their views on ability, and if people need to be able to do things in the same way. They discuss Rio Woolf running with his prosthetic leg. They discuss Nick Springer playing wheelchair rugby and Tristan learning to ski. Then, Tracey captures all of our ideas in one statement: “If you are mentally able to do something, then you find a way to physically do it. If you think you can’t, you won’t.”

What superpowers do you have? I encourage people. Encouragement is energy.

Porter can’t help but add, “He laughs at everything. He will fall down and laugh.” Tracey agrees, “Yes, he has a good sense of humor. He has always had a good outlook on life.” Tristan smiles proudly and nods.

IMG_0688

Tristan writing about running in kindergarten. Photo Credit: Tracey Carroll

Josh Kennison: Track Star

Introducing Joshua Kennison from Norway, Maine. Josh is a track star, Camp No Limits  mentor, and an incredible role model for young aspiring athletes.

What sports do you play? I am a track and field athlete. I run the 100 meter and 200 meter dash. In my free time I also play soccer, basketball and frisbee.

JKenninson Portland Press

Josh with his bronze medal from the 2013 World Championship in the 100 meter dash. Photo Credit: Portland Press For video of his race click here.

What is your sports story? I’ve always been an athlete ever since I could walk. In middle and high school, I played soccer and ran track. During those years, I never had fancy running legs. In 2008 I started the process of getting some running legs. In 2009, I ran my first track meet for the Paralympics. Ever since then, I have been traveling nationally and internationally, and in 2012 I was one of the top five in my classification in the 100 and 200. I just missed qualifying for the 2012 London Games.

What accomplishments in sports are you most proud of? I am most proud of representing the US in 2013 World Championship. There I won the bronze in the 100 meter dash. In 2012, I l broke the world record in long jump, and I held the record for about a year.

What is your workout schedule? Monday through Friday I train two hours a day on the track. Each session usually includes working on my running technique work, power work where I pull a weight sled, and agility stuff. Every day has it’s own group of muscles I work. Then, Saturday or Sunday is core work.

What songs are on your workout playlist? I only listen to music during my warm-up. I usually listen to hip-hop and R&B. I like a variety.

What’s your mantra that keeps you going during tough workouts or bad days? You can do anything you set your mind to as long as you have a positive mind set.

What superpowers do you possess? I have a sixth sense. I can sense who someone is as a person. I pay attention to the small details.

JKennison Jump Achieve Magazine

Josh competing in long jump. Photo Credit: AchieveMagazine.com

How would you define ability? I would define ability like this…I think everyone can do anything they set their mind to.  It’s up to you. Every day in life I try to make myself happy. When I am happy and positive, I can accomplish a lot more.

How would you define grit? I think grit is messy. It is working so hard that you are reaching for every ounce of energy you can provide yourself.

What advice do you have for other athletes? Help one another. Athletes who care about others and their sport are better people.

Who would you like to thank? I want to thank my mom for sure. She never let me think I couldn’t do something.

You can follow Josh on his road to Rio and beyond on Twitter: @Nubz89 or Instagram: @Nubz8919.

To hear more about Josh’s story in his own words check out KSBW News Report.

UPDATE: You can hear about Josh’s transition from athlete to coach in his recent interview.

Trish Downing: A Straight Shooter

Introducing Tricia Downing, a multi-sport athlete, author, keynote speaker and director for Camp Discovery, a camp for women in wheelchairs who want to explore fitness opportunities.  She is truly redefining ability for others, and she’s got grit!

Hometown: Denver, Colorado

What sport or sports do you play? I am a competitive shooter. I shoot air pistol and sport pistol. I am also a former triathlete.

Trish-USA-pic

Trish Downing ready to race. Photo Credit: Mark Woolcott Photography

What is your sports story? I’ll try to give you the short story. I was a competitive cyclist in 2000, and I was out on a training ride on September 17th when I was hit by car. Then, I was paralyzed from the chest down. I was treated at Craig Hospital here in Colorado and their rec-therapy department is very good. They said, “You came in here as an athlete, and we want to make sure you leave an athlete.” They helped me learn all of the sports I wanted to do. I thought I wanted to be a hand cyclist because I was a cyclist. So I learned how to hand cycle. They taught me to use a racing chair. They also got me back into the pool. When I got out of the hospital I decided I didn’t want to go back to hand cycling because most of the races at that time were held in conjunction with bike racing. That was just hard- mentally and emotionally for me, so I ended up doing triathlons. At that time, there really weren’t a lot of people in chairs doing triathlons. I knew of a couple of men who had done the Ironman, but on the local level in women sports I didn’t know of anyone doing them. I had to figure it out on my own. Fortunately, I had a really great support crew of friends including my cycling coach and my cycling teammates.

