Coming to terms with the mortality of success remains the harshest reality to strike me in the past two years.
The summer before I started college I won two national championships in the high jump and competed at the 2014 World Junior Championship. Since my junior year of high school I believed I was going nowhere but up, and my successes only reinforced the naïve belief.
I started jumping my freshman year of high school. I came from a family of volleyball players, but I never wanted to associate myself with my sisters’ interests. Essentially coached by a school priest and YouTube videos, I took to the event quickly and became passionate about every aspect of jumping. Freshman year was a season of constant improvement. I hit a slump in my sophomore year, which led me to make a series of influential changes, the greatest being the decision to devote myself to my faith.
I began devotional sessions every evening, reading the Bible and writing about how the message spoke to me. I attended church every Sunday with my parents, and rarely took a Sunday off, even when I was traveling. My junior season began with a personal record, and ended with a state championship after finishing first in every meet of the season. Through the entire season I made it a point to recognize my trusting relationship with God as the reason for all success. I continued this mentality into my senior season, and I continued to get better.
On the morning of the New Balance Outdoor National Championship, I attended church with my parents. I found a small Catholic church in Greensboro, NC, which is now one of the most memorable churches I have ever visited.
Not one part of me was nervous. I knew that I had prepared as much as I could, and it was now in God’s hands. Throughout the competition I remained in constant conversation with God. I never asked for a victory. I simply just asked for His presence. I went on to win the competition without a single miss and achieved a new personal record. I used my faith in the next championship two weeks later and the success continued. The great change came after the world championship.
I slowly began to believe my success was a result of my own work. My focus shifted from God to myself. I transitioned into an arrogant and ungrateful athlete. I can remember throwing fits at my parents when I did not get what I want, at one point exclaiming, “I did this all on my own. You had nothing to do with it.” I had truly let the success consume me. I broke promises I made to myself and to God. Going into college, I believed there was no way I could fall down. I convinced myself I would continue to progress the way I had been the past two years.
Boy, did I get slapped with humility! I never stopped working hard. I never missed a day of practice. I never gave up on my dreams. However, I did give up on the one thing that got me to where I am, my faith and humility. College has absolutely not gone as planned. I jump significantly lower than I did as a senior in high school. Some days it even feels as though I am continuing to fall down into a hole and there’s no way out. In all of this pain and struggle, I have matured and learned more about myself than I ever would have had everything gone as planned. You don’t truly realize what you are blessed with until you are knocked down scrambling to get back up.
Now, I make it my goal to find my faith again and remain humble, so when I get back up and find success again, I won’t allow the same arrogance to creep in. I no longer believe my success is inevitable. I understand nothing is a guarantee.
I have been taught more by failure than success could ever teach me. None of this means that I have accepted failure or that I am content with where I am, and I shouldn’t be! You are allowed to be upset by your failures.
To pull a quote from Meredith Grey, “Progress looks like a bunch of failures. And you can have feelings about that because it’s sad, but you can’t fall apart.” It isn’t always about how you feel about failure; it’s about what you do to keep yourself together so you can move forward. I choose to use my faith to hold me together.
Find what keeps you grounded, let that pull you to the top, and know that some things are greater than success. As I begin to focus more on humility, I try to keep a verse from Proverbs in mind: “Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but before honor comes humility” (Proverbs 18:12).
Over the past year, more than 50 student athletes have shared their story on Wish Dish from across the country. If you read some of these stories, you will notice that many of these stories share consistencies such as injury, faith, anxiety, depression, isolation, identity, and suicide.
While student-athletes might struggle with similar pressures of college students, we have also learned that student-athletes are some of the most passionate and driven people. Simply, they are not defined just by their sport. The adversities in their sport make them better people … lessons that apply to their everyday life.
From all of our conversations, we decided to launch a campaign focusing on self-identity called #morethanmysport to allow athletes to share who they are beyond their sport. This campaign was well received, connected student-athletes closer together, and started the spark for athletes around the country to realize they are so much more than just their sport.
What do cosmic brownies, old people, and Zac Galifinakis all have in common? Mary Terry loves all of them (Even though they have absolutely nothing to do with running. Watch Mary’s video to learn about more of her favorite things.
Connor may one-day hope to be a professional golfer, but in the mean time, he can still travel the world and whip up a batch of delicious chocolate-chip pancakes. What Connor’s video to find out what else he does when he’s not on the golf course.
