By Sean C. Bowers
When I was five-years-old I found myself in Foster Care where I developed a sense of toughness. It was fostered by an angry edge, through the lack of care shown me by the host family’s excuse-for-a-Mom.
This change in my spirit was part of what always drove me in my athletic career as I practiced four to six hours a day for fifteen years. This internal drive intensity allowed me to become a college basketball full scholarship player and excel on both the East & West coasts and in the Mid-west.
Early on, I realized there would always be players who had some kind of advantage on me. They might be bigger, stronger, faster, quicker, or better athletes than I. That meant I had to create my own advantages where I could find them. I had to become more versatile, play all five positions, and be able to guard anyone, especially the other team’s best scorer. My training staples became running, biking and conditioning as I sought to forge my body and mind into a lethal basketball weapon that could out-hustle, out-deny, out-work, out-last, out-heart, out-think, out-fundamental, out-execute anyone I faced on the courts.
My goal was to be the best-ever distance running player so that in the fourth quarter I would never tire or be winded. That physical edge won me the respect of my teammates and, more importantly, my coaches.
Instead of running with slower big men in practice for wind sprints, I ran with the guards, pushing them and myself on every sprint to be the first one in, every practice and every day of my career. In the off-seasons I ran hills, mountains, beaches, sprints, and hurdles, carrying extra weights. Often, I would train alone like the prize (life) fighter I felt I was.
My motivation at five was to not end up like my dad in jail. As the oldest grandchild, I was determined to overcome what anyone said or thought about what I could do or become. Other people’s negative input or perceptions about me became my engine’s fuel.
I took the role of being my family’s’ first college graduate very seriously. It meant that in spite of growing up poor, in a one-room garage apartment, I could be a difference-maker. I would set records and write my own history. Only I, with God’s blessings, controlled my training, my end-results, my salvation, my redemption, my destiny.
By refusing to allow others to ever define me, I never bought into their short-sightedness, when it came to my abilities and my overall potential. On the courts, each underestimation of my game was at someone else’s peril.
Eventually, all the things I sought came into focus and I was justly rewarded for all those thousands of hours of training, dedication and pain. While the championships and records were sweet and can never be taken away from me, they paled in comparison to fulfilling my true academic and athletic potential my Mother instilled in me from the beginning. Making Mom’s face beam when I earned those scholarships and graduated with both my AA and a BA degrees was the real prize.
In retrospect, that foster witch lit a fire that still burns brightly now in each Guide article, written by an (older) kid who once graduated his fourth high school with four D’s and a C. Perhaps I went the furthest with that relentless drive to prove her wrong.
For every reader, parent, person within listening distance or reading sightlines, my message to you is this: “You and only you are the captain of your ship. Choose your course wisely, or someone else will try and choose it for you.”
P.S. (Let’s just hope our new President has the same ability – to make something out of nothing.)
Sean C. Bowers is a local progressive youth development coach, author and poet, who has written for the New Journal and Guide the last seventeen years. His recent book of over 120 NJ&G articles detailing the issues is available at V1ZUAL1ZE@aol.com and he does do large scale solutions presentations.