I wasn’t an athletic youth, but I always participated in sports related activities. As kids we didn’t have video games, Facebook, computers or five hundred cable channels to occupy our time. We played outside; in the parks, in the streets or in vacant lots — anywhere we could find a spot, we played sports. Football, baseball and basketball where the big three. But we also made up games that involved physical activity, we even had our own neighborhood Olympic Games. Being overweight, I wasn’t the best, I was often picked last, but still — I participated.
Over the summer between eighth and ninth grade I decided I was going to go out for football. No matter how ridiculous it sounds in retrospect, I was going to play for the Pittston Area Patriots, Penn State Nitnany Lions and finally I would play in the National Football League.
Summer program was the first step along my path. My mom dropped me off at the front entrance to the high school. Instead of turning right and going into the gym, I went straight. Beyond a second set of glass doors my gaze was fixed on the trophy case. Little statuettes of championship seasons stared back at me, but it was the center item that had my full attention — the number 44 jersey worn by Jimmy Cefalo.
I daydreamed about playing on the gridiron wearing the Pittston red, white a blue. I didn’t see nor hear anything else. Suddenly my day slumber was broken by a large hand that had fallen over my shoulder, it was that of legendary head football coach Bob Barbieri. “You are going to be part of this son.”
I just nodded my head. It was as if the hand of God himself had touched me. He continued, “Jimmy was the best, a natural talent, but do you know what made him great?”
I couldn’t speak. I simply stared at the jersey and then the coach. “He worked and practiced harder than anyone else.” He paused for a moment, “In his time here he set track records as well as football, but no matter what he did, he didn’t rely solely on his natural abilities.” Still awestruck I said nothing. Coach Barbieri led me down to the gym.
I only was on the team for two seasons. I never started, heck I barely played, but I worked hard and enjoyed the game. However, I took from those two years valuable lessons about hard work, maximizing potential and that winners were more than born — that even the best still had to practice.
If you live or lived in Northeast Pennsylvania and are around my age then you are acquainted with the names Jimmy Cefalo and Bob Barbieri. I never knew Jimmy Cefalo beyond a handful of meetings, but in addition to being Coach, Bob Barbieri was an teacher at the school. His lessons extended beyond the football field and beyond the classroom, they extended into life. They are lessons I used getting through boot camp, college, business and in overcoming obesity. His words about Jimmy Cefalo echoed in my head when I began my journey from Fat Then to Fit Now and I was determined to achieve my goals and work harder than anyone else.
Chiropractor, Dr. Joe Leonardi is the author of the life changing book; Fat Then Fit Now; A life beyond wight loss.
He is available to speak at no charge to any school or any youth group. He will make himself available to any talk radio, internet podcasting or television outlet. He has appeared on Public Television WVIA’s State of Pennsylvania and Call the Doctor; Lisa Davis’ Your health radio; Jimmy Moore’s Livin’ La Vida Low Carb podcast; Hank Garner’s Podcast.
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- The Triumph Of The Human Spirit; Bethany Hamilton, Soul Surfer (fatthenfitnow.wordpress.com)