How To Become 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 3 of a 5-part series.

Scot Hollonbeck is a world class athlete and wants to share how he got there.

Scot Hollonbeck is a world class athlete and wants to share how he got there.

I’m often approached by young people who want to be a world class athlete. Here’s what I suggest– if someone’s an adult and is already in pretty good shape but wants to compete on a higher level, I recommend that they make the decision to go to college or return to college. I tell them to either get an undergraduate degree or graduate degree. For you to reach the Paralympics’ finals require 5 to 7 years of training with the best coaches you can find.

The first school I suggest is the University of Illinois, because this school has highly skilled coaches for Paralympians, as well as some of the best facilities in the nation to train Paralympic athletes. There are no shortcuts to greatness when becoming a Paralympian. You have to have the drive and the work ethic that will sustain you, while you’re getting your body and mind prepared to be the best you can be. Also, at the University of Illinois, you’ll be training with 20 or 30 other athletes with the same goals in mind.

5 to 7 years of training is required to become a paralympian.

5 to 7 years of training is required to become a paralympian.

Now, the question I’m often asked is, “Why go to the University of Illinois?” This university has a program to train Paralympians, because athletes in wheelchairs in the 1950s went to the governor in that state and lobbied the leadership of the University, to institute a program for Paralympians. The Paralympian Program at the University of Illinois is continually improved. If you want to get a Paralympics’ training facility started in your area, realize that the first answer you’ll get is, “No.” However, we’re starting to see other universities grasp this vision. The University of Alabama and the University of Missouri both have started college wheelchair basketball programs. But, the University of Illinois has one of the longest running programs in the nation and has the budget and the coaches you need if you’re serious about taking your wheelchair sport to the highest level.

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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