29 October 2008 09:18 AM

Michael Phelps – Dream, Plan, Reach

by Dr. Rick

As a Baltimorean I’m proud of another fellow Baltimorean Michael Phelps, amazing Olympic champ and new rich guy role model for lots of young athletes around the world. 


As a Baltimorean who swims regularly for exercise, I had the humbling pleasure of being a member of Phelps’ swim club and swimming in the lane next to his on countless occasions.  There are a couple of decades’ difference in our ages, but such is the folly of at least this middle-aged man that I’d actually try to keep up with him, a competition that lasted about a meter or two.  Even when he was a young teen, it was evident that there was a future star in our pool.


(In another Baltimore-as-big-city-small-town-coincidence, I also worked for the same school system that Michael’s mother works for as a principal of a very successful elementary school.  He’s a star swimmer, she’s a star educator.)


So it’s with much interest that I follow Michael’s phenomenal career and accomplishments.  I’m hopeful that he doesn’t fall into the trap of so many other celebrities and avoids becoming another flash-in-the-pan, hot today and forgotten tomorrow.


It doesn’t look that way.  Oh, sure, there he is on Oprah, Saturday Night Live, and Corn Flakes boxes.  We see him in ads for Speedo, Visa, and AT&T and who knows what will come next.  But what I’m most proud of is his work with kids. 


His Dream, Plan, Reach program encourages kids to have big, bold dreams, but it also stresses the next step, often forgotten: planning and organizing to reach those dreams.  (Kellogg’s and Speedo have donated big bucks to the program.  Good for them.)  Phelps wants to use his own story and his accomplishments to stress the importance of reaching big dreams by setting day-to-day goals and then working hard to meet those goals.  Big tasks are easier to meet when we break them up into smaller ones.  Any teacher worth his salt will tell you that (including my own humble blogs), but sometimes it takes a big star like Michael, who’s made the process work for him in a big, big way, to break through to kids’ attention.  Persistence pays.


So I’m proud of Michael and the way he uses his own story.  He had difficulty focusing as a kid, and his attention was all over the place.  (You should have seen him at the pool when he was much younger, a dervish of random activity, snapping wet towels at his teammates, racing around.  That was out of the water.  In the water, he was a fish, focused as a shark on the scent.)  His mom, Debbie, ever the educator, pushed him to set goals and insisted that he work hard to reach them, knowing that this kind of focus would establish healthy habits and attitudes forever.  Whether she ever dreamed of the spectacular results he has achieved is anyone’s guess.  But she gave him a great gift, and his coach, Bob Bowman, made sure he stuck to it, showing what the right guidance can do for kids.


Kids listen to this kind of story.  It’s true, it’s now, and it’s remarkable.  Congratulations, Michael, on your Dream, Plan, Reach program.  May it inspire kids – and adults – all over the world.  Keep at it.




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