14 Lessons I've Learned Since 14

athletes Nov 30, 2020

What is one lesson you've learned since you were fourteen?

I asked that question to fourteen of my former college teammates. We were once all together on the Iowa State campus, but have now spread back out across the country. At fourteen, these girls were accomplished with big aspirations. They would go on to become (among other things) High School State Champs and All-Americans. Division I Walk-ons and Full-rides. Iowa State School Record Holders, Big XII Conference Champions and Division I All-Americans. They have been leaders, innovators, trailblazers and go-getters since they were young, yet admittedly, they didn’t know it all. Here is the advice they would give themselves;

I Would Tell My 14 Year-Old Self,

1. “Sport is meant to be FUN. Don't ever let anyone (a coach, a teammate, a parent, an opponent) take the fun out of what you do. And never give up because you never know where your talent will take you.” Jummy Alowonle Barlass. Park High School, Cottage Grove, MN. Stay-at-home Mama and Track Coach in Eden Prairie, MN.

2. “I always worked harder than anyone I knew, but I wish someone told me that I was undoing it all by not getting enough rest and poor nutrition.” -Lauren Lewis Connor. Southern Regional High School, Waretown, NJ. Owner CrossFit ARX in Arkansas.

3. “1) Just have fun. 2) The work will pay off. More importantly now: 3) In the long run the friendships mean more than the medals.” -Leigh Wagner. Lincoln Southeast High School. Integrative Nutritionist in Kansas City.

4. “It's going to be difficult, but worth the struggle. God will give you the strength and courage needed, when it is needed, so remember to turn to Him in all things. Never compromise your values for success on the track and be ever thankful, humble, and persistent. Jump (run,throw) with purpose -- in pursuit of something greater than just improving yourself. Great athletes, that inspire and move the hearts of others, are not always the ones on the podium. So, strive to be great. Truly great. Regardless of athletic accolades. In this, you'll find great joy.” -Gina Curtis Rickert, Park Center High School, Brooklyn Park, MN. Stay-at-home Mama in Minnesota.

5. “Actually appreciate, learn to enjoy, and even enthusiastically look forward to the toughest most challenging practices and meets because they not only make you a better athlete, you become a better, more disciplined adult. When my boss asks whether I think I can take something on, in my head I think…I’ve run the 400 hurdles, I’ve hurdled/sprinted against some of the best in the world and I lifted weights at 6 am for 4 years…of course I can - I am prepared to do anything.” -Rebecca Williams Gardiner Kofa High School, Yuma, AZ. Senior Associate - Management Consultant in New York, NY. 

6. “To be open minded and listen to your coaches.  Whether it is changing form/technique or trying a new event, the more coachable you are the more successful you will be!” -Meaghan Peoples Perkins, Weatherford High School, Weatherford, TX. Registered Nurse in Dallas.

7. “I wish 'back then' I knew more about the importance of good nutrition and choosing healthier options for pre/post performances.  I remember eating Little Debbie Zebra cakes or Nutty Bars before my races all of the time and not thinking twice about it.” -Ada Anderson Schwehr, Roseau High School, Roseau, MN. Stay-at-home Mama, Cross Country and Track Coach in Washington.  

8. “It starts with you.  Coaches can make workouts, motivate you, and provide guidance to be a better athlete but you have to believe in yourself first.  If you want it, work for it.  Work really hard if you have to.  Just don’t stop believing in yourself.” -Nicole Teitsworth. From Washington High School, Washington, IA. B.S. in Biology working in Iowa.

9. “A race is not different than practice. I always came into a meet thinking I had to have the race of my life, and then would collapse under the weight of that pressure. If I’d just relaxed and run like in practice I would have done fine.” -Steph Roepke. East Buchanan High School, Aurora, IA. Teacher and Coach in Ames, IA.

10. “In a race, I run. I run as my body tells me...faster, slower, easier, stronger. At the end God gives me a gift. It’s my time, my place, the ecstatic feeling of being done and accomplishing; the runner’s high. It is not my talent or training that ultimately give me results, it is God’s gift that takes me where I want to go and if the result doesn’t seem to correlate with my heart’s desire or my body’s efforts, I can ask why. But I must be willing to listen. There are no excuses, just God’s plans for us.” -Sara Boisen Schwertfeger. Valley High School, West Des Moines, IA. Stay-at-home Mama and Track Coach in Des Moines, IA. 

11. “Nutrition is important. Fuel your body with healthy foods. Junk in junk out.” -LaTasha Mabry Snipes. Ritenour High, St. Louis. Lawyer in Houston,TX.

12. “You are stronger than you think you are. Drown out the noise and DREAM BIG.” -Ardith Johnson Singh. Galesburg High School, Galesburg, IL. Fashion Designer in Brooklyn, NY.

13. “To believe in my talent sooner and trust the process.  If we put all of our faith and trust in these two things, success is guaranteed.” -Ursula Peterson Conley. Gregory-Portland High School, Portland, TX. High School Teacher and Track Coach in Corpus Christi, TX.

14. “Sport opens the door to meeting new people, challenging yourself, traveling, and maybe help shape your future career, but 15 years from now, no one will ask you what your mile time was or how you finished in a race. So make the most of the opportunity and let sport help guide your life in a positive way.” -Krysta Metz Bryars. Atlantic High School, Atlantic, IA. Physical Therapist in Des Moines, IA.


I am grateful to have made lifelong friends with these women. No way I would have had the opportunity if it weren’t for the sport of track and field. As they say, Once a Cyclone. Always a Cyclone.

What lesson would you add to this list?

Play Now, Play YOU!

XO, Coach D

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