How can something as simple as track and field transform a life?
A ten-year-old boy was quiet, reserved, and off the radar to his classmates.
In other words, this young boy had few friends and lacked confidence. His demeanor was anything but outgoing, and he kept to himself. He was average or a little below in school work and rarely participated in school activities because of his shyness. He was not musically or artistically inclined.
The boy hid in the back of the choir because his voice was so bad. He had few places to fit in at school or after school.
Before or after school, the boy was bullied for quite some time when he was young; older kids waited for him on his walk to school each day or his walk home. He was threatened and pushed around if he did not give up his milk or lunch money.
Day after day, the bullies would wait at the exact location the boy walked to school each morning, which caused the boy to dread going to school.
And he was threatened if he told others what was happening, so he didn't. The threats included beating the snot out of the boy if he told others about their ploy. The boy's self-worth was not high, so he kept this secret, which was not good.
And, he honestly thought to himself, getting picked on was no big deal; everyone got picked on. He did not know how to handle life's bullies because of his introverted nature, so he continued to suffer silently. The boy's ongoing suffering mainly stemmed from the fear of being physically beaten to a pulp and the anxiety of running into the bullies daily.
One day this boy was randomly asked to run in a foot race against the entire school. A coach, a teacher encouraged this young boy to try running. To the boy's delight, he won his first-ever race by a large margin.
All the other kids broke out in loud cheering and flooded onto the field. They picked up the boy, held him aloft, and carried him around the playground, so wild with excitement. They were shocked and thrilled that the quiet boy who sat in the back of the class, never saying much, had won this schoolwide race!
The Boy’s Life Changed Forever That Day
The bullies must have seen or heard about his breakout race because they no longer picked on the boy at the same spot every day. He also sensed new respect from his classmates after his life-changing race and repeatedly heard, "That Weber sure can run fast!"
Yes, you see, that ten-year-old boy in the story was me. At the time, I had no idea how life-changing this short race would be.
Not only would it be the springboard to a long successful running career, but more importantly, I would start to view myself and my worth differently. I realize now that I was accepting life just as it came, accepting the bullying, accepting a sub-par life.
As a young child, with the race's success, I was happy to find something I was good at. I didn’t realize the true significance of what had just happened. As a mature adult looking back, I can see how this race laid the first few bricks of a firm foundation in belief.
Moving forward, the coach who had asked me to give running a try noticed my talent at the elementary school race. He didn’t just celebrate this win but encouraged me to develop this talent by connecting my parents and me with an area summer track coach. My parents then had the foresight and vision to enroll me in a summer track program, another watershed moment in my life.
I won the state Junior Olympics in the long jump by jumping barefoot in my first summer of track and field and placed second in the 75-yard dash.
For some reason, I refused to wear shoes when my parents and coaches asked me to do so. I explained to them I was faster without them. My explanation must have worked because I continued running without shoes for several years.
I was also a bit of a non-conformist at an early age—a trend that continued throughout my life. I did not accept the status quo easily. My non-conformist bent was a gift, an innate trait to help me see the world differently..
As long as I can remember, I’ve questioned the current ways of doing things. Something inside me consistently tries to find a better way because there is typically a better way to implement any activity in life. God gives us certain gifts that help us step into His will for our lives.
Running without shoes worked well for me; I was not too fond of the restriction of how shoes felt on my feet. So I was determined to stick with this non-conventional way of running.
My Belief Begins To Grow
I was also starting to believe and have more confidence in myself throughout the summer track and field season in my abilities as a runner and track and field athlete. As a result, my grades started to pick up in the fall due to my newfound confidence, and I started coming out of my social shell. I was beginning to understand and step into my gift.
My elementary coach, my parents, and the summer track coach recognized and continued to encourage my God-given talent, and the rest, as they say, was history.
Trying to help a child find something worthwhile to be good at an early age is essential. Their gift and newfound belief will boost their confidence for many other life challenges.
A few moments in life genuinely can change your life for the better, forever. Some people call these moments, moments of truth. One small moment like winning a simple race can alter a person's life course in unique life-giving ways.
I am incredibly grateful for my youth and elementary coaches, who saw something I did not see in myself.
When someone truly believes in you, the sky is the limit. All things become possible for those who believe. Belief is the forerunner of actions in life. Sometimes it takes someone else in our journey to help us think and find that one thing that will unlock our God-given potential and get us to the starting line.
Running gave me a place to fit in where I could make a difference in the lives of others on many different levels. The simple gift of running, my first 10-second race, and growing belief in my God-given abilities was the lifeline that would help transform my life forever.
Running was a game-changer for my life. That's one reason I spend so much time on it and still coach and seek out kids who can use some help in life.
I am telling my story hoping that parents will actively intervene in their kids' lives if they don't fit in for some reason. Running is one tool to help kids find and reach their God-given potential.
Primary Insights: Your entire world can change for the better instantly, even if just one person genuinely believes in you, like the coach who got me involved in running. Surround yourself with people who genuinely care about and believe in you. Go where love reigns.
I was ten years old in this picture.