As much as Keturah loves track and field, she loves Jesus even more, and as fast as she may run, she’s even faster at solving a Rubik’s cube. Watch Keturah’s video to find out just how long it takes her to solve a Rubik’s cube.
Leontia probably wishes she could use her high jump skills to propel herself 7,000 miles to her home in Cyprus whenever she wanted. But instead she must wait for summer to go visit her family and friends. Watch Lenotia’s video to find out what she loves (and doesn’t love) about her home.
Two truths and one line: Meaghan has moved seven times. She once had a massive bouncy ball collection. And she can recite every line of Tangled. You can find out which of these facts is true by watching Meaghan’s video.
Tatiana plays one sport, but she’s lived in two different cities called Athens and speaks four different languages. You can count on some more fun facts about Tatiana if you watch her video.
Mady might be known for the power in her legs, but did you know that she’s just as skilled with her hands? Check out some of Mady’s drawings and paintings by watching her video.
The clothes that Bridget wears while she is doing gymnastics are just as important to her as the sport itself. And her love for all things fabric doesn’t stop there. Watch Bridget’s video to find out what we mean.
Reed is a team player when it comes to baseball, but he is just as much of a team player off the field too. Watch Reed’s video to learn about all of the different ways that he loves to contribute to his community.
Being an Olympic swimmer doesn’t stop Chantal from indulging in all sorts of junk food, and being a bad dancer and singer doesn’t stop her from shamelessly busting out her moves. Watch Chantal’s video to learn about more things you might not know about her.
If you are student athlete or former student athlete and want to connect to our athletics community, please ask to join from this link. We look forward to empowering student-athletes around the country to express themselves and connect in meaningful ways.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is vital for your overall health and wellness in life. The way that best fits for me to do so is through conscientious routine and consistency.
Since 2012, when I went on my first International competition outing in Puerto Rico, I kept a training log to monitor my progress. I started this log to have a form of accountability for myself when my coach (Dad) wasn’t around. This log consisted of everything from how my mood was that day, the weather, and how fast my intervals were or how many miles I ran. I also logged how I felt emotionally because in the sport of track and field, I believe the majority of it is mental.
I found that even if the log did nothing for me, it was a consistent routine of self-reflection. When analyzing areas within yourself in which you desire to change, it is a good Idea to keep track of how you feel and what the aspects of it are so that you can attain your goal and monitor progress. My training log is also psychologically vital to my overall health because in high school when I didn’t always have others there to talk to during stressful home life, I was able to shut my door, focus on my reflection, and vent anything that was bothering me onto paper.
Even if I didn’t ever reevaluate the log that I wrote for the day, it was good to get it off my chest so I can sleep better and prepare for the next day of work.
At the top of each page of this college ruled composition book I wrote a statement or quote to live by for that week. I often wrote my goals in this space as well, that way I keep them fresh in my mind and constantly remind myself of them so I do not lose sight.
Reflecting on my past, physical activity has had a huge impact on my life and without it, I do not know where I would be today. My upbringings weren’t all that great, I lived in 23 different houses, and attended 10 different schools up until I was 18 years old. I come from a very low (if any) income household with 6 siblings and a total of 9 family members under the same roof.
I lived in a very stressful environment with a dysfunctional parenting style being one that my parents never agreed upon anything. The dysfunctional relationship between them had a negative impact on our family atmosphere. Overall, there was a lot more to it than just them arguing. Their un-agreeableness and their lack of financial support led to many problems within my family life that were very challenging to cope with at a young age.
Ultimately, my “norm” was one of pure chaos, stress and agony. Exercise for me, was an escape of my reality. It allowed me to exit the building of pain which I lived in at home. It gave me hope, it restored my emotions, my attitude, my stress levels and my spiritual well being.
That’s when I found that running, to me was much more than just a competition or a leisure activity that most people do simply to stay in shape. I found the love for exercise through my unhealthy home lifestyle that I was trapped in yet I could escape it in two ways, my dreams, and my running.
At a young age I knew I was in a place in my life where I was unsatisfied, and I wanted change. My biggest dream was to travel the world and do what I love. What would be better than doing something that you are gifted at, and earning a salary for it? I did not know exactly what that would look like but I knew I wanted it. I knew traveling the world is very expensive, so how could I possibly travel for free? Seems impossible.
