More Steps To Becoming A World Class Athlete

Editor’s Note: At age 42, Scot Hollonbeck is more of an athlete than ever before, even after his spinal cord injury at age 14. Hollonbeck has learned that if he continues to exercise and compete, he feels better, is happier and is more successful. If he knows what he wants to do and focuses on that, then he doesn’t have time to focus on what he can’t do or accomplish. Part 5 of a 5-part series.

Scot Hollonbeck made training a priority because he wanted to succeed at wheelchair sports.

Scot Hollonbeck made training a priority because he wanted to succeed at wheelchair sports.

Hollonbeck: We often think of Paralympics as being only for young people. However, if you’re 30- or 40-years old, and you have a college degree and want to compete on the highest level of wheelchair sports that you can, I suggest that you consider getting your master’s degree or doctorate degree and train you to be a world class Paralympian. Let’s be realistic. To reach that top level, you’ll have to train for 20 to 30 hours a week. You must be very dedicated. The chances of you creating a training program and having the discipline to push yourself as hard as you can is highly unlikely.

For instance, if in your 20s or 30s, and you say you want to be a gymnast and develop your own system in your hometown, I’ll have to tell you that you’re probably not going to make it. But, if you tell me, “Scot , I’m willing to go wherever I need to go and do whatever I need to do to be the best gymnast I can be; what do you think I should do?” Well, I’ll suggest that you go to Texas with its top coaches in the program, join it and be willing to put in the time they require. Then I’ll have to say that you can make it. Regardless of the sport you choose to compete in, you’ve got to go to the school that has the very best coaches and facilities for that sport to train you to be the very best.

Wheelchair coaches understand how to train people in wheelchairs appropriately.

Wheelchair coaches understand how to train people in wheelchairs appropriately.

But, with that being said, here’s another scenario. If you’ve trained and been a competitive gymnast for about 10 years, then you already know the discipline and the intense workout schedule you’ll have to have. Then yes, you probably can train at home on your own after having had that high caliber of coaching and become a world class athlete. However, until you have that skill set and have been under the coaching of great coaches, reaching a highly competitive level of gymnastics is almost impossible on your own. The requirements to be a great Paralympics’ contestant are no different than the requirements for an able bodied individual to be great at his or her sport. Great football players and basketball playersgo to the schools where they can find the best coaches and the greatest facilities. That’s the bottom line; this proven recipe will help you become the best athlete you can be.

When I was in high school, I wanted to be the best track athlete I could be. I thought I should train two or three times a day. In truth, I overtrained. Not until I arrived at college and learned how to train smarter, not longer, from coaches who knew a lot more than I knew, did I begin to meet my potential. A couple of weeks ago, I said I’d trained for five Olympic Games and was able to go to four of them. The game that I didn’t qualify for is actually the one for which I spent the most hours training. Although my coaches in high school were great, they were accustomed to coaching able bodied athletes. I was probably the first wheelchair athlete they’d ever coached.

Scot Hollonbeck trained extremely hard from the beginning!

Scot Hollonbeck trained extremely hard from the beginning!

When I got to the University of Illinois and was coached by a wheelchair coach, I became a world class athlete. As I’ve mentioned before, anytime you’re focused on what you want to do and want to become you can’t be focused on whatever it is you can’t do. These two ideas, what you want to be and what you can’t do are polar opposites. There’s no way you can think of both of these ideas at the same time. These two ideas are as opposite as being in a state of gratitude and being in a state of being mad. You can’t be mad and grateful at the same time. That’s another reason I really enjoy participating in athletics, since sports enable me to focus on what I want to do and not focus on what I can’t do.

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at

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