10 Motivational Sports Stories
They say when the going gets tough, the tough get going. In the world of sports, this requires an incredible amount of endurance, drive and tenacity. An athlete has to have the magic combination of physical training, mental acuity, and emotional perseverance.
So many opportunities to quit arise, but these 10 stories prove that the opportunities to win are always present if you just reach out and grab them.
1. Jason Garstkiewicz
9 months after having his right leg amputated due to cancer, 14-year-old lacrosse player Jason Garstkiewicz was back on the field. He refused to let anything get in the way of playing the sport he loved. In fact, he was playing everything he could with his new-found vigor and appreciation for life.
After two brutal rounds of chemotherapy and a fitting for a prosthetic leg, Jason was joyfully playing football with his friends, throwing Frisbees, and golfing with his dad. It wasn’t long before he knew he was ready to get back into the competitive sports world. During his first lacrosse game after his 10-month rollercoaster of health issues, he scored the most meaningful goal of his athletic career.
“Watching him play that day was remarkable,” said his father, Gary Garstkiewicz. “Being someone who played sports his whole life, watching him play is just what we do, but sometimes you lose the impact of the fact he is doing it with prosthesis. He doesn’t look that different than he did before all of this. Scoring a goal that first game was great because it allowed him to see he can do it, can keep him moving forward.
2. The 2007-2008 Summerville High School Basketball Team
After losing their coach, Louis Mulkey, to a devastating fire, this inspiring high school team made it all the way to the 4A State Championship, where they took home the title win. They dedicated everything to their late coach after winning in the final seconds of the game.
Coach Mulkey was a volunteer firefighter who responded to a nighttime emergency call in June 2007. A furniture store in Charlestown, South Carolina had gone up in flames. Nine firefighters perished trying to put the fire out before it spread to neighboring buildings. Coach Mulkey was one of the nine who passed away at the age of 34, leaving behind his wife with the last words, “I love you.”
The team was devastated. All of their energy was dedicated to winning games in their coach’s memory. With the help of A.J. Green the boys ended the season 24-3.
You can see more of their story here:
3. Tommie Campbell
After flunking out of two colleges and effectively blowing his chance for a career in the NFL, Tommie Campbell refused to give up on his dream. He scrubbed toilets as a janitor at the Pittsburgh International Airport while trying to get himself back in shape.
The first workouts were hard. Campbell got physically sick from the shortness of breath caused by his pack-a-day cigarette habit. His first tryout with the Canadian Football League didn’t pan out. But he didn’t give up.
He quit smoking and focused on his training until one day, an old friend recommended him to a Division II team. From there, he sought to prove himself, and he did. The Tennessee Titans picked up him as a defensive back.
Campbell knows his come-back luck was rare, but he also knows how much of an impact an athlete’s decision making can have.
“That’s why anytime I see kids at home I tell them that school is the most important thing,” said Campbell. “I try to emphasize to them. Go to class. It was a long process for me because I didn’t.
4. Bethany Hamilton
Bethany was a rising star in the surfing world when she was just 8 years old. She trained hard in her home state of Hawaii, where she won several long and short board competitions. On the fateful night of October 31, 2003, the then13-year-old was attacked by a tiger shark measuring 14 feet, causing her to lose over 60% of her blood.
Her doctors and family considered it a miracle when Bethany recovered within a month. They attributed the miracle to her positive attitude. After having her entire left arm amputated, she was back in the water surfing just a month later. By January 2004, she had gone on to place 5th in an Open Women’s surfing competition. In 2005, she won her first national title at the National Scholastic Surfing Association Championships.
Bethany’s list of awards and honors never stopped racking up, but her humble spirit and unstoppable drive to improve has kept her on her surfboard ever since.
5. John Stephen Akhwari
This story is one of perseverance, pure will, and the pride and honor of representing more than just yourself.
John Stephen Akhwari was a marathon runner from Tanzania who made it all the way to the 1968 Mexican Olympics. Barely halfway through the race, John and another runner collided. John felt to the pavement, dislocating and severely cutting his knee and bruising his shoulder. He requested medical attention, got bandaged up and continued the race. At many points during the long, hot day, John limped through the pain, but he never stopped even though he knew there was no chance to win.
