Setting Your Sights on Life

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our “Get Out, Enjoy Life” series.  Michael Dickey serves as a fantastic example of someone who used his own life-changing accident as a way to inspire and teach others with the same disability. Share his story with a friend today!

Michael Dickey takes aim

Michael Dickey takes aim.

Michael Dickey is a member of the U.S. Paralympics Marksmanship Team who’s traveled the world competing for his country.  But in 1979, when Dickey of Trafford, Alabama was 19 years old, his world spun out of control following a terrible car accident.  Dickey suffered a T-6-level spinal cord injury [a couple of vertebrae above his belly button] as a result of that accident.

“I thought my life was over,” Dickey recalls. “I didn’t think I could take care of myself and participate in the sports that I’d loved for so long. I thought those things would be a distant memory for the rest of my life.”

However, during his recovery period, Dickey met a group of wheelchair basketball players and world-class athletes at the Lakeshore Foundation, a rehabilitation center and U.S. Olympic training center in nearby Birmingham, Alabama. The basketball players encouraged Dickey to participate in wheelchair basketball. But when basketball season ended, Dickey lost interest and stopped visiting the foundation.

Mike Kelly, coordinator ofoutdoor recreation at the Lakeshore Foundation, learned that Dickey had enjoyed shooting as a young man. “One day I saw Mike playing basketball in the gym, and I asked him to come downstairs to try shooting air rifles in our indoor shooting range,” Kelly remembers.

Michael makes another perfect shot.

Michael makes another perfect shot.

Once Dickey saw the target before him and felt the gun’s stock against his shoulder, his cheek against the stock and his finger on the trigger, he remembered his rich shooting life before the accident. As he sighted-in on the bull’s-eye, he saw a promising future for himself.

 Successful people take control of their lives, regardless of the hand fate deals them. All true champions must overcome adversity to find their ultimate greatness, including Dickey. “I’ve found you can do anything you want to in life, if you learn to adapt,” 48-year-old Dickey explains.

Dickey, now one of the nation’s top competitive shooters, lives in a world that revolves around his ability to manage his mind, his body, his emotions and his future. “I’m not concerned about the shot I’ve just fired or the numberof shots I have to make,” Dickey emphasizes. “When I’m at the firing line,the only shot that matters is the one I’m about to squeeze-off. To shoot accurately, I must control my mind, my breathing, my body and my rifle.”

Re-Learning to Shoot

“I remember Mike’s first competition years ago,” Kelly says. “He’d practiced religiously and worked very hard preparing for this competition and was as ready as any shooter I’d ever seen. But despite his diligent preparations, he was extremely nervous. He rolled out to the firing line, opened his can of 500 pellets and dropped them, with the pellets spilling inall directions over the floor. After hearing the crash of the pellet tin hitting the floor, I looked at Mike. He hung his head down so low out of embarrassment that his head was almost laying on the table in front of him.”

Michael is a pro with the longbow too.

Michael is a pro with the longbow too.

After removing the pellets from the floor, Dickey finished the competition. From that first match, he learned that to win any competition, he first had to defeat the fear within himself and take total command of his mind, his body and his rifle. Too, he recognized the importance of practicing so diligently he moved instinctively, rather than having to think about an action on the firing line.

Dickey, who began competitive shooting in 2001, today participates in the NRA-Beeman Tour that travels to 12 different cities. Named the 2001 Rookie of the Year on the NRA-Beeman Circuit, Dickey steadily has climbed the ranks of competitive shootingand has belonged to four championship teams. His records include three perfect 200 scores in the prone position and three perfect 200 scores in thekneeling position. He’s the SH1 record holder with a score of 591 out of 600 in a three-position match. Dickey also has won nine NRA-Beeman matches and has had 15 first-place finishes in his division.

A member of the U.S. Disabled National Team, Dickey has represented America at shoots in Germany and Italy, and at the IPC Shooting World Championship in Sargans,Switzerland, as a member of the U.S. World Team, where he shot against athletes from 35 countries.

Dickey, who competes in both air-rifle competitions at 10 meters and small-bore (.22-caliber) competitions at  50 meters, emphasizes that,”Representing my country, my family, my friends and the Lakeshore Foundation as an international shooter is such a privilege.”  

Growing and Giving Back

Mike Kelly, Dickey’s shooting coach at the Lakeshore Foundation, has watched Dickey transform from an amateur shooter to a world-class athlete.

“Since Mike was training here at the Lakeshore Foundation four to five daysper week, I asked him if he would work for me

An all-around champion, Michael now teaches others at the Lakeshore Foundation.

An all-around champion, Michael now teaches others at the Lakeshore Foundation.

and teach others to shoot,”Kelly says. “He not only agreed, but he also took courses in archery andbecame an archery instructor as well as a shooting instructor. Now he helps others with the lessons he’s learned in his own life.”

Taking Control

When Michael Dickey realized he was permenantly disabled from the waist down, he first visualized himself totally dependent on others for the rest of his life. But today that same man enjoys a full life. When he’s not training or traveling the world for competitions, Dickey enjoys hunting, fishing, flying radio-controlled airplanes and shooting at a local gun club.

Dickey explains, “Where you finish in a shooting competition and the last shot you’ve made doesn’t matter. Only the next shot counts.”

Dickey’s shooting philosophy also serves as a solid life principle. Through shooting, Dickey has learned to “live in the now.”  He’s forgotten the past,and the future hasn’t arrived. He understands that he only can influence his life in the present moment. So, in life and in shooting, he takes careful aim, relaxes and makes his best shot. 

To learn about all the outdoor activities available to wheeling sportsmen at the Lakeshore Foundation, visit http://www.lakeshore.org.

About the Author
John E. Phillips is a freelance writer from Birmingham, Alabama, who writes for several outdoor magazines, including “Alabama Whitetail and Bass,” “Southern Sporting Journal,” “Louisiana Sportsman,” and “Saltwater Sportsman.”  See more of John’s outdoor adventures at http://www.nighthawkpublications.com.

About UroMed Catheters
Headquartered in Suwanee, GA [a suburb of Atlanta], UroMed is one of the nation’s leading providers of single-use catheters, urological and disposable medical supplies, including intermittent catheters, closed system catheters, condom catheters, pediatric catheters and continence care products. UroMed is nationally accredited for Medicare reimbursement and most state Medicaid plans, and partners with private health insurance providers and health plans to provide patients with single-use catheters, catheter kits and incontinence products. UroMed also has seven staffed regional offices located in Boston, MA; Columbia, SC; Jacksonville, FL; Dallas, TX; Carlsbad, CA; Knoxville, TN; Richmond, VA; and Baton Rouge, LA; enabling next-day delivery after a customer’s initial medical supply order. For more information, please visit http://www.uromed.com or call 1-800-841-1233.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: