Friday, November 4, 2011

Beyond the classroom, off the field, and over the hurdle

“Believe me, the reward is not so great without the struggle”

As Project Coach continues to move forward with our new literacy program, the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders at Lincoln, Brightwood and Gerena elementary schools in Springfield were introduced to one Wilma Rudolph – an African American track star in the 1960’s who overcame debilitating polio on her way to a career marked by numerous accolades.

On September 7th, 1960, in Rome, Wilma became the first American woman to win 3 gold medals in the Olympics. She won the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash, and ran the anchor on the 400-meter relay team. Beyond this, she won numerous awards and other accolades – far too many to mention here.

“I believe in me more than anything in this world”

What does all this mean for Project Coach? For starters, it means that we are exposing inspiring life-stories of minority role models to students, many of whom do not know the likes of Wilma Rudolph, Tiki Barber, or the famed Roberto Clemente – a person with whom the kids share a connection, as the soccer field outside of Chesnut Middle School is named Roberto Clemente Field. More importantly, it showcases to the Blueshirt coaches and elementary players alike that overcoming adversity, disability, circumstance is anything but impossible. Success through hard work and perseverance (a focus word a few weeks back) is always, always obtainable.

Wilma Rudolph's story sparked a lively discussion in the minds of my 3rd graders. They were curious about what polio was (one of them claimed to have it!), what “disability” meant, and why it was necessary to overcome in order to achieve what Wilma Rudolph was able to achieve. I offered a personal anecdote about my own struggles with speech and stuttering, and saw players begin to make the connection between achievement and perseverance –much akin to a light bulb being turned on for the first time. All around it was a magnificent week, and the opportunities to motivate and encourage seem endless.

“It doesn't matter what you're trying to accomplish. It's all a matter of discipline. I was determined to discover what life held for me beyond the inner-city streets.”

Written by Elyse Quadrozzi, Redshirt Graduate Fellow

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