Posts tagged with "tethers"

Don’t Let Life Throw You a No-Hitter

We all have favorite colors, our favorite foods, favorite shoes, and even favorite people. Guess what? I have favorite sounds. And some of those sounds are associated with baseball.

Hitting a home run ball has an unmistakable sound. A batter stands at the plate, swings, and a loud thud echoes through the air when full contact is made. The crowd noise starts off as anticipation. Then, as the ball travels farther and farther, cheers grow louder. As soon as the ball clears the fence, the entire stadium erupts and music blasts as runners head to home plate.

That’s not the only sound baseball gives me. What about the sound when the pitcher throws a dart past the batter, and it hits smack dab in the middle of the catcher’s glove? STRIKE! “Get him outta here!”

It was a no-brainer for me when I was asked to throw out the first pitch during a AAA game between the Charlotte Knights and [the Durham Bulls]. This was my opportunity to create one of the very sounds that I love so much. It was also another opportunity to conquer something new and exciting.

4-panel shot of Lex practicing his pitching, 2 left panels from Lex's point of view as he pitches, 2 right panels show Kelly's point of view catching the ball
Click to watch some highlights from Lex’s practice session.

 

The Windup

I learned that one of our strength and conditioning coaches, Kelly Ahner, had played ball back in her hometown. She offered to help me work on my pitch. (Come on now, did you really think I’d go out there without any sort of practice? Never!) Ashley Renteria, a strength and conditioning intern at the Olympic Training Center, agreed to come out and help also.

This is how we did it. There’s a ton of land at our training facility, so we found an open space, measured 60 feet 6 inches, I stood at one end, and Kelly set up at the other end with her glove. She would yell “Right here Lex, right here!” I would dial in to where she was perched and throw the ball in her direction.

I’ll be honest, the first few times were a little off, but my excuse remains true! Hey, I’m blind!

Seriously though, once I got a feel of how far she was and where I needed to throw the baseball, I began to hear that sound that I’ve come to love so much. Wind up, rotate, release, and strike! Smack dab in Kelly’s glove! Wind up, rotate, release, and strike! Smack dab in her glove!

The Pitch

When the day came for my first pitch, I was a little nervous. I got a few practice sessions in, but it’s a little different when it’s time for the real thing. I was escorted out onto the field and took my position on the mound as the announcer introduced me.

Then it was time.

The place went quiet. The catcher began to hit his glove repeatedly so I would know which direction to toss the ball. I locked in, cocked my arm back, and let it fly. Smack dab in his glove! Strike!

I love that sound.

He Swings and Misses

Let’s think for a moment though. Have you ever had a great opportunity come your way and failed to capitalize on it? Yeah, me too. What about a second shot at something great and it still didn’t turn out in your favor? I can relate.

Guess how many years it took for me to win my first gold medal at a major international championship? One? Nope. Two? Shaking my head. Try nine. It took me nine years, and although I made the podium in the preceding years, I never stood on that top step.

Keep Swinging

How did I keep going? I refused to believe that I would not win gold. I had faith and trusted that it would happen. I continued to fight, to push, and I refused to quit.

If your vision is extremely vivid and clear, then don’t settle for anything less.

Where do you see yourself and your opportunities right now? If your current view doesn’t align with what you see in your vision at this very moment, then you’re not supposed to remain where you are. Believe that.

When things don’t go your way, say to yourself, “This is not where I’m scheduled to be. My vision shows me in a better position.”

Keep working. If the next opportunity comes your way and you fail to capitalize on it, say to failure, “You will not keep me from realizing my vision and purpose. I see something greater.”

Imagine you’re standing at the plate, bat in hand, waiting on that pitch. Failure cocks its arm back and rifles the ball toward you. Strike! The ball smacks the catcher’s glove. Sheesh, another opportunity lost.

You know what coaches say to batters who are in a slump? Keep swinging. It’s the same in life. I’ve swung and missed many times. You probably have too. Opportunities have flown right by us all, right? Guess what? Keep swinging.

We all miss a pitch or two (or nine). It’ll be frustrating. It’ll disappoint you at times but keep swinging. You may strike out here and there, but never allow life to deal you a “no-hitter.” Stay focused on your vision and purpose.

I promise, if you fight through the slump, if you keep swinging, you’ll eventually make contact. Hear those cheers? That’s your success, and it’s flying right out of the yard.

Best wishes for good health, and please, everyone stay safe.

Lex

Lex Gillette is a professional keynote speaker, 4x Paralympic Medalist, and 4x Long Jump World Champion who is currently training to win gold at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. He has been wowing audiences of all sizes with his athletic gift since 2004, and he has been inspiring audiences on the corporate stage since 2013. His ultimate goal is to teach others to look past their current reality and challenge them to see further than they ever thought possible.