The way that I was able to make that transition to change was that I had an endless amount of focus on my dreams and visions because I wanted it more than anything. I thought about being great every single day, not a time passed when I wasn’t thinking big, imagining myself being great, and one day being free from stress.
After years of running consistently, I was able to develop quite a skill for something I did for fun. I have a competitive edge that flows through my veins and whatever the activity may be whether its back yard basketball or a friendly game of kickball, I wanted to win!. I started to see that I have special abilities that come to me more naturally than others, this is when I found my true self, I found hope for my future, I found my vision.
Self-belief was a huge factor to maintaining not only a healthy lifestyle both physically and mentally, but having a small minuscule amount of hope can go a long way. I often think of quotes that motivate and inspire me and one that I came up with is “If you take a simple word, give it direction and purpose, it can go a long way.” So I would think of simple encouraging words and phrases that are uplifting and I gave them purpose and direction. “Bailey you CAN succeed” “BELIEVE in your abilities” “TRUST in your training.”
What I mean by this is through various forms of self-efficacy, self-assessment and monitoring self-progress, there is a lot more to maintaining a healthy spirituality than it may seem. I developed my self-confidence through positive self-talk, trial and error, and testing my abilities by pushing my limits on the track and in life. I would climb trees, go exploring, run up the wall and do a backflip, breakdance, ride a unicycle, walk along tall and narrow fence lines, all of which are random skills.
Once I compiled and established all these random skills. I was able to realize that all these activities that seemed purposeless actually played a huge role in who I am today. Little did I know that the more back flips I did, the more trees I climbed, my desire to explore, create, and accomplish allowed me to form a foundation.
From my adolescence, my abilities, visions and mentality have exceeded my physical age by being aware of my surroundings. I am very observant and constantly learn from my experiences. I learn from other people’s actions, people I’ve met, places I’ve been and the things I’ve seen. With that being said I have always been good at forming my own ideas and goal setting. I know exactly what I want, and I work backwards from that to my current situation and develop a plan of action.
My dreams of going to college, running on team USA, and becoming financially independent for example would not have come if it weren’t for my focus and determination. Factors that I took into account on a daily basis such as nutrition, sleep, hydration, preventative maintenance activities, and positive reinforcement were those of which I focused on in order to achieve my goals.
I was so focused on my goals that the big picture was much more beautiful than instant satisfaction of leisure activities. I would rather be getting the right amount of rest needed to perform well in my next interval session than to be staying up late at night with friends. In our society, it is very easy to give up on your dreams if you’re not careful.
Too many things in my life atmosphere were telling me to give up, quit, stop trying so hard, the odds are against you but I would never quit, so I did the opposite. Deep down inside of me there was that will to succeed that outweighed anyone’s negative remark or doubt in me because the most important aspect is that I believed in myself more than anyone could ever doubt me. I believe that if you’re going to do something at all, might as well give it 100%. I’m not sacrificing my whole lifestyle to be mediocre, I am in it to be great. Those were some words that I lived by in all areas of my life. None of the less, I stayed focused and accountable to myself through monitoring my progress in my training log and stayed consistent throughout because consistency is key in this game.
My dad always said, “Son, if you want to be so great, you need to master the small things in life and the big things will come easier”, this gave me a perspective that changed my life. All the small things I did such as stretching, ice baths, rolling out, and getting a good amount of sleep allowed me to be ready for the tough challenges I faced in both running and in life. It is not always what you go through or experience in life, it’s how you handle them that shapes who you are.
Another quote that my dad always said was, “Small successes are the stairway to great performances,” this was a reinforcement to my self-confidence because I was setting myself up for success not failure. He always believed in me 100% and with that, my outlook on this had a huge impact on my performance because I did not fail, I set realistic goals, and I attained them. If I exceeded my goals whether short or long term “icing on the cake” as my dad would say.
Throughout my upbringing of struggle, I was able to become resilient to adversity. Through the various places I have lived and the exposure to real-world environments have allowed me to form the ability to adjust. As simple as that may sound, I consider it one of my finer qualities because without it, I would not be able to cope with the amount of stress and overload that my body withstood.
