The Same Standards for All

Because I am a visually impaired adult I have had many opportunities to speak to parents of visually impaired children who quite literally want to know how I’m doing.   They want to know how I dealt with being visually impaired as a kid and how I am handling life as a visually impaired adult.   They want to know if I went to college, if I played sports, if I am married, if I have kids and if I do have kids are they visually impaired too.   To answer those questions, I did go to college and have a BS in exercise science and an MS in computer information systems.   If you are reading this blog, you should know I am still pretty heavily involved in sports, but in high school I wrestled, ran track, and was on a cycling team.   I am married to a woman who is not visually impaired, and we have a son who is also not visually impaired.   So basically, what they want to know, is will their kids be able to lead normal lives and they want to know how they should treat their children to help they have as normal a life as possible.

Scott Moore showing his Paralympic Gold medal to a group of kids.

Scott Moore showing his Paralympic Gold medal to a group of kids.

Because I am visually impaired and more specifically because I am a visually impaired judoka, and even more specifically, now that I am a coach of the US Paralympic Judo team, coaches often as me how they should treat/teach visually impaired judoka who come into their clubs wanting to learn judo.

The focus of this article is obviously the judo aspect but my answer or my philosophy in both of these situations is pretty much the same and I feel I can best explain my feeling on this situation if I speak from some personal experiences both as a visually impaired kid and athlete.

I’ll start by answer both questions.   How do you treat visually impaired kids and visually impaired athletes?   Just like everyone else!   I am certainly no model parent and because I only have one son who is not visually impaired, maybe I cannot speak to the issue of raising visually impaired kids from a parental perspective.   I can however speak to this issue as a child of a parent who had two sons; one who is visually impaired and one who is not.   I’m not going to sit here and tell you I have the greatest mother in the world.   I do, but I’m not going to sit here and tell you that.   I believe with all my heart that the way my mother treated me as a child and teenager has played huge role in my success, not only in judo but in life.   What she did was treat me just like she treated my older brother. That doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but it truly is.   My mother never sheltered me and treated me like a visually impaired kid who needed special treatment or special protection.   She treated me like a kid.   Don’t get me wrong, as a parent we are expected to protect out children and there were times or situations that, because of my visual impairment, I needed extra help or a little extra protection, but, just like with my brother, she allowed me to experience things and learn from my mistakes.   Because I was a very adventurous boy, we made a few trips to the emergency room or doctor’s office for casts and stitches.   These injuries did not come from me being blind, they came from me doing things that I probably should not have been doing.   I will not say that I always learned from my mistakes the first time either.

The point I am trying to make here is that because my mother never held me back and never treated me specially, I grew up believing I could do anything I set my mind to doing.   She also understood my limits and helped me find different ways to accomplish thing things I wanted to accomplish.   She taught me to work hard and that if I really wanted something, if I was willing to work for it, there was nothing I could not do.     My brother never cut me any slack either.   He treated me just like any older brother treated an annoying little brother.   He certainly never minded hitting a kid with glasses.   He certainly made me tough.   He also inspired me to excel in sports like he did.   My bother played everything when he was a kid and played everything well. Just like everything else, I had to find my own way to excel.   When we played baseball, when I hit the ball I could hit it to the fence, but I struck out far more often the I got a hit so I realized baseball was not my sport, so I found my way to wrestling which eventually lead me to judo.

So to my mother and brother, I say THANK YOU! You probably have no idea the role you both played in my success!

Scott Moore at a Paralympic Training camp

Scott Moore at a Paralympic Training camp

Now, on to judo!   I pretty much have the same philosophy when working with visually impaired athletes.   In this instance I can speak from both sides; as a visually impaired athlete, and a coach of visually impaired athletes.   As an athlete, I can tell you that I never wanted to be treated like a visually impaired athlete; I wanted to be treated like everyone else and held to the same standard as everyone else.  Just like with anything else, I sometimes had to go about learning a little differently than everyone else but when it came to being critiqued on my technique or graded on a belt test, I was held to the same standard as everyone else.   My sensei, Connie Lavergne, use to say “Perfection is all I ask” and she expected the same level of perfection from me that she expected from my classmates.   She also never praised me after losing a match and patted me on the back and said “good job” when it was not.   I would never accepted that type of treatment, and I challenge all blind and visually impaired people, whether in judo or another sport or in college or anywhere else, not to accept people praising you for anything less than your absolutely best!   I think that there is an epidemic in this country of celebrating mediocrity.   I see it so much in youth sports and I often see coaches praise visually impaired athletes for a poor performance.   Praising me for a poor performance teaches me that I don’t have to try hard, I can just go out there and not try, and then be celebrated for a lack of effort, and that is doing me a disservice.

