Sailing an Olympic campaign at any age is a huge struggle, as a teenage athlete competing at an elite level it takes a village to make it work and I am extremely grateful to my friends and family for all their continued support over the years.
When I began racing sailboats back when I was well, much younger than I am today; I was highly influenced by my oldest sister who was twice my age and racing her Laser Radial at local and regional regattas. I watched her rig and sail and compete and make friends and I wanted to be just like Lianne! She is the reason that I begged my parents to let me start racing. Lianne’s support, encouragement and life have always been a huge example to how to be a success in everything I do.
Since that time I have experienced a lot of ups and downs in my sailing career. There have been times that I have wanted to throw in the towel and call it quits all together and there have been times where I have just haven’t known what to do or where to turn for answers. I have traveled around the globe and have drastically changed my life to pursue excellence in my sport. I have spent a considerable amount of money to play this game (compared to kids playing LAX or hockey) and have continually sought higher and more aggressive goals. Through it all, my friends and especially my family have been there to support me, push me and sometimes remind me of who I am and why I am where I am today.
When it comes to parents, there can be no doubt that my parents have gone above and beyond anything typical parents would do for the lofty dreams of their children. Each step, from wanting to sail locally, to travelling regionally, to Nationally and then international competitions, my parents have put in considerable time, effort, money and love to support my progress. Sure, there have been ups and downs along the way. There have been times when my parents have not given me what I want, have disagreed with what I need or have been a little more…or less supportive of my path than I have wanted. But overall I know that I would not have the life that I live today, I would not be the person I am today without their love and support. It takes a village.
Teenagers do not always get along with their parents, and that is not any different in my case. My parents want the best for me, and I know that but sometimes the approach they want me to take or the methods they want me to use when it comes to schoolwork, or training, or travel, or expenses, or friends or well, anything can be a little bit of a conflict. There are times when we argue (I know this is shocking to everyone that a 17 year old boy argues with his parents) and there are times when I can just get completely frustrated with their methods or their attitude towards my goals, but I know that they are doing everything they can to support me and want me to be successful both in my sailing and in my life. I know they love me as much as I love them! In reality, it takes a village to make this work!
I am coming to understand that while I may sometimes disagree with the ways that my parents want me to do things, or the way they approach my performance (in school and sport) may not always be the way I want it to be nor the way I might handle situations, I know that they want the best for me and they want me to be successful in everything I do. They love me and they want to help me not to fall into problems that others get stuck in and sometimes can’t get out of. I know that for better or worse, everything in my past has made me the person that I am today…and I am pretty happy with who I am today. I am driven, focused, uniquely refined in my ability to communicate (sometimes), I have goals, I know what I want my future to look like, I love my life and the people in my life and I look forward to each day and the challenges they bring. It takes a village to create a champion and I kinda like the village that surrounds me.
Sure, everyone can find a reason to complain about their past. Everyone has things they wish was different or better or looks into someone elses life and can say “I wish I had it like that”, but I know that everything I have in my life, my goals, my ambition, my future potential, my outlook, my friends and everything is the result of how I was raised and what I have experienced. I really like my life, and myself and I know that while the hard times in life are difficult while you are going through them that they make you appreciate what you have and know just how great the good times really are. I know that noone lives a perfect life, but I have to tell you that with it’s ups and downs that my life has been pretty awesome. If it takes a village to produce a champion, than my village is pretty incredible!
From here, I have a huge upwind challenge to get to the Olympics in Rio. The seas are going to be rough and my path will require a ton of hard work, long hours, dealing with difficult situations and interacting with people who have differing opinions, attitudes and thoughts about my life, my path, my future and well just me in general. I know that I am up to the challenge. From finding a full-time partner that wants to work as hard as I do and knows that we can win Gold in Rio, to fundraising the huge amount of money we need to successfully get us on the podium in 2016, to finishing highschool and getting into the best college for me; I have a lot of work to do and I know that it all requires immense effort and dedication to my own success. My family and my friends have given me the strength, the personal drive and the self image I need to get it done. It takes a village to make me believe in myself, to make me know that I can do it and to get me beyond the obstacles that will be placed in my path…and I know that I can, and will get there with your support and encouragement each and every day!
You will see me get frustrated, you might hear me complain. You will surely see me smile and there is no doubt that will will read my struggles, my successes and the lessons that I am learning along the way. I love my life, I don’t regret my past and I know that my future is bright and that I will achieve anything that I am willing to work harder for than anyone else is! I know that I will lose sometimes along the way when I should have won. I know that I will have glorious victories where I come from behind. I know that there will be tremendous ups and there will be dark downs, but that it life and life’s challenges are what make us who we are and give us strength to push further, be stronger and make us better people all around. I believe that sailing is the best sport in the world. It teaches, it encourages and it provides the full-range of emotions that are possible in life. I know that no one can make it in this sport on their own, that it takes a village to be at the top, and I know that my village gives me exactly what I need to be strong and focused and determined to make it! I will smile at you from the podium in Rio because I know that it is each of you that will have made that moment possible!