Running has allowed me to maintain a healthy stability throughout any form of hard ship I have encountered and meet my goals regardless of the situation. I am a survivor and I use that to my advantage when I need to adjust to a new environment, situation or place in my life. I use my survival instincts to fuel the fire for my success. Instead of letting stress get the best of me, I make it work for me not against me. I apply my developed resiliency to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and focusing on my priorities.
I am currently a sophomore in college, living my dreams and enjoying a healthy lifestyle.
I’ve traveled to multiple foreign countries, I’ve won national championships, I’ve crushed national records and I’ve won a Pan-American gold medal. Little did I know that this all came from a little hope, a little boy with a big dream. From staying focused and monitoring my steps of self-planning, I’ve been able to consistently attain a healthy lifestyle. With my competitive edge and my will to succeed, I am always looking for avenues to improve on within myself.
Being a sophomore now, I have adjusted to the life of being a D1 student athlete and it is quite tough to balance all that entails. With that being said, I constantly monitor my progression and still keep a running log to this day. I have come up with ways that I can better myself through evaluating areas in which need improvements.
I started a “Life Log” a few months ago that allows me to keep track of my priorities, goals and steps of action because the journey to the ultimate goal is how the goal will eventually be attained. Each day I set time out and use my Life Log as an accountability check that forces me to prioritize what is important and allow me to stay focused. Even if it 5-10 minutes and a few sentences of reflection, it keeps me in check with where I am, and where I want to go.
I choose to prioritize this plan of action so that I do not allow any negativity that I can control to affect my life. I have control of my current life situation as a student athlete, and I have big goals. I’m going to keep continuing to use these methods to allow the big things in life to come easier from the mastery of the small things.
This story is a snapshot of my Godson, Devon Gales, and the relationship he shares with his Godfather, Coach Gantt. This story is the inspiration for the book project they are working on about Devon’s life and injury; their relationship and the commitment to clinging to faith in the midst of adversity.
I have a snapshot of Devon Gales and Coach Bryant Gantt in my head that replays repeatedly like the reel in a silent movie. Coach Gantt is feeding Devon pecans. The vision of this in and of itself is enough to make me laugh uncontrollably, especially since I’m privy to the massiveness of Coach Gantt’s hands and the overwhelming UGA Championship ring he wears with great pride.
However, my laughter quickly subsides once I embrace the tenderness of the moment and how it came to pass. It occurred early in Devon’s rehabilitative process but it speaks volumes of the wonderful relationship between the two men.
While we were away, Devon decided to get a snack and he struggled with accomplishing the task but Coach Gantt, stepped in and feed him.
That’s my snapshot, Devon so vulnerable and determined; and Coach Gantt so big and strong; but sitting together sharing a tender moment filled with camaraderie, empathy and compassion. Devon comfortable with allowing him to help, not prideful or embarrassed; and Coach Gantt figuring out how to offer assistance without being emasculating.
Prior to this snapshot, for months I bore witness as men watched Devon struggle with mastering basic tasks during their visits with him at the Shepherd Center and their response was to ignore his effort and wait until the medical staff or a female caregiver intervened.
Never to help. Their hesitation grounded in sexism, culturalism, but mostly because football isn’t for wimps and their own inability to acknowledge their fear.
Nevertheless, Coach Gantt an imposing man looked past all that, stood in his fearlessness, and found the balance. And Devon met him without hesitation or reservation; and so their balancing act began.
They are forever intertwined and so connected that the relationship of Godfather/Godson seems a bit inadequate when I think of them together.
However, God is definitely in the relationship they share. Coach Gantt is old enough to be Devon’s father but is still a boy in so many ways because of his love for this game that is part battleground, part playground is able to offer life lessons to this man-child as he navigates the world.
Devon the eager student that absorbs Coach Gantt’s lessons like a sponge not realizing he is teaching as well. He is offering Coach Gantt lessons in courage, strength, and living a life that completes his worth. Their relationship will transcend time and it will bear fruit because it is strong and exists for a purpose bigger than itself, it exists for GOD.
Ultimately, the book we’re writing is the result. It is not only the story of Devon Gales and Coach Bryant Gantt but also the story of how GOD has hardwired us all for glory.
We all have the capacity to be a part of something far bigger than our own small existence. This book will inspire young men to be brave, believe, trust, and commit to something bigger than themselves.