I am not saying that you should not praise an athlete who gives their best effort and falls short.   We all lose, but if I leave it all on the mat and fall short you can praise the effort but that does not mean you should not correct my mistakes or work with me on how I can overcome whatever situation led to the loss.

As coach, I am amazed when I see a visually impaired athlete doing something incorrectly and then I see a coach say, “Great Job” then turn around and correct a sighted student who is doing the same thing or even doing it better.   As an athlete I wanted to learn and get better just like my teammates.   If I am doing something wrong or incorrectly, I want to be corrected.   It may feel better to hear that I am doing a wonderful job, but I would rather be corrected so my technique is actually good and more importantly to me, will work in competition.

Scott Moore with 2011 World Bronze medal winner, Myles Porter at the 2011 IBSA World Championships

Scott Moore with 2011 World Bronze medal winner, Myles Porter at the 2011 IBSA World Championships

I know it can be a challenge and even though I was a visually impaired athlete, I had to learn to teach visually impaired athletes.   As coach it is my job teach judo to everyone who comes into my dojo wanting to learn.   I have had many blind and visually impaired athletes come through my club and it has been a learning process from me and I have worked with our other instructors as well.     I hold blind and visually impaired athletes to the same standards as every other member of my club.     That may mean that I spend a little more time with someone who needs it or I might have to change my approach to teaching a technique to help someone who cannot see, and I am ok with that.   I will always give more of my time if someone needs help as long as they are putting forth the effort to learn.

As I said earlier, I would never allow someone to treat me differently because I don’t see as well.   By doing that, I am basically agreeing that I cannot be as good as the other students, and it is unacceptable for someone to treat me that way or for me to allow them to.

I like quotes so I’ll end with a quote I tell people and a quick story.

“Never limit yourself by the perceptions of others” – Scott  Moore

After moving to Colorado to train full-time with the Paralympic coach, I went back and fought in my home club’s annual tournament that I had helped start and name, the Swamp Classic.   I fought a tough match and though I fought hard, I did not fight well and lost.   When I came off the mat, one of the kids in my old college club who knew who I was because my sensei had talked about me being World and Paralympic champion patted me on that back and said that I had done a great job.   I knew he was saying it partly because it was a brawl, but mostly because he was impressed, not by my skill, but because he knew I was visually impaired and fought so hard.   I just smiled and asked what match he was watching because I fought terribly.   I knew he didn’t mean it as a slight in any way but I have never wanted anyone to be proud that I am visually impaired and am working hard.   I want to be praised because I am an athlete who is working hard.

Thanks for reading.

Talk to you soon….

What Makes a Champion Part 3 – Hard Work

I started this series about some of the key components I believe make a champion.  If you have not read the first two installments please take time to read those.  The first was just  What Makes a Champion, where I mostly talk about making  sacrifices  and how a champion will do what other are not willing to do.  Part 2 was called  What Makes a Champion Part 2 – Desire,  where I talked about the deep burning desire to win and even after victory, how champions are always looking to improve.  In keeping with my brilliant naming scheme I am calling my final installment, at least for now, What Makes a Champion Part 3 – Hard Work.

Scott Moore throwing China for a yuko in the final in the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games

Me throwing China for a yuko in the final in the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games

I talked a little about this topic in part 1 of this series and hard work may sound like a no-brainer, but its just like common sense, I have found common sense to be not nearly as common as you would think.  I don’t think it comes from being lazy, I believe it all comes down to what you have been exposed to and your perception.  I always thought of myself as a good athlete and I always worked hard in practice.  I must have, my gi was always really wet after practice, so I must have been working hard right?  Again it all came down to what I had been exposed to and my perception.  As I went up in rank the techniques of judo became easier and the more sparring and fighting I did, the better I got and the easier it came to me, so while I was still doing the same things in practice, it was getting easier as I got better, so I wasn’t having to work as hard to  achieve  greater success.  I still fought hard in competition because I already had the desire to win and hated to lose.  I often joke with my students that I would rather be hit by car than lose, and I have been hit by a car three times on my bike so I know what it feels like. I have always had that desire to win, and I was working hard for my level, but  I had a rude awakening in February of 1993.

