Champions In Everything They Do
Studying videos of opponents is something that many coaches throughout the world do regularly. What makes each coach unique is what they do with the information. For Special Olympics Team USA floor hockey coach Keith Nelson, he opted to focus on healthier lifestyles as the path to success. Upon learning of the team’s selection to represent the United States at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in the Republic of Korea, Coach Nelson knew he had more to tackle than just sports technique and training: many on his team had a very real challenge to address – being overweight. He and his other coaches determined through the analysis that they could win more games with speed and endurance. This would require the team to focus on a combination of weight loss, strength training and self-motivation.
Coach Nelson chose his own son Ryan to be the catalyst for team change. He thought that it was important for one of the coach’s sons to be the lead example. Ryan committed to giving up soda, bettering his food choices and participating in the daily workout program laid out by his coaches. Following Ryan’s example, 14 of his team members embraced the team’s strategy. Of the 14 who took Coach Nelson’s challenge, 13 lost weight. With the World Winter Games as their motivation, the floor hockey team from Southern California cumulatively lost more than 400 pounds.
Their focus was not solely on weight loss, but also daily movement, reducing body fat and teaching exercises the athletes could do at home, without equipment. The team developed a mantra they called “Champions.” They rightly believe that they are Champions in everything they do, on the court, in training, off the court, and in their daily personal and work lives. It was about making a conscious lifestyle change. This lifestyle change would in turn lead to the increased team speed and endurance that their analysis said would help them win games. Coach Nelson learned that like him, some of his athletes were type 2 diabetics. The Coach’s reflection only deepened his belief that this is the best thing for not only the team, but also for each athlete’s well-being.
One of the 13 athletes who lost weight was Teddy Leonard. Teddy accepted the challenge with open arms and lost more than 40 pounds or 10% of the team’s total weight loss. Teddy said that losing weight and becoming healthier has helped his team finally beat other teams they had lost to in the past. It’s obvious that while speaking with Teddy, he has seen tremendous value in being part of this team. He no longer uses the word “can’t” and decided to become a listener as opposed to speaking all of the time, all while becoming a healthier athlete.
Listening obviously pays huge dividends as Teddy learned. He and his team will head to the Republic of Korea in January to show off their newfound speed and endurance at the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games. While this is a competition and the floor hockey team is travelling to win, Coach Nelson and his team have already shown the world that they are champions in everything they do.