Then, I started getting the Ironman bug and wanted to go to Hawaii to do the Ironman. My first Ironman  was in 2005, and I qualified for Hawaii in 2006 and 2010. Altogether, I started six Ironman races and finished two because I  didn’t always make the time cut. The time cut is established on able-bodied athletes, and for a female in a wheelchair, it is a very difficult time to make.

In the spring of 2011 I got recruited to try out for USA rowing.  But I pushed too hard and too fast, and ended up injured.  I then had to have a variety of surgeries and could no longer go back to doing triathlons.  Now, my main sport is shooting because it is not a stress on my body. But, it is a very difficult mental game. I have only been shooting for one year, however,  I am focused on making it to Tokyo in 2020.

What accomplishments in sports are you most proud of? My first Ironman I did in 2005 and the Half Ironman I did to qualify for Hawaii in 2010. Those were both good races for me and great examples of how my hard work and efforts paid off for me.

What is your workout schedule? When I was getting ready for the World Cup I was shooting six days a week. I do shooting drills at home and at the range.

I also do work outs that I enjoy like endurance sports. Additionally, I am working on my mental training with a mental coach. Unlike endurance sports where you can focus on just pushing harder, in shooting it is the opposite. You can’t push harder. It is a finesse thing. You have to be calm and mentally clear-headed.

trishbikr1

Trish ready to push until the end. Photo Credit: TriciaDowning.com

What’s your mantra that keeps you going during tough workouts or bad days? It isn’t over until it’s over… because in 2006 I did the qualifier for the Ironman in Hawaii. It was a half Ironman in Texas and it was a very difficult race. To qualify you have to finish the course in eight hours, and this course was a beast. So I was there doing it and I was a good four miles from the finish when the eight hour time expired. I just stopped in the road and had a little meltdown. My husband, who was my boyfriend at the time, and friend told me to just cross the finish line even though I wouldn’t qualify. Then, I cross the finish and I find out they changed the time cut to eight and half hours. I ended up finishing in 8:29:46. So, I made it by 14 seconds. See, it’s not over until it’s over.

What superpowers do you possess? My superpower is the power of persistence. When I truly want something or have a challenge to overcome, I will do everything within my means to make it happen. I don’t like to give up…at anything…and even sometimes to the detriment of myself. In the past that has been everything from physical to financial, but I will always keep trying to find new avenues and creative ideas to make my dreams and goals come true. Sometimes that can work against me, because I do believe there is a time to let certain goals go, but for the most part it has served me well.

How would you define ability? Ability is not necessarily about doing things. It’s about being able to live your life, your way, in a way that makes you happy at best and content at worst.

How would you define grit? Grit is the ability to keep fighting for what you want regardless of the circumstances that are handed to you. Being able to persist and to be resilient.

What advice do you have for other athletes? To always find ways to improve your situation. You have to keep your mind open to different ideas and ways of thinking. You have to be flexible and always look for more answers.

Who would you like to thank? There are so many people in my world to thank, it would be impossible to mention them all. I have a wonderfully supportive family that has not only supported me my whole life, but were instrumental in getting me through my accident and equally important are the people I have been fortunate to surround myself with. I pride myself on being a good judge of character and I have some amazing friends who have gone to the ends of the earth to help me achieve my dreams.

Be sure to check out more about Trish and all of her incredible work at her website. Or learn more about Camp Discovery and her She’s Got Grit video series.

IMG_4813_a-Edit_72dpi_9X13

Tricia Downing with her book, Cycle of Hope: A Journey from Paralysis to Possibility  Photo Credit: TriciaDowning.com

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

Nick-Newell

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.

WNEU

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.

XFCWSOFNickNewell5thround.com

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.

NickGrappleMMAjunkie.com

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.

header-instructors-1

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