When I was 14, a group of kids in my neighborhood would gather at a friend’s house almost every day during the summer to play basketball.
We were all about the same age and close enough in ability that no matter how we divided the group up, it was always a competitive game.
But one day, a little 10-year-old boy named Tad asked if he could join our game. Being that he was the little brother of another friend of ours, we let him join — and we were immediately sorry that we did.
Tad was an unbelievably talented basketball player, and dominated the game despite being a foot shorter than any of the rest of us.
He was a deadly accurate shooter from anywhere on the court and was so quick and such a good ball-handler that he almost could not be guarded.
A couple years later, at the beginning of my sophomore year in high school, I befriended a kid who had just moved into the area named Robert.
Robert looked the part of a nerd, with thick-lensed tortoise shell glasses and plaid shirts, and he certainly did have a highly developed intellect as he eventually graduated near the top of our class.
But Robert may have also been the most natural athlete I ever knew. We competed in everything: basketball, tennis, golf — sports I thought I was good at — but he was soon beating me handily at every one.
In the spring, I convinced Robert to go out for the track team with me.
I had been running competitively since the seventh grade, and was by then a very competitive mile runner, but Robert was better.
Despite having never competed in track before, Robert instantly became the best distance runner at our high school.
I eventually lost contact with Tad and Robert, but they both resurfaced in my consciousness years later.
Tad Boyle went on to lead Greeley Central High School to the Colorado state championship in basketball his senior year, and was honored as the best player in the state.
He was highly recruited and ended up playing collegiately for the Kansas Jayhawks under coach Larry Brown. After a career as an attorney, he got back into basketball as a coach, and is currently the head basketball coach for the University of Colorado basketball team, where he has taken the Buffaloes program from a perennial Division 1 doormat to one of the best teams in the Pac-12 Conference, garnering NCAA tournament bids the last two seasons.
Robert Radnoti went on to win the state’s big school championship in the mile run and finish second in the state cross country meet our senior year, and had a successful collegiate career running for the University of Colorado — one of the best collegiate track and field programs in the nation. After a career as a chemical engineer for Exxon, in which he was instrumental in the Exxon Valdez oil spill cleanup effort, he got back into running, as a coach, and is currently the head track and field and cross-country coach at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.
People who achieve greatness are all around us. They could be someone in your neighborhood, someone in your classroom, or maybe even the person staring back at you in the mirror every day.
Tad and Robert were tremendously gifted athletes, but what made them great lifelong achievers was something more than that.
Each had the audacity to believe, even before they had achieved anything, that they could do great things with their lives.
Have the audacity to believe in yourself. Your greatness awaits you.
For the full story, please see the Wednesday, Sept. 18, issue of the Camp Verde Journal and Cottonwood Journal Extra.