An incredibly fast Abby Steiner dishes out some very timely practical advice (UK Athletics Photo).
On the surface, you probably don’t think you have much in common with Abby Steiner. After all, she’s a world class athlete who just set the collegiate record for the Women’s 200m at the NCAA Championships. She can run half a lap around the track in less than twenty-two seconds…and you can’t.
Many who witnessed the viral video of Abby running the third leg of the 4×400 relay say it’s the most amazing thing they’ve ever seen. Some might even describe it as superhuman. But peel away the exterior veneer of speed, elegance, and power, and you’ll find someone who’s quite down to earth, someone who’s more like yourself than you ever imagined, and someone who dishes out some darn good advice.
“That’s always been my goal—is just to represent Kentucky the best I can,” Abby said, when asked if she considers herself an outlier, a special talent of sorts. “That’s really my focus when I’m getting on the line. It’s just putting myself in a position to represent my team and put my best performances out there.”
That’s not a cop-out answer. It’s actually really good advice. Not just for athletic competition, but it also applies to work, family, and your role as a citizen. No matter how good looking, talented, or smart you are, it’s never all about you. Or at least it shouldn’t be. Do your best. Credit others. Make your team proud while making the most of the talents God blessed you with.
Here’s some more good counsel from Abby. Take care of your body and your mind. Remember, she’s competing in a sport where anything slightly off kilter can knock you off the podium. Training your mind, thinking positive thoughts, and “making sure you’re in a good head space” are elements we all need to practice in every-day life. Most importantly, don’t ignore your mental health on race day.
For somebody so young and accomplished, Abby also seems amazingly grounded. Listening to her dispensing her words of wisdom in front of the cameras, there’s not the least bit of arrogance, entitlement, and bravado you usually hear from other successful athletes. Instead, there’s a pervading sense of gratitude and grace that can only come from some difficult life lessons.
When Dear Abby talks about her personal life challenges, everyone needs to listen. The Dublin, Ohio, native hasn’t necessarily lived the charmed life you might have expected.
Injuries are the bane of every athlete’s existence, and Abby has had her share of them over the course of her sports career. As a high school soccer star, she tore her ACL. Then just last year, an Achilles injury dashed her hopes of running in the Olympics. Still, she managed to see the glass half full.
“It was definitely emotional at the time watching [the Olympics] and wishing I could compete,” she explained. “But there was also a part of me that was just thankful it wasn’t my last year, and I was getting the rest that I knew my body needed at that time and was going to be able to come back for my senior year and hopefully do some special things.”
A successful senior year was certainly gratifying and validating. But it pales when compared to the primary motivational force from Abby’s past. There was something—or someone—much more powerful.
“My sister growing up, she was actually diagnosed with leukemia her senior year of high school,” Abby recounted, as tears welled up in those round expressive eyes. “She was a big motivator for me once I started really getting into competitive sports. Just seeing her and how she dealt with adversity and how strong she was. I really wanted to go out there and compete for someone who couldn’t—who had sports taken away from them. I think my sister was really a source of inspiration for me growing up.”
Regardless of your circumstances in life or the hand you’ve been dealt, we all know someone else—perhaps even a dear friend, family member, or loved one—who has had it harder. Attitude is a choice. Always maintain an attitude of gratitude.
“I think that everything happens for a reason,” Abby added. “All those things led me to exactly where I needed to be in that moment.”
See what I mean? There is a real, well-grounded person underneath all that record-setting speed, all those shiny trophies, and all that celebrity status. Outside of what she does on the track, Abby Steiner is someone just like you or me. The recent winner of the prestigious Honda Sports Award enjoys nothing more than hanging out with her friends, reading, doing crossword puzzles, and just taking moments out of her day to relax.
After her big victory out west, Abby did what all of us would have done.
“Oregon has some amazing ice cream, so I went out with my parents,” she said. “I got a burger after the meet. Eating junk food and celebrating with the people that I’m close with is what’s really special to me.”
Now THAT may be the best Dear Abby advice of all. Life is short. Experiences are fleeting. Savor the moments with the ones you love.
Dr. John Huang is a UK columnist for Nolan Group Media and editor-in-chief of JustTheCats.com. He also covers the NFL and MLB for Sports View America. You can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs. If you enjoy his writing, be sure to check out his new book, KENTUCKY PASSION. https://www.amazon.com/Kentucky-Passion-Wildcat-Wisdom-Inspiration/dp/1684351669