Growth

IMG_5536The intent of Behind the Shield has been to tell stories.  To give you a view you wouldn’t otherwise see.

 This one is about a young man who is the final of three siblings to attend Dordt.

 Doesn’t seem that long ago that Josh Van Kempen showed up on campus and played football and ran track for the Defenders. 

A sister Rachel followed and she competed in throwing events for the track and field team.

I don’t think it’s an understatement to say Ike arrived with little fanfare in 2015…..180 pound throwers don’t survive long at the collegiate level.

But then Ike went to work.  He had some tools.  He was nimble and had a heart and work ethic that that he fed with workouts and food. 

And a desire to get better.

I often say my favorite song lyric is this…”The door’s open, but the ride ain’t free.”

Ike walked through that open door and paid a price—oftentimes when no one was watching and cheering.

He did it in the weight room.  He did it by managing an illness he was born with.  He did it by eating right and gaining “good weight”.  He did it working with a coaching staff that cared more about where he was headed rather than just how far he was throwing.

 You see, a lot of people have the tools.  There are a lot of throwers who are nimble but they don’t have the things you can’t measure—work ethic and heart.

 And I’d add to that list perspective. 

 A perspective that allows you to pursue and compete with no fear because ultimately our competition is meant as a fragrant offering.  We don’t earn anything of eternal worth with a great performance and we don’t lose anything of eternal worth when we scratch on a throw or miss on a release.

 Oh, by the way, the 180 pound freshman from four years ago?  He placed fourth today in the weight throw with a personal best on his last throw at the NAIA National Championship in Brookings, South Dakota.

 Take your shoes off for a while Ike, and then get ready for the outdoor season.

mbyk

In my four years of high school throwing I was about as average it gets. We never really had a true throws coach in high school, so all of my technical learning came from YouTube videos and upperclassmen giving me simple pointers. A couple times during my junior and senior year, while my sister was throwing here at Dordt, I came to visit and throw with coach Snyder to receive some helpful guidance. By my senior season I was more of a sprinter than I was a thrower. Discus was my only throwing event and I ended up scoring far more points in my sprinting events than I ever did throwing. Regardless, discus was still my favorite and it’s what I wanted to continue to do in college.

Entering college just shy of 180 pounds, I definitely wasn’t fit to be a thrower at this level.

I had just enough to get by and be average in high school, but collegiate throwing is a whole different animal and I realized that pretty quick. The weight room soon became my best friend and having a qualified coach was essentially indispensable.

The weight room soon became my best friend and having a qualified coach was essentially indispensable.

The indoor season came first along with the weight throw, both of which were completely foreign concepts. As a delicate-framed freshman, the 35 pound weight was nothing short of terrifying. I could hardly pick the stupid thing up, let alone put together a three-turn spin and throw it. To no one’s surprise, my farthest mark was just over 12 meters and I had a ways to go before I could be considered close to competitive.

In the outdoor season following, discus turned out to be a smoother transition. I ended up throwing just over 45 meters and placing 7th in conference, not great, but satisfactory for a freshman. A lot of time and effort was put into the following offseasons, eventually paying off the following years.

Sophomore year showed improvements. Weight throw was improved to just over 15 meters, which was good but certainly not great. Discus, however, took the spotlight again. I ended up throwing just over 52 meters, which remains to be my farthest throw, and received All-American honors by the end of my sophomore season. Again, a lot of work was put into the offseason and capitalizing on the time it provided.

Junior year was off to a hot start, throwing over 17 meters early in the indoor season and qualifying for indoor nationals. However, inconsistency got the best of me and I was unable to match, or even come close to, that throw the rest of the season and wasn’t very competitive at the national meet.

Frustration transpired from this and I carried that into the outdoor season.

Due to the first four outdoor meets being cancelled because of weather, frustration carried from the indoor season, and expecting too much from myself because of how well the sophomore outdoor season went, junior year proved to be incredibly discouraging and disheartening.

I struggled to break 47 meters all season and only became more upset with myself as the season went on. Towards the end of the season coach Snyder, my throwing coach, sat me down to check up on me personally, making sure I was personally invested in the right places.

My coach could see I was struggling and getting really upset with myself about underperforming, and he understood how easy it was for me to get caught up in heat of the season and find my worth in my performance.

Instead of simply providing me with technical corrections and coaching me in the ring, like any other throwing coach would, coach Snyder went over scripture with me and helped me understand the importance of finding my identity in Christ, rather than in throwing.

Instead of simply providing me with technical corrections and coaching me in the ring, like any other throwing coach would, coach Snyder went over scripture with me and helped me understand the importance of finding my identity in Christ, rather than in throwing. To have a coach, a man whose job is built upon the performance of athletes, sit me down and show concern for my faith above all else is something pretty special, and it’s something that I know I wouldn’t get anywhere else.

The next meet was the conference meet and, after my coach helped take away much of the pressure I was putting on myself, I felt like I could relax and just compete with nothing to lose. At the conference meet, my last chance of the season, I threw well enough and qualified A standard, throwing a little over 51 meters.

Flash forward and the nationals meet didn’t go quite as well as I hoped, entering the meet ranked 6th and placing 12th overall. Even though the season didn’t end as well as I hoped, I was still happy with how the season turned out, especially after how it started.

Another offseason followed, with countless hours spent in the weight room preparing for the senior season. At this point as an athlete, approaching my final seasons, my motivation resides within my two worst fears: finishing my career and feeling as though there was anything more I could have done to be better, and that I wouldn’t leave an impact on the program when I was finished.  Right now, in the middle of my final indoor season, the same mindset remains.

At this point as an athlete, approaching my final seasons, my motivation resides within my two worst fears: finishing my career and feeling as though there was anything more I could have done to be better, and that I wouldn’t leave an impact on the program when I was finished.  Right now, in the middle of my final indoor season, the same mindset remains.

When I met with Mr. Byker, and he proposed the idea of me doing this Behind the Shield piece, I was hesitant for a couple reasons. The first reason being that I hate talking about myself, specifically regarding athletic achievement. The second reason being that Mr. Byker wanted me to discuss my diabetes, and how I’ve overcome the challenges associated with it in athletics.

I’ve had type I diabetes since 2nd grade. It’s kind of all I know and I don’t really remember much of life before I was diagnosed.

I manage it extremely well, and I would be the last person to ever call it a burden or misfortune. In all reality, it’s been more of a motivational factor than a setback.

If I have it, and I’m not getting rid of it anytime soon, why would I let it slow me down or get in my way? Sure, I’ve had to sit out of several practices or training sessions because of my blood sugar levels, but that shouldn’t compromise my integrity as an athlete.

I’m stuck with it and there’s no reason I shouldn’t be just as good as anybody else.

That’s exactly how I view my diabetes as an athlete.

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