I met Larry Lee in October of 1992 when he came to my judo club in Lafayette, LA to give a clinic because he was recruiting new visually impaired players after the 1992 Paralympic games and found out through my high  school wrestling coach that I was a brown belt in judo.  The clinic was great but he was there looking for new VI athletes so he invited me to a training camp with the team in Denver, that February.   You cannot believe how excited and nervous I was.    When we talked after the clinic, of course I told him I  trained  really hard and was excited to have a chance to go to camp and train with the Paralympic team.    I know it sounds silly but I had been a wrestler and I trained and competed against sighted judoka so I though, how tough could it be to work with other blind guys?  I had never been exposed to elite judo other than attending the occasional local  clinic  run by some high level player but we were still training with guys at our own level.  Well, these guys were elite players!  One of the guys on the team was Dr. Jim Mastro or as I like to think of him “freak of nature.”  Jim had been an alternate on the 1972 Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling team and is totally blind.  These guys were the real deal.

I had never been so uncomfortable in my life.  We stayed on rented cots in Larry’s basement right around the corner from his dojo.  The guys were really cool and made me feel like one of the guys off the mat, but on the mat, they beat me like I had never been beaten before.  Larry was yelling at them about coming to camp out of shape, even though it was the first camp after the Paralympic games, and I was in the corner dying.  I asked Jim Mastro if camp was always like this and he said, “oh no. This is much easier than normal!”  I almost started crying right then and there.  I went home after 4 of the toughest days I had ever experienced, bruised and hurting. Oh, and I had broken the cartilage between two of my ribs when I was thrown in a the tournament we had the day before the training session we had with 30 or so of the guys from the Olympic  Training  Center.  I went home that Monday morning and limped into practice that afternoon and everyone was so excited to see how I had done.  When my Sensei, Connie Lavergne, came over and asked how it went, I looked at her and said, “I’ve gotta pick it up!  Those guys are insane!”  So I took a few days to recover and that is what I did.  I had come home with some tips from Larry and talked on the phone with him periodically (email wasn’t so big yet), and I started hitting the gym with more purpose and spending more time on the track.  I still got beat down at my next camp but it wasn’t nearly as bad.

Scott Moore fighting China in the finals in the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games

Scott Moore fighting China in the finals in the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games

I’m telling you this story because up until that February, I truly believe I was training hard, so it was tough to find out that not only was I not pushing as hard as I would need to if I was going to make a World or Paralympic team, I was not nearly as good as I thought I was – not even close.  I fought in my first World Championships in 1995 in Colorado Springs.  It was a big deal but not nearly as well attended as some of the Worlds I would go to later in my career.  I fought 86kg (189.2 lbs) and I won a bronze medal.  I was so excited when I came from behind and threw the Spanish player for ippon to take the bronze (goes back to that never giving up thing I talked about).  I bowed, shook his hand and ran over and hugged Larry and he said “Great Job, you will never see that weight class again!”  I asked what he was talking about and he told me I was going down. I said, “172? I can do that.”  He shook his head and I said, “there is no way I can make 156!”  He convinced me that with proper training and diet I could make it.

This is when I really found out what I was  capable  of, in terms of how hard I could work.   Larry convinced me that I was too short to fight at the elite level at 86 kg (before the weight classes were changed) and I had enough body fat make the cut.  This was in January of 1995, so I worked really hard and got down to 172 (78 kg) but seemed to stall at that weight.   We had a Paralympic team camp at my dojo at the beginning of the summer and Larry and I talked about how I could tweak my diet and my training schedule. We felt that once I made it the first time, it would be much easier to maintain but I had to make it the first time then get some tournament experience at the new weight.  I won’t go into  my diet but I will  tell you that when I took a sports nutrition class a year later and the teacher asked if anyone had done any extreme dieting and I told her what I did, she was disgusted wanted to get me into some nutritional  counseling.   One of Larry’s dieting tips was “if it tastes good, spit it out!”

