Inspirational Athletes

Ask most people what they think of when you mention March, some might say the Ides of March, others might say St. Patrick’s Day.  Most 18-24 year olds would probably say March Madness, the college hoops annual extravaganza is definitely an exciting thing to behold.  During this frenetic 3-week period millions of people fill out brackets, some well thought out, others chosen for their cute nicknames.  All across the country, hundreds of games are played, spanning dozens of networks.  Many culminate with thrilling last minute finishes or stunning upsets.  The “Cinderella” stories that emerge, like that of 1983’s NC State Wolfpack or 1985’s Villanova Wildcats ensure that even a dispassionate observer will find it exciting.  I enjoy watching these games like everyone else; however, I am more compelled by the other tournament that happens simultaneously.

That Other NCAA Championship Tournament

4blog post 032416aA few nights ago I was watching the early rounds of the men’s NCAA Wrestling Championships and Billy Baldwin, yes that Billy Baldwin, was doing some commentary.  Baldwin is a wrestling fanatic, so much so that he’s attended the tournament every year since 1979.  He was one of the key people on the Team USA committee that got wrestling restored as an Olympic sport after it was foolishly removed.  Baldwin was interviewing one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, Cornell’s Kyle Dake.  Dake is one of only four men to ever win the NCAA championship 4 times, and he’s the only one ever to win it in four different weight classes.  Dake is currently in training for the Summer Olympic trials held in Iowa next month.  Part of the sacrifice to get wrestling put back as a medal sport was the removal of two weight classes.  The two that were removed were closest to Dake’s weight.  Suffice to say I was curious to hear what Dake had to say.  Baldwin asked him to explain how he planned on overcoming this obstacle.  “I’ll use my quickness, that will give me an advantage that I can exploit against the heavier opponents.”  Then he was asked how was he able to maintain such a positive attitude at all times?  Dake’s response, “Whenever a negative thought enters my mind, whether I’m making breakfast, walking to class, training or even as I’m getting onto the mat, I would immediately stop and say 5 positive things.”  This mantra combined with his tremendous work ethic are what sets him apart.

Can you commit to the discipline that this will take?

I plan on incorporating his technique for the foreseeable future.  Many people talk about maintaining a positive attitude, but few actually live by that rule.  The next time something doesn’t go your way, flip the script and find the positive.  Eventually, if you do this enough, it will become a habit.  I have always been fascinated by people who overcame difficult obstacles or who go far and beyond what others think is possible.  I want to know how they did it, what were their keys to exceed.  A positive mindset is always their answer.  They didn’t let other people cloud their desires, goals, plans or destiny with negative thoughts.  Here are three more amazing people that have inspired me with how and what they accomplished.


4blogpost032416bAnthony Robles:  Mr. Perfect, winner of two consecutive High School State Championships compiled a 96-0 record during his Junior and Senior seasons.  Four years later another undefeated season was in the cards for Robles as he finished his career at Arizona State with a perfect season, going 36-0.  Robles was named the Tournaments Outstanding Wrestler.  Being born with just one leg didn’t stop him from beating the defending national champion in the finals to win the 2011 National Championship in the 125lb weight class to cap off his undefeated year.  I was lucky to be able to see this live with my son at the Wells Fargo Center. Read his book, Unstoppable.


Dick Hoyt:  An out of shape Massachusetts father, that decided at the age of 40 having never run more than a mile in his life to compete in a charity 5K run at the behest of his son Rick who was born with Cerebral Palsy.  Soon they were competing in the Boston Marathon.  That wasn’t enough of a challenge for this remarkable duo so Dick started to train for the Iron Man Triathlon.  A grueling 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 run and a 2.4 mile swim, this despite having never swam before.  In 1989 they completed their first Iron Man Triathlon. Dick has pulled, pedaled and pushed his adult son along for 255 triathlon’s and more than 68 marathons, their fastest marathon just 30 minutes off the world record.  In 2014 the 74-year old Hoyt and his son completed their 32nd and last Boston Marathon together.  Read his book Devoted.

Matt Stutzman: Professional Archer born with no arms, uses his feet to load and shoot his bow.  Matt is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest accurate shot in history, hitting a target4blogpost032416d with an arrow, and is the #7 ranked archer in the country.  He hit 89 of 90 bulls-eyes in last year’s competition.  Check out his HBO Real Sports segment on YouTube.

©2016 Craig Kaplan, All Rights Reserved
May not be reproduced without permission