Thursday, May 21, 2015

What it Takes

About 1994 or so, I got a call from the executive director of what at the time was called the United States Weightlifting Federation (USWF, which today is USA Weightlifting USAW). He explained that he had received an invitation for the USWF to be represented at an Olympic development camp held by the Native American Sports Council. Since, at the time, we were the only Native American weightlifting club, he asked if I would be interested in representing the USWF at this event. It was an exciting idea so I agreed to participate.
It was to be held on the Jemez Pueblo reservation in New Mexico. John Eagleday was the director of the Native American Sports Council and the organizer. Several Olympic sports were represented there including Weightlifting, Field Hockey, Archery, Basketball, and Track among others. Being on the reservation, the facilities were rustic. We brought the weights with us and set up outdoors under a canopy with sheets of plywood on the ground. We slept in tents and bathed in the small river that flowed through the reservation. Meals were prepared by parents and community members over the fire and we ate outside. I had my son Oliver and a couple teenage members of our club with me.
The opening day was exciting as there was a large group of youth there. John Eagleday gave them a rousing presentation which included a film clip of Billy Mills winning  his gold medal. He talked about who would be the next Native gold medalist and passed out really nice T-shirts with the Olympic rings on them to everyone there. Then he turned the kids loose to go to whatever sport they wanted to try. We had a large group at the weightlifting area as the weights looked really cool and maybe I did a good job of selling it. We spent several hours demonstrating and then practicing the lifts with PVC sticks and in some cases light weights. It didn't take long for the kids to realize that lifting huge weights wasn't an easy endeavor and couldn't be mastered in 15 minutes.
We encouraged them and built up their efforts with all the creativity we had, then reminded them what time we would be practicing the next day.
Well, on the morrow about 1/3 of the kids showed back up and they complained a lot about how sore they were. As the week passed, we ended up with about 6 of the 60 or so kids that started. The excitement and glory of the first day, with the free T-shirts and stirring presentations, was very short lived when met with the reality of the work needed to actually achieve greatness.
I have fond memories of that week at Jemez Pueblo. Living outdoors in beautiful surroundings with my son and students, and meeting a lot of great people was wonderful. But what I remember the most is that it is not hard to get people excited about doing great things, but very, very few really want to invest the pain, effort, and discipline needed to actually achieve greatness.

Making it look easy is not easy!

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