Just to give you and idea of what I was doing, I’ll give you a typical day for me for the summer of 1995.

Eat a  banana  some other fruit
Go to the PE complex and workout with a weight lifting class my Sensei was teaching
Get on the bike for some cardio
Go back to main campus for a light lunch
I  would usually take a short nap either in the dojo or the locker room in the back under a bench
Two step aerobics classes that my Sensei taught with full sweats
I had 10 minutes to get to judo for a 2 hours practice
Then I would depending on the day go help  teach a kids class and workout for 1.5 hours with a continuing ed class or go home and eat dinner and rest
Then because it was so hot in the summer I would run at the out door track near my apartment for a minimum of 3 miles up to 5 after running stadiums
Then I would go home, shower and pass out

Bronze medal match at the 2003 Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece.

Bronze medal match at the 2003 Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece.

I made the weight for the first time that September at a tournament at Texas A&M.  As I said earlier, once I made the weight it was never easy but it was much easier than it was the first time.  I know I haven’t talked as much about hard work as the title led you to think I would, but I have been trying  make a point about how I thought I was working so hard until I met Larry and the Paralympic team. They put it all into perspective for me.  I could have gone on doing what I was doing.  Back at my dojo, everyone thought I was tough and trained so hard and fought so hard to win, but once I saw what was possible and was given the dream of going to the Paralympics and World Championships, there was no way I was not going to do whatever it took to make those new dreams come true.

I have never believed I was the most talented athlete on the mat or that I had the best technique.  What I had, along with great coaching and teammates, was an extreme desire to win, the ability to make tough  sacrifices  and  scary  decisions, and the willingness to  push my myself beyond what I thought was possible.  I do not want you to think it was easy and I just decided to work hard and that was it.  There were many times I questioned Larry, telling I could not go any further or push any harder.  He would always help me see that I could push harder. He would tell me that the body is stronger than the mind and that the body would not allow you work so hard you would hurt yourself.  He would say your body would protect you and you would pass out before you did any real damage.  I never knew if he was serious or not but he was always able to help (force) me to work harder than I thought possible.

I also said I didn’t win because I was always the best, I won because I refused to lose. I always had the ability to dig deep and push harder and find a way to win.  Of course I did not always win, but I often beat superior judo players because I had more heart.  I use to run with a good friend and teammate in college and he was a much better runner than I was, but when we ran 4 or 5 miles I almost always won, even though “we weren’t racing”.  I would push the pace early and even if it meant I was going to hurt, I knew I could dig deep and find just enough in the tank so when we got to the final mile I would pull it out and beat him.  It always hurt so much but I felt if I could not dig deep in training I would not be able to find that reserve when a match got tough.  He would always say my inability to lose to him was on a cellular level and I had no control over it.  We both knew he was a better runner and a great athlete.

One last thing on me and my work ethic.  After my teammate, Kevin Szott, and I won gold medals at the Paralympic Games in Sydney in 2000, we did a sponsorship event in Colorado Springs for US Paralympics, which was new at the time.  We were spending the day with a group potential sponsors  from all over the country.  Larry was not able to make it so they showed a video he did, talking about Kevin and I and our program. I had never seen this video but he said that when he met me, I was the rawest judo player he had ever met.  I took that to mean the worst.  But he said that what I didn’t have in  technical ability, I made up for with enthusiasm and an incredible work ethic.    He said he knew he could teach me the judo but he could not teach  tenacity, or desire.  He could teach me to train hard and show me what it took to make it at the elite level but I had to be willing to do the work, he could not do it for me.  He said I had all the things he could not give me and he could teach me the rest.  I have lost many matches in the 19 years I competed in judo, but I never lost, at least not since I met Larry, because I was out of shape or I did not give it my all!

