“AS THE COACH AT A HIGH SCHOOL NEAR CHICAGO, MIKE POWELL HAS DONE MORE THAN CREATE STATE WRESTLING CHAMPIONS. HE’S TAUGHT BOYS HOW TO BE MEN AND PROVIDED AN EXAMPLE OF COURAGE UNDER THE MOST TRYING PERSONAL CIRCUMSTANCES”
I’m warning you to get a hankie before reading this story…and understand that writing like this is the reason (well, one of them) that I subscribe to Sports Illustrated. This piece came out in the February 13, 2012 issue – I wept when I read it the first time, and I’ve got tears in my eyes as I read it now……
Mike Powell was always the strongest guy in his set, and he ran with a big strong bunch of guys. He brawled through high school and college, and then, as his injuries derailed his competitive career, he grew up. He went to work for his old high school as the wrestling coach and teacher in the “emotional-adjustment” classroom, working with the lower end of the academic spectrum. He gradually got better at his craft, building his wrestling team, becoming a mentor and role model for at-risk kids.
At 33 years old, he was about the marry the woman he adored and looking forward to reaching the state wrestling championships…and that’s when the weakness began to show up. At first he denied that anything was wrong, but when that became impossible, he saw his doctor, then the neurologist from whom he got the diagnosis of polymyositis. A somewhat mysterious syndrome that can kill in fairly short order, or allow a victim to live for decades – always in a severely weakened condition and subject to cancer and other maladies at a higher than normal rate.
Mike Powell has stopped his classroom teaching, but he continues to coach the wrestling team, just not the way he used to:
“So every morning Powell’s body tells him to stay in bed, and every morning he fights it. Instead he takes 10 pills a day, eats anti-inflammatory foods, rewards himself with the occasional apple for a sugar rush and focuses on attainable goals. “My life has become relatively small,” he says. “I coach wrestling and love my wife.” He pauses. “I don’t have much hope of being in remission for 20 years, but there’s not a day that I’m not up for the fight.”
“These days Powell can barely complete five push-ups. If he makes it through a quarter-mile walk, he is pleased. Last week he completed two pull-ups.
“He is, his wrestlers will tell you, the strongest man they know.”
When you’re tempted to complain about something that goes wrong in your life, go back and read Mike Powell’s story again.