Growing up during grade school, middle school, and high school, I was an average student when it came to academic achievement. This was because I focused my time on athletics rather than academics. If I had put as much, or more, time into academics as I did athletics, I probably would have been a straight-A student. Following these early experiences, I graduated from Western Carolina University and told myself that if I entered the teaching profession and the leaders of the school I worked for asked me to teach in athletics, I would require academic achievement from all of my athletes.
When I started the Bouncing Bulldogs program in 1985, this standard remained very important to me. Three decades later, I am still consistent in my beliefs that all athletes should achieve at a high level in the classroom because I know they can. I always reinforce to high school seniors when they leave the program that, when they enter college, they should not make any excuses in the classroom because knowledge is so necessary, but when you really pay attention and receive it from experience, the more valuable lessons come from the things consciously and unconsciously fed into your mind. Also, we take our jumpers on international trips for this very important reason. The traveling experience carries over into the classroom because it broadens your vision and allows you to communicate with individuals from all walks of life. These experiences and the people you meet along the way help you become a well-rounded individual connected with your greatness.
For these reasons, I read, on average, 50 books a year. I should have been reading more throughout grade school, middle school, and high school, so now I am playing catch up. I realize now that reading increases your comprehension which is an extremely beneficial skill in the classroom. I hope to be a positive influence to the young people in my life when it comes to good academic habits despite my late start to thorough and extensive reading. One of the greatest compliments I’ve received was from one of my grandchildren. They asked, “Why does Paw Paw read so much?” This warmed my heart because I am proud of the progress I made, and I have a good feeling that the jumpers recognize it too.