Never Give Up - Frog in a Crane's mouith, choking the crane

Never Give Up

I by no means believe that anyone can become a champion by possessing the three attributes from this series alone.  I chose these three attributes because they are three of the many things that contributed to my success as an athlete.  There are, of course many other factors that have  contributed  to my success but these three things had to come from me.  You can find good coaches, you can move, like I did, to a place where you have better training opportunities and higher level training partners, but the desire to win had to come from me.  I could not go out and find that, no matter how far I traveled.  I may find great coaching, and great training partners but I had to do the work if I was going to be successful.  Sacrifices may sound easy but knowing what I have to do and actually having the guts to go for it and risk failure is not an easy thing to do.  I struggled for several months with my decision to move to Colorado to train with Larry and to train at the Olympic Training Center.  I had to find the desire to win and the absolute unwillingness to give up.  My first 4 months in Colorado were terrible.  I had a job I hated with a boss who hated me, I was getting my butt kicked 2-3 times a week at the OTC and the only people I knew in Colorado were through judo.  I thought about moving back to Louisiana many times.  The thing that kept me here was there was no way I was going to go home knowing I had not given ever effort to realize my dream of winning a Paralympic Gold medal.  If I gave it my all and failed I would at least be able to hold my head up knowing I had done everything humanly possible to succeed.

I’ll end with this.  My sports  physiology  professor in college gave us a cartoon of a frog being eaten by a crane.  From inside the bird’s mouth the frog had its hands around thecrane’s neck trying to choke it and the caption said “Never Give Up!”  That  is how I see competition.  If you want to be a champion, always give your all and above all – Never Give Up!

Thanks so much for reading my series.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and have taken something useful from these articles.  If you have please share the series with others and feel free to leave a comment.

Check out the entire series
What Makes a Champion Part 1
What Makes a Champion Part 2 – Desire
What makes a Champion Part 3 – Hard Work

Talk to you soon…

What Makes a Champion Part 2 – Desire

I started tis topic about what makes a champion last week. If you have not already read it, you should go back and check out part one of What Makes a Champion where I talk about making sacrifices. You don’t have to read these in order but it might help to follow my train of though on the subject.

Scott Moore throwing Pier Morten of Canada in his first match in the 2000 Paralympic Games

Scott Moore throwing Pier Morten of Canada in his first match in the 2000 Paralympic Games

This week I am going to talk about desire. You might thing that everyone has the desire to win or to be successful, but I do not believe that to be the case. I do believe that most people when participating in a sport or any activity do try to do their best and hope to win, but hoping you do well is totally different from that deep seated desire to win or the complete unwillingness to lose. This does not mean that champions never lose, the difference is how they view winning and losing. Last night I was talking about this topic with my wife, Heidi Moore, and she told me the great quote she had written on the mirror in her college dorm room that I think is perfect for this discussion:

Winning isn’t everything, wanting to is – Heidi Moore

A champion’s every thought and action in training is about getting better than the day before. A champion is always trying to improve, even on a victory. Only someone driven by the true desire to be the best will come off of the field of play after what others see as a great victory and brood about mistakes and how they can improve on their performance. I remember several years ago at a tournament in Dallas, a teammate of mine had a tough match but won with a big throw. She came off the mat and asked me how upset our coach was about all the mistakes she had made during the match. I told her he was pretty annoyed and she said we must have the only coach in the building who would be just as upset with a bad win as he would be with a loss. I find myself now as a coach feeling the same way when one of my athletes wins a match but plays poorly. I will praise them for the win but will then immediately talk to them about the mistakes they made and how we are going to avoid making those same mistakes in the next match.

One of the problems I always had as an athlete is that I expected everyone to want to win as badly as I did and to work as hard as I did. I have the problem as a coach. As any coach does, I want my students/athletes to be successful. I sometimes find myself wanting them to win more than they seem to. That is the difference between average and elite athletes. Over the years I have had many athletes tell me they are going to be a national, world, or Paralympic champion. My first thought has always been, “Great, now let’s get to work.” It is, of course, much easier to say you are going to be a champion than it is to do it. Over the years my attitude has changed and my first thought now is often, “Great, now prove it.”

If an athlete is willing to work hard and give 100% of themselves I have always been willing to give the same back to them. What I sometimes notice is that I am giving more than the athlete.

When I coach someone, I want them to win as much if not more than I wanted to win myself. It may sound hokey, but I want them to feel the same thrill I felt when I was sanding on top of the podium listening to my National Anthem at the World and Paralympic games. I want to help the athletes I coach to do what I have done and more, but if I want it more for them than they do for themselves it will not happen. There is nothing wrong with someone not wanting to work that hard but you have to be realistic. You have to understand, no one just says they are going to be a national champion and then it just happens. When you see the top athletes, they do sometimes make it look easy, but what you do not see at the competition is all the years of blood, sweat, and tears, and hours and hours of training that go into becoming a champion.

