Sunday, July 28, 2013

My Athlete Life

My life as an athlete has been a small amount of luck, a hell of a lot of hard work and an indefinite amount of sacrifice.  I wish I could say that an Olympic athlete’s life is as glamorous as society would assume, but our jobs are a bit unorthodox and often times leave us with no stability. When I started sliding I never expected this being a ‘career’ choice that was going to make me money, but instead I was lured in my the idea of competing for my country.  After my first season in the sport I had 12 cents in my bank account.  Thanks to the support of my hometown Chico, California I was able to raise money and train full time as an athlete.  This ultimately helped for me to get the training equipment and coaching I needed to make the 2010 Olympic Team.  I remember lying wide awake in bed after walking in the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in 2010.  I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning.   This was the moment I concluded that every single sacrifice was worth it for that one moment.  I knew then that I wanted to work even harder to work towards earning a spot to Sochi, Russia in 2014. 

After the Vancouver Games I have grown physically and mentally and truly learned how to be an elite athlete.  It is equally important to focus on recovery and diet as it is the physical training.  Our sport is measured by hundredths, so maintaining a strict sports medicine regimen, food plan and sleep schedule can be what makes the difference between making an Olympic Team and not.  This routine can be cumbersome and usually takes precedence over nights out with friends and family.  At this point I have to be somewhat selfish so that I can perform at the highest level for each individual training session.  I have felt very fortunate over the years to have friends and family who are very understanding and supportive.  They are willing to be ‘part time friends’ while I go after my Olympic dreams. 

There are no words that can explain what it feels like to have U.S.A written on your back.   To me, every workout, every tear shed and every family event missed is worth it for those few seconds that I push the sled knowing I am not just doing it for myself, but for my entire country.  The dream is what pushes me every single day and is what helps me to make the hard decision to put my life on hold.  I now truly understand and have lived the concept ‘for the love of the game.’

To buy cool memorabilia or to make a donation to curb training costs check out my website.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Calling all Athletes!

Elite athletes are constantly under a media microscope and are considered role models in the eyes of society regardless if it is something they desire.  In a world where the tragic stories of Aaron Hernandez and Oscar Pistorious are what’s spread over the television or news of the performance enhancing drug scandals of Lance Armstrong, Alex Rodriguez and most recent Tyson Gay are the top stories, it is easy to question if athletes should be considered role models.  So often the media focuses their attention on the negatives of sport rather than the positive.  In a society that places importance on the number of twitter followers rather than performance, I think it is time that athletes step up and take being a role model more seriously.  Obviously, as we have seen all athletes are human and are not immune to making wrong life choices.  Because of this it is even more important for us to reach out to our communities and give kids something positive to emulate.

Many athletes have already worked towards making improvements in their society.  2012 Gold medalist and all around amazing person Tianna Bartoletta has created Club 360 which teaches young girls to live with three core principles; integrity, honor and self-respect.  I can attest to the fact that Tianna lives by the values she is instilling in these young girls and is helping to raise well rounded women.  It is clear that Tianna understands there is more to life than sport and uses her athlete platform wisely as an avenue to inspire and change the world one girl at a time.  Not only has she encouraged young girls to make improvements in their lives, she has also inspired me with her contagious passion for what she is doing. 
Tianna with girls from Club360
Tianna is just one example of many athletes who have already taken issues into their own hands.  KaraPatterson 2-time Olympian and American Record holder just recently selflessly took time away from knee rehab and training to spend countless hours coaching future Olympic throwers at the Iron Wood Camp.  She was not alone, alongside of her were many Olympians and World Team members sharing their passion for throwing with hundreds of young impressionable kids. 
Kara with IronWoodCamp Campers!

I have also witnessed the incredible change and impact athletes can have on youth in our communities with the Pen Pal Project my teammate Jamie Greubel and I have been running.  This program connected the Boys and Girls Club kids with athletes at the Olympic Training Center.  By writing a simple letter each week the athletes have given the kids someone positive that they can look up to and draw inspiration from for their futures.  The athletes have given these kids an outlet to express any issues they have in their lives and have given them an opportunity to have fun and just be kids.  It was refreshing to see the smiles on each and every one of the kids faces as they met their pen pals for lunch this past Friday.
Kids from the Boys & Girls Club  at the OTC

No matter if it is something as small as writing a letter or as time consuming as week at camp, athletes can make a huge impact with any community involvement they have.  Whenever athletes have an opportunity to touch a life regardless of what avenue it is they should take full advantage of it.  We are looked up to whether we like it or not so let’s choose the positive legacy we want to leave.