World Games Lessons

On the plane home from Korea – after a couple weeks of competition and a year of training. Time for reflection – what was learned and did we succeed? We are returning with Silver Medals in Traditional Floor Hockey. Our goal was to come home with hardware and run for the Gold. We accomplished those goals. However we did so much more. In my opinion we have so much to be proud of, as a team and individuals. We faced challenges and stress. We learned life is not always fair but we cannot demand fairness. We learned that we can band together and overcome adversity.

We trained hard and I know we represented our Country well, beyond my expectations. On the World Stage at the highest levels many countries choose only to win. To win at all costs. To forego the spirit of competition and ignore the mission of Special Olympics. I am proud to say we did not. Though my commitment to winning, my drive, my intensity maybe highly affixed on outcomes we won with a team of all Special Needs individuals spanning the spectrum of abilities

This to me after reflection becomes our Gold Medal. Seeing our athletes who boldly competed and absorbing the realization that we were not a National Team of All Star Athletes, and we provided this unique and rewarding opportunity to the highest range of Special Needs community members is quite rewarding. When we heard from officials and other coaches that teams we were facing were the same teams they saw in Unified Play or International Play was at first alarming but now I find it rewarding.

We are Champions – Champions in everything we do. That includes playing by the rules, respecting the rule and spirit of the game as well as winning on the court. My team ranges from 22 years old to 50. Many of the teams we faced had a much younger age range with one team averaging all under 20 years old. We choose to include woman on our team, while many decided to send male only teams.

So as we sort our pictures, videos, pins and traded clothes we can look back at the trip and understand that besides winning we did so much more. We were great ambassadors for the USA. We visited schools, military bases, cultural events and interacted with many other countries. We gained fans, fans from all over the world. They wanted your autographs, to talk to you, to get your pins, to trade for your team colors. We were interviewed my media and every minute remained under the microscope of public scrutiny.

I heard the same thing over and over, exactly what I heard over the past year of appearances. This team represents. It is first class. Champions in everything we do.

Now each of use has a choice. For some training may end. However I feel that for most the training will increase and even intensify. We lost considerable weight. Much of the team decided to forgo soda, change their diet and work out daily. We came very far – 400 pounds. Those that commit to staying with the program and recommitting will go even further. Basketball is ready to start and that is truly our premier sport.

I look back to a years in the past. Many of you were here already and some joined at the same time Ryan and I did. We sat together and talked about focus, commitment, goals and desire. We choose to become champions. We knew that we would be in World Games in some sport. To us it was not a question we only awaited a confirmation of when and where. The realization that as a team – a group of monomaniacs with a single goal and vision we could never be stopped.

To me this is just a beginning. Our first trip to the International Level together. We are too great as a team, too high of a caliber, Champions in everything we do, too great together to ever be held back. We will return and make another statement to the world.

I know from my perspective a better coach would have made a difference. Someone who understood how Floor Hockey is paid on the International Level. The speed and passing, the set plays, the defenses. I commit to each and everyone of you that as we move forward I will learn more and becoming the coach you deserve. Besides the game skills I commit to learn how to motivate and lead better.

I ask you all to be there for each other and the team. A family – no one left behind, we trust each other and always give our all + more to each other. I must do the same for you

In my reflection I must admit I take great pride in how we came together to win the State Championship. When after two loses to Santa Clarita I was called by a few members of the team. There was concern about the losses by wide margins. Since I was out of town for those games I got the video of the games and we all met and reviewed the tapes. It took commitment, it took heart, it took reflection and determination to change that team to the team we are today.

We changed everything, we had to train harder – learn new skills, increase our intensity. You guys did it … you turned to double digit loses into double digit wins! In 30 short days.

I have been told I maybe too intense, that my lust to win is too high, my expectations far too grand. I want to win. I admit to these accusations. When we are team we must have unified goals. We will feel the pain of training, competition and the sport irrespective of victory, so in my view we might as well win One of the issues in those who question my coaching style is they never seek my definition of winning. The superficial view is it is the final score as tallied on the score board. Shallow and show a complete misunderstanding of sports. Winning is reaching new levels, seeing mountains as opportunities, welcoming challenges. Winning is about brotherhood, family, love, sharing, support and trust. Winning is about knowing you can push yourself to new levels, that as individuals and teams we know no limits.

I have been told as well that I must understand limitations. On this question I will always disagree. Limitations are only excuses. If we see it, if we feel it, if we want it more then breath itself we will earn it. No matter what it is. Limitations – a more politically correct way of saying disabilities should never define the border of life. At times I am told, for certain people that is the best they can do – I say good enough never is. To me part of the commitment to Special Olympics and this community is to say we remove boundaries, we do not accept limits, we refuse excuse and replace with commitment. While at times we must accommodate physical limits, we never must use limits as a firewall to growth. The disabled community is not exclusive in this regard, but in my view inclusive. We only have the limits we each accept. Our baseline is good enough our potential does not respect these self imposed borders.

So I will be there next week getting ready to win together at Basketball, Aquatics and any other sport we choose to engage.

1 – 2 – 3 – Champions.

2 comments

  1. I get it, and you said it. My diffrent ability is not what some call normal, but it’s my normal, and my life proceeds as normal. Well done Keith and Team USA

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