As a coach, it is my job to help the athletes reach their full potential, but I can only guide them, I cannot do it for them. I have to be able to motivate them to push beyond what they thought possible, and to get up no matter how many times they fall. Extrinsic motivation (coming from outside yourself) is very important but not nearly as important as intrinsic motivation (coming from within). I can teach you, and push you, but no matter how hard I push or how much I try to motivate you, if you cannot motivate yourself, you will not reach your full potential.

In this article I have talked a lot about wining, but while winning is very important to me, wining is not the only thing that makes us winners. I’m not going to get all sappy

Scott Moore talking to Coach Willy Cahill at practice

Scott Moore talking to Coach Willy Cahill at practice

and say we are all winners because we tried, I don’t believe that either. I do believe that those with the true desire to win, who give their all day in and day out, but fall short of their dreams, are winners. I’ll use the Olympic and Paralympic Games as an example. Every two years a few thousand of the world’s best athletes have the honor of representing their countries in the two largest sporting events on the planet. Representing your country in international completion is the greatest honor for an athlete. Of the thousands of athletes who participate in the games, a very small percentage will ever win a medal. Even though the vast majority who participate only have an outside shot at a medal, at best, every athlete in those events goes in believing they can win. No one, or at least I hope no one goes to the Olympic or Paralympic games just hoping to participate. That may end up being their reality but no one goes to the games hoping for 2nd or 5th. Everyone goes to win. It is an honor just to go and to participate and to be a part of something so amazing, and win or lose they should all be very proud of their accomplishment but a champion is never satisfied with anything less that perfection!

Thanks for reading,

Talk to you soon…

What Makes a Champion

I started and restarted this article a few times and it started getting pretty lengthy so I decided to break it into a few articles.   My next post may not be on this topic but I will get the second one out soon.   This is not a formula to success by any means but it is a guide to my experiences and many of the factors that led to my success.

Scott Moore after winning the final in the IBSA1998 World Games - Madrid Spain

Scott Moore after winning the final in the 1998  IBSA  World Games – Madrid Spain

I don’t necessarily consider myself an authority on this topic but as a Paralympic judo athlete I have enjoyed some success.     I have won 4 medals at the 6 World Championships I competed in, 3 bronzes   (2 individual and 1 team) and one Gold at the 1998 IBSA World Championships in Madrid, Spain.   I have also competed in 3 Paralympic Games where I won 2 bronzes and 1 Gold in 2000 in Sydney, Australia.   I have never felt comfortable singing my own praises but I felt I should point this out just to illustrate that I do have some familiarity with being a champion.

Because I have been a successful athlete, many athletes, both visually impaired and sighted have asked me about how I became a champion and how they can do what I have done and more.     I would love to say that I am just a supremely gifted athlete but that would be quite an exaggeration. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe I have some natural athletic ability, and that certainly makes the road to athletic success little easier to travel.     I believe athletic success comes from a combination of many things.   Every athlete is different and needs different things but I will talk about some of the things that were most important in my athletic success and what I try to pass on to my students and the athletes I coach.

We have probably all heard hundreds of motivational quotes from famous athletes and celebrities about how winners never quit and quitters never win, or winners do what other are not willing to do, etc.   Well, they are correct.     One that I always liked, and I don’t know who said it first, is “Winners do what others are not willing to do!”     Becoming a champion requires that you make sacrifices and that you do things recreational athletes are not willing to do.     My friends and girlfriends did not always understand but when I decided I was going to be the first American to win a gold medal in judo in either the Olympic or Paralympic Games, I though myself 100% into the pursuit of my dream.   That did not mean I did not have fun or go to movies or out with my friends, it just meant that if you wanted me to go to dinner or to a movie it had to be after practice or whatever training session I had planned.   People use to ask me what I was going to do for my birthday, and even my anniversary.   If the special event fell on a judo day I would say “I’m going to practice!”

