I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy several different sports throughout the years. In that time, I’ve also had the pleasure of training with all kinds of coaches.
I’ve had mild ones who taught through calm instruction and hard-nosed ones who believed in tough love. Interestingly, I respond fairly well to either tactic; I simply thrive when there’s some kind of driving force encouraging me.
One of the coaches who fell somewhere in the middle of soft and ruthless was Kendrick Releford, a professional heavyweight boxer known in his sport as “The Apostle.”
Kendrick, who has a passion for helping people reach greater personal fitness, had just one rule: “‘I can’t,’ don’t exist!”
Kendrick obviously didn’t expect everyone to develop the same abilities or strength, but he did insist that everyone was capable of improving. If an exercise was too intense, you didn’t get to skip it; you modified it. Every effort made would move the needle, at least a little bit.
Memories of my time training with Kendrick came rushing back when I read John Henry’s “Gettin’ Personal With …” article on page 66 in the April 1 magazine about para-reiner Fred Win. What a great reminder that accepting defeat is unacceptable!
I won’t spoil the story, but Mr. Win sure doesn’t make excuses for anything. If anyone was worthy of a pass to give up on a goal without judgement, it’s him. But, no. He takes what might seem impossible and morphs it like a Rubik’s Cube until it becomes something he can master.
I think adapting to your situation is a key component to finding a way to persevere. It might be easier to make excuses and quit, but sometimes a little flexibility can give you a new perspective. Then, as you gain momentum, there’s nothing stopping you from returning to the lofty ambitions you originally had.
Allow me to offer up an example from my own life. Like most horse-crazy girls, I dreamed of being some superstar competitor who rode phenomenal horses and won everything. Even at a young age, it doesn’t take much to realize that isn’t reality for most people. But, with a little adjustment to my goals, I was on my way.
Step 1: Get the horse. I grew up on a farm, but my family’s old Quarter Horse died when I was just a little kid. I dreamed of owning a finished athlete, of course, but a project horse is all I could manage. A work in progress was better than no horse at all, so I com- promised. One step forward …
Step 2: Learn. The dream was to train with the best, to take lessons from one of my heroes so I could rise to their level. The reality is the legends were all out west and we didn’t have extra money for training anyway. So, I picked up books and I read. I made countless errors while trying to translate the written word into practice, but I didn’t let it stand in my way. Another step forward …
Steps 3, 4 and 5 involved a lot of twisting and turning on the way to my ultimate goal — the winner’s circle. What began as child- hood visions of the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) gradually morphed into local open shows and the state 4-H circuit. The end result differed in many ways from the dream of that horse-crazy kid, but fulfilling my mission was no less meaningful.
Some might read this and be of the opinion that I downgraded, settled or lost my drive. I prefer to think of it as realizing I needed a different path to achieve success and happiness. Rather than using rigidity to justify failure, I left the excuses at the door and persisted. I made it happen.
Spoiler alert: After years out of the show pen, I came back on the same horse in 2015 to win my first belt buckle and a reserve World title. No, it’s still not the NFR, but it’s my journey and I’m proud of it.
As much as we all hate to admit that our parents were right, what they said is true. If there’s a will, there’s a way.
So, what do you do when the outcome seems almost predetermined by any number of factors? Do you give up, run, cower or fight? While I’m not so naïve to believe that anything is possible, I hope my story and Mr. Win’s inspire you to push onward with your own endeavors. Like my old coach Kendrick says, “‘I can’t,’ don’t exist!”
This Insights & Opinions column was published in the April 1 issue of Quarter Horse News. To purchase this issue, click here.