USA Olympic Gymnastics and National Team Dr. Larry Nassar Has it "Right"!!! - Part II
[If you’re here, then I assume you’ve read Part I…and are interested to find out what happened to Billy (along with his father Dan and the family). If not, I would suggest you review Part I before reading on as the complete story represents what happens when the focus for success in sports is incorrectly placed.]
Billy was ranked in the top ten in the country; college coaches were offering him scholarships to every major basketball program in the nation. A few professional teams took interest in him skipping college and going straight into the professional arena. Dan was so proud of his son. He continued to impress upon Billy how important this year was for him. Billy would be able to make large sums of money by having either his college paid for or obtaining a professional contract. Even if Billy attended college, Dan thought he could leave school early and join a professional team for millions of dollars. Dan thought he was going to be able to retire early and live off investing some of his son’s earnings. Billy now felt the entire livelihood of his family resting on him. He had to become the best in the country . . . no matter what. His anabolic steroid use increased. He seemed to become focused on everything except for the detail work of improving his skills.
Every summer, Dan brought his family to his mother’s house for the 4th of July parade and party in the small town where he grew up; his mother, now 85 years old, and five older brothers and sisters still lived there with their families. This year he did not take the family “up-north” for the celebration. Instead, they went to watch Billy play in a basketball tournament. So, when Dan’s brothers and sisters gave him a difficult time regarding his decision to watch Billy play instead of celebrating the 4th with family, Dan promised to bring his family for Thanksgiving. Although Dan would have preferred Billy stay home and practice his ball skills, he accompanied his family for the holiday gathering.
The family arrived in Dan’s hometown the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Dan woke Billy early Wednesday morning to practice before they left for Billy’s Grandmother’s house. Wednesday night, Dan spent the night with his wife at his mother’s house in the same bedroom that he slept in when he was a child. It actually made him feel uncomfortable. Dan could not understand why he had this strange feeling. All of his family made him feel very welcome, and they were all proud of Billy’s success. No one could believe how large Billy was. He had increased his weight by forty pounds in the last year. He looked very intimidating.
Dan arranged for the high school gym to be opened for Billy to practice Thanksgiving Day before dinner. Several of Billy’s cousins went to the gym with him to play a game of basketball for fun as they had done so often in the past at family gatherings. This time things were different. Shortly into the game, Billy started swearing loudly when he missed shots. He never had used that type of language before around his cousins. He then started to become too physical by using his elbows and hips in very aggressive acts to fight for the ball underneath the basket. His cousins told him to calm down, but Billy just became more aggressive. Then, it happened. He threw his massive elbow around and hit his much smaller cousin in the side of the head. His cousin was knocked unconscious and his face was bleeding. Instead of feeling sorry, Billy yelled at him for getting in his way. His other cousins called for an ambulance.
Dan had been watching the game with one of his sisters. As his sister started talking about the days when he used to play in the same gym, that strange feeling he had the night before became more intense. Then, the catastrophe occurred and Dan went to the hospital in the ambulance with his nephew. Billy’s cousin was diagnosed with a severe concussion and had to spend the night in the hospital. The doctors were unsure how much permanent brain damaged occurred. Only time would tell.
Later that night, Dan’s mother spoke to him. To Dan’s surprise, she did not mention what occurred earlier in the day. Instead, she reminisced about how his father and he used to play basketball together. She spoke about the memories of Dan’s high school basketball team and how much fun they had even though they never won the league title. She reminded him of the values that his father had taught him. He then realized the strange feeling he had earlier; it was his past trying to reach his conscience. He could not believe how far from the path he had strayed. It took the reflection and storytelling of his 85-year-old mother to bring his thoughts back into alignment with his heart. He was now able to see how he let a sport take over and taint his family.
Dan realized he lost track of the true reason why he first introduced Billy to the game of basketball. He now saw that the attainment of success, the desire to win, and the pursuit of financial reward from his son playing basketball had become the main focus. He realized that he had given Billy a completely different sense of sport than what his father had given him.
Reflecting on this story, we can see at one level, the purpose of sport is: To enhance the physical and mental well being of all participants while performing in an activity that brings enjoyment.
It is through focusing on the physical and mental attributes of the skills involved in participating in the sport that performance is enhanced. A side effect of enhanced performance is the successful completion of competitions. In short, with proper physical and mental preparation, athletes have their best chance of winning. Winning then encompasses personal enjoyment, an expression of one’s love for playing a sport, and a means to build bonds between family and friends. The money and medals that may occur are an afterthought; they are the side effect of the enhanced performance; they are not the goal!
If we reflect beyond the benefits of appropriately designed and experienced training, we can see additional developmental possibilities and potential to be gained by the individuals involved; we could add to the training purpose expressed above, this developmental purpose of sport: To develop the capacity for the inner management and discipline required of us to be true to ourselves and to be self-determining in the complex and complicated situations life presents us.
We can see how both of these purposes complement one another and how they work together. With the right nature of training, we can develop the character to not only more truly represent ourselves, but also to more ably stand for the right and good. Done in this way, sport is a value adding process for society, and a healthy, meaningful experience . . . not only for the athlete, but for all involved.
The father in this story can represent parents, coaches, administrators, sponsors, athletes etc. The main point is that when you make the goal of winning medals and making money as your highest priority, bad things can happen. Everything else becomes secondary. It becomes much easier for people to compromise their morals in order to attain money and medals. When the focus is on performance, then people have a better chance of achieving their goals with less chance of compromising their morals and adversely affecting themselves and others. This concept applies not only with sports, but also with daily life. For example, if a student were to place obtaining high grades ahead of study habits, the student would find it much easier to cheat to obtain better grades, then by studying. I hope this story allows each reader to reflect on their own life and pursuit of their own goals.
Larry Nassar, D.O., A.T.C.
What a great piece and awesome reflection. I cannot begin to tell you how unquestionably accurate I believe Dr. Nassar’s last paragraph (italicized paragraph) to be. I have expressed identical thoughts on many occasions, and inferred the same in many pieces I have written, as it stands as a main focal point, or foundation, in Becoming a True Champion.
Thanks so much for allowing me to share your piece with visitors of my blog Dr. Nassar…my hope is that your writing, and its message, helps to make a difference.
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