By the time John crossed the finish line, most of the stadium’s spectators were gone. But John still picked up the pace to be the last runner to cross the finish line.
“My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race,” John said later in an interview. “They sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.”
6. Kathrine Switzer
Today’s competitive female runners owe a lot to their forerunner Kathrine Switzer. Kathrine fought her way into the male-dominated sport of long distance running.
In 1967, Kathrine entered the Boston Marathon, which was then open only to male contestants. When officials saw a woman jogging past, they tried to physically stop her from running by grabbing her and trying to rip off her bib number. Kathrine’s boyfriend shoved the officials back, and Kathrine went on to complete the race.
She later worked with marathon committees in Boston, New York City, and other major cities around the glove to help usher in the era of co-ed marathon competitions. Kathrine was later inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame for helping to create a “social revolution by empowering women around the world through running.”
7. The Lugazi Little League Team
This inspiring team of 11-year-olds stole the hearts of baseball fans around the world when, despite all odds, they beat the highly ranked Saudi Arabian team to advance to the Little League World Series. Their success made them the first African team to compete in the series.
The Ugandan team played with old, used equipment to beat Saudi Arabia’s top team. However, because their visa documentation was not in order, the Ugandan team was not allowed to travel to the United States to compete in the World Series. But they didn’t let that stop them the next season.
The team’s coaches worked with the U.S. embassy to ensure they could travel if they won again next season. The kids trained hard and won their way to the Latin America Regional. But they faced yet another problem: none of the players’ family members could afford to travel to Panama to watch the team play. The crowd welcomed the team warmly, however, as they decked themselves out in Ugandan colors and asked the players for their autographs.
The Lugazi team lost their game against Panama, but they proudly hit the first pitch of the inning. They went home winners, because they knew they were the first team from an African nation to ever make it that far.
“I like history,” 11-year-old third baseman Ronald Olaa said. “And we’ve made history.
8. Allan Guei
In 2001, then 18-year-old basketball star Allan Guei made a selfless decision to help his struggling peers.
The Compton High School senior was selected for a free-throw competition thanks to his 3.0 or higher GPA. The contest was held at his high school and featured 7 other randomly selected contestants who had high grades. Most of the contestants were not athletes.
Allan won the grand prize: $40,000 designated to go toward college expenses. Allan then went on to obtain a full-ride athletic scholarship for his basketball record, which meant his $40,000 in winnings could be cashed out. Instead of using the money for his extraneous college expenses or for a little fun, Allan decided to share $40,000 with the 7 other students who he knew would struggle to afford college.
These weren’t players on Allan’s basketball team. They were his competition from the free-throw challenge. They were average, non-athletic students.
“I’ve already been blessed so much and I know we’re living with a bad economy, so I know this money can really help my classmates,” Allan said in a statement. “It was the right decision.
9. Rulan Gardner
American Olympic wrestler Rulan Gardner is living proof that you can’t let the negativity break your spirit or your motivation.
After being told it was impossible to win against the undefeated Russian wrestler Aleksandr “Siberian Bear” Karelin, Rulan trained even harder. He didn’t let his opponent’s 13-year winning streak distract him from his goal of winning the 2000 Olympics.
The win shocked everyone, and Rulan became the first American to take home the titles of World and Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling champion.
You can watch the match that went down in history here:
10. The Japanese 2011 World Women’s Cup Team
Only four months after the devastating earthquake and tsunami that killed over 16,000 people in Japan, the Japanese Women’s Cup soccer team was playing with heavy hearts. News reports increased the toll of the dead, injured and missing every day, and millions of dollars in property damage left people without homes or jobs.
It was with this tragedy in the back of their minds that the team pulled together to win the entire tournament. Their final game was played against the United States, which was expected by most to easily take home the championship title. In fact, the U.S.A. was ahead twice during the game. But the ladies of Japan did not give in that easy.
The second half was arduous and led to a tie. With extra-time and penalty shoot-outs, the Japan team clinched the win.
Watch the final emotional moments, including their acceptance of the prize, here:
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