Scott Moore on top of the podium at the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney Australia

Medal Ceremony at the 2000 Paralympic Games – Sydney, Australia

I always tell the story about what a roommate I had in college said one day when I wasn’t at practice.   This was back in the early 90’s so cell phones were not yet necessary for survival, so when I didn’t show up for practice Mike said, “Scott must have been hit by a car on his way to practice, that dude never misses practice.”   When he got home from practice, I called him from the emergency room and informed him that I had been hit by a car on my way to practice. He was speechless!   I was hit in a parking lot by a woman who was not paying attention and I rolled across her hood then into the parking lot and up and across a median.     I let her go because I didn’t want to be late for practice but I think I was in shock because the pain had not set in yet.   When I was crossing the parking lot of the hospital where I eventually ended up, my bike fell apart so I locked it to a sign and walked to campus to catch the shuttle.   By the time I got to campus I could not lift my arm so I went back to the emergency room and missed practice.   This is an extreme example but I am just trying to illustrate that I had made a commitment to do whatever it took to be a champion and part of that commitment was never missing practice.   I had a 3rd degree separation of the AC joint in my shoulder from the accident so I was off the mat for a while but I still went to practice every day, and after the first few days I would take my shoes off and get on the mat to watch my sensei demonstrate techniques.

As I said earlier, being a champion takes a combination of many things but I believe the road to success starts with a decision to be successful then making the sacrifices necessary to achieve your dreams.

I do feel that some athletes and especially parents of athletes take this too far.     There has to be a balance, making sacrifices does not mean you cannot have friends or be in a relationship or go to school.   I won the World Championships a little over a month after I graduated from college, and I won a Gold medal at the Paralympic Games 3 months after getting married and a gall bladder surgery.   In 2003 I left the World Games a day early so I could turn in my final project in Graduate school and my 9-month-old son went to Athens with my wife to watch me fight in the 2004 Paralympic Games.     With the exception of the 1998 World Championships, I was working full-time during all of this.   I’m not trying to be boastful, I’m just pointing out that if you set your priorities and use your time wisely you can have a life while training.   I will admit that it does make it easier that my wife was also an elite judo player, so she understood why I was spending so much time in the gym, in fact, she was usually there with me.

One more thing on making sacrifices and I’ll end this installment.   I had a great sensei, Connie Lavergne, when I started judo.   She was not only a former elite judo player and a great teacher, she was like a second mother to those of us who were in the judo club and were there all the time.   She taught me so much and really prepared me to take the next step but when I started going to training camps and competition at higher levels she, along with my Paralympic coach, Larry Lee, told me that if I wanted to take the next step and really have a shot at the Paralympic Gold, I should move to Colorado where I could train with Larry full-time and train at the Olympic Training Center a few times a week.     I am very close to my family and had a life in Lafayette, Louisiana and to be honest was a little nervous by the prospect of moving away.   In my club I had become a big fish and was running many of the upper-level workouts.   In Colorado, I would be a minnow in a vast ocean of sharks.   What if I got there and failed?

I struggled with the decision for a while and after talking to Mrs. Lavergne and Larry, as well as my family and friends, I decided that I hade to move.   I could have stayed in Lafayette and told myself I could have or would have, and maybe I still would have, but what it came down to is that I was not willing to stay there and not make it.   There was no guarantee that I would make it if I moved but I would rather take the chance and fail than live the rest of my life wondering I was good enough and if I would have succeeded if I had taken the chance.   The way I see it, there is not shame in failing, there is only shame in not trying.

Please do not take this in any way as a rebuke of those who are only interested in being a recreational athlete.   One of the things I love about judo is that it is for everyone and I have trained with some really good judo players who were “recreational” players.    This is only meant to give my perspective on what it took for me to realize me dream of becoming World and Paralympic Champion.

To finish out this installment of this series, I will give you a quote that you may have seen in my signature on other posts.  As an athlete and now as a Paralympic coach, I am often asked for a bio with a personal quote and I got tired of looking for a cool quote so I come up with this one and I think it goes well with what I am talking about in this article.

“If you are not willing to work hard to realize your dreams, why bother dreaming?”
– Scott Moore

Check out the latest article in this series:
What Makes a Champion Part 2 – Desire

Thanks for reading,

 

I’ll talk to you soon,