by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
It’s a new year. Approach it with excitement. It is filled with promise. It is filled with a new chance to live up to your best potential …
Let the stories of these young athletes inspire you to leave your comfort zone and embrace the unknown. It can benefit any age!
Fourteen-year-old Milani Bethel tried a variety of sports during her elementary school years. At age nine, she joined the school track team. With track, she noticed something was different for her. Her parents realized the same as they watched their daughter succeed and flourish on the field.
Milani admits she didn’t enjoy running at first. She joined the cross-country team to follow her Dad’s athleticism. He ran track and played basketball throughout his youth. Milani especially disliked long-distance runs. In future seasons, she took on field events, including long jumps and javelin. A spark was lit under this runner’s feet.
Although her school only offered two track seasons, she found online opportunities that allowed her to compete year-round. This exposed Milani to more elite athletes through regional and national events. It was exciting. However, Milani confided it could be intimidating.
“When I’m not with my school team, I’m running ‘unattached.’ I’m alone most of the time, staring at a stadium of filled bleachers,” she says. Her father saw a sign that advertised youth sport training at the Center, and immediately called to inquire. From then, the Center became Milani’s “home team,” providing support and training during her school’s off season.
She traveled to California, where she competed in the Athletic Amateur Union (AAU) West Coast Nationals. She earned three medals there, and qualified for the national level. With every event, Milani disproved the long-held belief that “unattached participants,” those who run without a team, are lacking. Filled with pride, she took time to acknowledge her “coaches” at the Center.
“My trainers—Scotty, Kevin, and Melinda– explained how each part of my workout helped me improve my performance,” she relates. Milani was introduced to weight training. She learned how something like arm strength can increase running speed. She didn’t just train anymore. She learned how to advance.
Milani will return to the Center before her indoor season starts to safely pace her training. As a year-round athlete, she appreciates professional guidance to help her avoid injuries while maximizing her skills. (Her parents appreciate this, too.) Her Dad calls the Center’s sport performance training for youth a unique blessing. But Milani is the true blessing.
When asked her favorite type of running events, without hesitation, she said 5K charity runs. “Even though I love short-distance runs, sprints, and jumps, the charity events are my favorite. I know I’m helping others and raising money for a good cause,” Milani shares. It’s not a surprise that her dad is self-proclaimed as Milani’s biggest cheerleader.
With a history that only included some middle school basketball, Caleb Caviness’ jump to junior varsity starter for his high school team took time and toil. Those familiar with high school sports know many join with a well-established history of playing. However, Caleb had limited involvement in sports prior to high school. He did not consider himself athletic.
During his sophomore year in high school, Caleb tried out for basketball. He made the team but spent the season on the bench. Putting in that time motivated him to get better. Caleb used his time as a team bench-warmer to train harder. He had some catching up to do.
“I started to become the person I am now through sport performance training at the Center,” notes Caleb. He enjoyed working with the Center’s fitness experts who specialize in youth athletics.
“I was challenged to become the best player I can.” This inspiration extended beyond Caleb’s training at the Center. He did drills and other b-ball work on his own. Variety, backed by professional training, helped him excel. As Caleb grew stronger, he also gained confidence and a powerful mindset.
“I found a mentor in Trainer Scotty. He helped me learn patience, remain committed, and believe in myself,” remarks Caleb after a game he filled with steals, blocks, and rebounds.
His time at the Center surpassed a physical workout. A first-string basketball player emerged, stronger in technique as well as the confidence required of a top-rate player.
At a time in life when leaving one’s comfort zone can be daunting, Caleb takes brave steps to become an athlete among his more established teammates. His advice resonates with all of us as we welcome a new year with its bold challenges:
“Keep striving. Hold onto your goals. Sooner or later, you will make them a reality.”