Photo credits: Baseball by Ernesto Rodriguez (@Lernestorod on Pixels.com), video stills by Lex Gillette; book cover photo by Joe Kusumoto.

Tethers

by Lex Gillette

Have you ever seen an athlete who’s blind race with their guide in an official Paralympic competition? There are several things that you notice immediately.

First, the athlete wears a blindfold. That is a requirement in Paralympic sport for athletes who compete in the 11 classification. Next, both competitors, athlete and guide, are connected at the hand by a tether.

Back in the day, tethers were made from absolutely anything – lanyards, shoelaces, anything of that sort. Typically, there was a loop at either end of the string so that the athlete could place a couple fingers through the loop on one end, and the guide could put a couple of their fingers through the loop on the other end. This kept the athlete from going astray.

In 2018, if my memory serves me right (Give me a break, I’ve been doing this since 2004!), the International Paralympic Committee decided to regulate the length and type of tethers used in competition. Now, when we report to the call room for competition, identical tethers are given to each tandem for that race.

As you watch that race, you see the tether and you become aware of how closely the athlete and the guide are connected. It’s a relationship that allows them both to pursue and achieve athletic prominence.

Tethers of Another Sort

If you’ve seen me compete in the long jump, then you know that Wesley, my guide, stands at the takeoff board. In field events the guide is not allowed to move. And although we are not physically tethered, Wesley and I are still connected.

I listen to the sound of his voice and the clapping of his hands. I’m listening intently with each stride down the runway. My ear is tethered to his audible calls.

A tether is a symbol of connection. In life, when we’re connected with others, we feel involved, a part of something bigger, and our value increases. Contrary to that, when we’re disconnected, we may feel frightened, isolated, and alone.

Whether we are utilizing a physical tether or an audible one, a tactile one, or even a written one, these connections are important.

Tethers at Work

Imagine that you’re an athlete and you’re toeing the line for the 100m final. You’re blind, and your guide is standing directly next to you. The starter calls, “On your mark.” The two of you lower yourselves to the ground and you place your feet into the starting blocks. The tether is then attached to both of your hands ensuring that you’re connected for the race.

Once everyone in the race has taken their position the starter says, “Set.” You and your guide raise your hips and press the balls of your feet into the blocks.

POW! The gun goes off and the two of you shoot out of the blocks and begin your trek toward Paralympic gold. The sound of the crowd intensifies as you barrel your way down the track. Although the sound is deafening, you find comfort in knowing that you’re tethered to an individual who is guiding you to glory.

Now, you’re a long jumper. Your guide positions you in the correct spot on the runway. Your guide then jogs to the takeoff area that is 100 feet away. A voice echoes through the stadium. “Are you ready?” You get into your starting position, foot back, slight bend at the waist.

Your guide yells, “You’re pointed straight ahead!” From there a loud voice and the constant clapping of the hands fills the air. You take off in that direction. Only this time, a deafening crowd causes you to lose track of your guide. You’re now disoriented because your tether has seemingly been detached.

In the long jump, a screaming crowd can interfere with an athlete’s ability to perform at their highest potential. Most crowds understand what is going on during the long jump and they will accommodate by remaining silent so athletes can hear their guide.

It’s such a cool thing to witness 80,000 people grow quiet. Your guide’s voice is the loudest thing in the stadium. The claps are rhythmic, and they usually echo off the walls. You make your way down the runway, you jump in perfect silence, and when you successfully land inside of the sand pit, the place erupts in cheers. It’s one of the best feelings out there.

Connection

You see it between a quarterback when he throws the ball and it reaches the right spot at the right time for a receiver to pluck it out of the air. You see it between a pitcher and a catcher. You even see it between a parent and a child in the park or at a store. They’re all connected, and it’s more than simple communication. It’s guidance. It’s a common goal. It’s trust.

In business you strive to have a team that is connected. Sure, we’re able to achieve things on our own, but as the Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can achieve so little; together we can achieve so much.”

Tethers come in both physical and figurative form, and they’re designed to keep us connected. Guidance that we receive from a mentor tethers us to future success. Advice and encouragement that we get from coaches serve as a tether to big plays on the field. Direction and insight that we receive from our managers tethers us to professional success.

Tethers.

Connection.

Without it, we struggle to navigate through our lives. Without it, we spend more time wandering around instead of stepping in confidence toward our goals. Without it, a vision cannot be realized.


___________

Lex Gillette is a professional keynote speaker, 4x Paralympic Medalist, and 4x Long Jump World Champion who is currently training to win gold at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. He has been wowing audiences of all sizes with his athletic gift since 2004, and he has been inspiring audiences on the corporate stage since 2013. His ultimate goal is to teach others to look past their current reality and challenge them to see further than they ever thought possible.

Photo credits: All photos by Joe Kusumoto