Three Keys to the Life of a Scholar-Athlete

Every student must first live a humble life. They should always take their studying, athletic and later vocational endeavors seriously. However, they should avoid taking themselves too seriously, for that is the beginning of arrogance. Arrogance offends other people and has no redeeming qualities.

As an athlete, learn to lose with dignity and win with grace, knowing all competitors are children of God. By performing in such a manner, you will be respected and admired by your follow athletes and coaches.

John Wooden, ultra-successful basketball coach at UCLA, said it quite eloquently:

Natural Talent is God-Given; Be Humble,

Fame is Man-Given; Be Grateful,

Conceit is Self-Given; Be Careful.

The well-rounded students take their math as seriously as their mat, gym, or playing field activities. This prepares them for their futures as adults, be it college or the trades. This is, by no means, a novel or contemporary point of view. The origins of the scholar-athlete can be found as far back as the Greek civilization. Consider the following quote from a prominent Greek intellectual:

He who is only an athlete

is too crude, too vulgar, too much of a savage;

He who is a scholar only is too soft;

The ideal citizen is the scholar-athlete;

A man of thought and a man of action.

Plato, philosopher and wrestler

After over 70 years of maturing as a mortal and spiritual being, I have learned that there are three pillars for successful living: prayer, perseverance, and patience.

Prayer: Pray daily and thank God for all your blessings. Prayer has been a large part of my life since childhood. My mother taught my brother and me how to pray.

In fact, as athletes (wrestlers, to be specific), our mother instructed us to pray, not to win, but to do our best and that neither we nor our opponents were hurt during competition. She believed that one should never pray to win because, as she noted, God has no favorites.

There were two very important times in my life that I prayed fervently for two teaching and coaching situations I wanted so badly. I was turned down for both positions which put me a state of deep depression.

At first, I was upset with God for not answering my prayers. They were opportunities I felt would never come along my way again. I was wrong, and it wasn’t until decades later that I realized how blessed I was not being offered those professional opportunities. God did answer my prayers. Let me explain.

My epiphany came when I read an article about the actor, Kirk Douglas. Later in life, Mr. Douglas found God and was a firm believer in prayer. A friend sarcastically said to him, “Kirk, God doesn’t answer all prayers. Heck, I have prayed for a number of things over the years, and they never were answered.”

Kirk Douglas replied, “Oh yes, they were answered, but the answer was ‘No!'”

Such were also God’s answers to me so long ago.

Never stop praying.

Perseverance: The cornerstone to success in life is the will power to move forward no matter what obstacles confront you. If you truly possess the human spirit to persevere, you will have the ability to accept many failures along life’s path, learn from them, and continue to move toward the goals you have set for yourself.

Many of our greatest writers, artists, and brilliant thinkers faced numerous rejections and disappointments, often reinventing themselves, before reaching the heights of universal fame.

They ultimately became legendary individuals because “giving up” was not part of their psychological nature.

Patience: It’s not only a virtue, but also the third requisite for a successful life. We often have to wait for our turn to shine, and not rush or force things to happen prematurely when we are not fully prepared. Instead, we must keep evolving and preparing ourselves via studying and listening to the wisest in our fields of expertise.

I have said many times, “Always listen to the advice of the person with the most experience because s/he has made the most mistakes.”

In essence, patience has been explained best by Mark Twain decades ago:

“The two most important days of our lives are the day we were born and — with patience — the day we find out why.”

To be successful in life, you must face personal challenges head-on by preparing yourself in mind, body and spirit. In doing so, you will achieve your goals and learn that the struggle is truly the glory of the human experience.

Editor’s Note: William A. Welker, EdD has published numerous practical papers on the art and science of teaching and coaching during his 40-year career. Upon retiring, he was selected as “Teacher of the Year” by the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce. He also received West Virginia University’s prestigious Jasper N. Deahl Award for his contributions to education and community service.


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