Building Champions

Shooting For the Moon?

Would you like a roadmap to achievement? How useful could such a guide be for administrators, teachers, parents, students, everybody?

Becoming a True Champion: Achieving Athletic Excellence from the Inside Out, by Kirk Mango with Daveda Lamont, outlines in three parts useful insights as Kirk relates his story and strategies he used to develop himself from an average, unspectacular student and gymnastic team member into an Illinois State high school champion who earned a full scholarship to college in a rapid turn-around year.

Mango, I’d learned, was once a student at our local high school, and his story is truly exceptional. However, he writes as a current high school teacher and gymnastics coach to let us know that everyone can be exceptional. It seriously comes down to the choices we make, and desire, commitment, discipline, and sacrifices to earn achievement.

As an instructor, he mirrors many of our concerns for the lack of character and integrity we see in athletics and celebrities today. He has seen erosion in students adhering to a code of honor, behavior, and ethics, and he makes the case that the best motivation should be intrinsic.

I found wisdom in his book and a useful recipe for planning that I intend to introduce to my own children and apply in my life. The following are the highlights of what worked for him:

• Determine strengths to master and weaknesses to work on
• Identify fundamentals; skills and strategies; then conditioning exercises
• Plan practices initially focusing on quantity, and segue to refine with consistent performance of quality

Although Mango’s roadmap specifies illustrative references to gymnastics, tennis, volleyball, and basketball, his recommendations could also be modified to any academic pursuit. What is the secret?

Defining a goal, making an unshakable commitment to consistently execute a plan, and assume ownership over choices that only you control. This way, competition is only really to perfect one’s own performance, win or lose.

I found Mango’s story relevant because he exemplified what we aspire ourselves and those we have responsibility for to be like. A champion is not necessarily one who owns the wins and trophies, it is one who has tried and excelled through living true to a cause and a dream. Isn’t that what we want to inspire and cultivate in ourselves and those around us?

So to put into practice what Mango has suggested, I have decided to tag on putting practice to my daily Qur’an reading. With my last round of golf giving a glimmer of hope with 2 pars and a birdie, I recognize my greatest weakness needing attention is putting.

Also, I’ve shared a bit of Mango’s story with some family members, and I’ve encouraged my youngest to put in some extra time on Saturdays to refine fundamentals in Algebra. It seems that by my analysis there could be an opportunity for reinforcement. InshaAllah, results on the next assessment will reward the effort to keep up motivation.

There are no short cuts to solid effort, and that Mango makes quite clear. What transpires from such effort though, is a realization that each of us has Power. Our choices determine to a great degree our outcomes, and that realization is a gift many have yet to discover.

As the Ryder Cup is being played only about 5 miles away at the Medinah Country Club, we could see the blimp over it in the distance while Riad and I golfed at Maple Meadows. The picture you see is him teeing off the 18th, as the sun had just set and we were actually playing facing a rising moon to the east. Nightly, I’m reviewing the media coverage and using the pros to model my visualization of the ease which they play their spectacular shots. Let’s see what Mango’s model does for my game!

2 thoughts on “Building Champions

  1. Well said Sue! This is very inspiring and gives me a gleam of hope for my own brawl. I was driving and feeling down until I also saw the moon rising in the east and the sun descending in the west that made me ponder why was I in a hurry all the time. I just needed to slow down and enjoy the moments that God has given us and mold our children to become great people doing great things. Love ya sis!


    • That Linda is why we love to take notice of nature and its ever changing signs that remind us of His presence and power. They can give us comfort, especially as we go through our own changing seasons in life. Peace!


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