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How my dream of becoming an NCAA Division 1 athlete changed my life


Swimming in the ‘deep end’.

Following your dreams into the unknown

When I was 9 years old I made a decision that would fundamentally change my life.

I decided to turn a dream into a goal.

A big hairy audacious goal… To become an NCAA, Division 1 athlete. To play basketball at the highest university level in the world. Little did I know this declaration would be my first dip in the ‘deep end’.

The next 9 years were painstakingly grueling and some of the most rewarding of my life.

They were filled with energizing highs; receiving my first division 1 recruiting letter and phone call, as well as deep dark lows; playing club and living on my own in Philadelphia for 3 weeks at 12 years old and crying myself to sleep every night. I was trying to keep my head above water in the deep end, one big breath at a time, catching just enough of a glimpse of that end goal to keep me kicking and fighting.

9 years later I sat down and signed a National Letter of Intent to NCAA, Division 1, Portland State University – a 4 year full ride scholarship. I spent a few days metaphorically drying off from my swim, celebrating with family and friends, and then proceeded to dive back in, onto the next scary adventure into the unknown.

Playing against Kansas in the 1st round of othe 2009 NCAA tournament

“Swimming in the deep end” represents moving outside of our comfort zone in effort to achieve something great. This has been my most profound place of learning, growth, accomplishment and satisfaction in life.

Despite knowing that dark fears, painful sacrifices, and a constant racing heartbeat are by-products of this environment, I am always eagerly looking for opportunities to jump back in.

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So why don’t we do this more often?

We all have deep passions. Dreams we desperately want to risk everything to pursue – but so often we choose to let those dreams go… We know that greatness lurks, we have dipped our toe in the water, and yet we choose to stand on the edge and watch the opportunity pass us by.

Have you ever had that tug in your gut that tells you that this is your moment, that you were made to do this, that jumping into the deep end is the scariest and most exciting thing you could ever do?

I have one piece of advice that will change your life…

Jump in.

Title Photo Credit: flickr

in your inbox everyday at 10am CST.

No fluff or "pie in the sky inspiration." Just real stories.

Written by Tyrell Mara

Big Hairy Audacious Goal Chaser - building inspired teams to accomplish greatness. Lifelong Learner | Leadership DNA | Future Olympian | Prod Mgmt.