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Character Building

I wanted to start this blog with sharing some of my character building moments. To me, character building isn’t a switch that we switch on or off. It’s a process of learning. Where one step has to be in place before the other piece could fit in. Part of this process is the understanding of character building.

I wanted to start with my own sports achievements that took a huge amount of perseverance,, persistence, believe and sometimes I think sheer stupidity, lol

I started swimming at the age of 12. I wanted to play football, but my mother would not let me because I was too small. During our neighborhood football games, I earned the nickname JoeJoe Make. Being small I was agile and I had finesse. So every time I got the ball, I ended up scoring a touch And that’s where JoeJoe Make came from. Because I scored a touchdown nearly every time.

My mother was very driven to protect me. When I was born, I Had neonatal hepatitis. Born jaundiced, premature, and a very severely damaged liver. The doctor told my mother I would not live so she did a lot of praying and gave me a lot of vitamins to this day. 60 years later I am still here. Thanks to my mother.

This though, gave my mother an extra maternal instinct to protect me so she put me into swimming instead of football

I am no Michael Phelps so being a swimmer at 5’9” really was a challenge in itself and starting at the age of 12 was even a bigger challenge because most people started their swimming career at eight or nine years old.

I started on the local swimming scene where we swam competitive with other swim clubs, and I was horrible. I swam a 50 m freestyle in two minutes. Needless to say I won most improved swimmer that year.

But I decided I wanted to be better so I swam at the YMCA during the winter. All of those people that beat me in my first two years because I only swam during the summer were shocked when I left them in my wake.

I woke up every morning at 4 AM so that I could swim during the cold winters to improve. I joined the Penguin Aquatic Club, a branch off Youngstown State University (YSU).

These workouts were brutal. Swimming morning and evening several years I became the champion in backstroke for our local league and I set records with teammates for relays, etc.

It was an exciting time to see that all of the work paid off.

Swimming is a unique sport because you swim your individual race the teams collective performance depends on your record.

So your team mates have to have a strong bond and encouragement.


I went to the University of Cincinnati and I wanted to swim for the Bearcats. Remember I was only 5 ‘9” so when the open tryouts came, I was ecstatic to try out and swim for the Bearcats.

This is a whole different league than a local swim club league. Literally. The coach a very successful Frank Busch looked at me and said come back next year.

So I embedded that date in my mind to be there exactly the day he asked me to come back. The look on Frank’s Face, PRICELESS!. I came back on the that very day. I said to him you said to come back next year so here I am. So he gave me a tryout.

The tryout was grueling. ,I had been training very hard to be able to make an impression. Lifting weights ,running & swimming. The one thing that convinced the coaches was our final test, a run around the track . I created a big gap between me and the other people at the tryouts. I was nearly full lap ahead of them. Then when we came to the final lap, one of the other teammates from Norway Hakkan Scram Stokke, started running as fast as he could to close the gap on me and as we came to the final lap I had finished ahead and the coach saw my strengthen, will and character.

So summing up this particular section in this chapter. The Gold Nugget Takeaway was this.

My other team mates asked me why I was doing this without a scholarship and I replied My “Passion for it.. I want to Master this Sport”. From that the Deemed me the 13th member. The story about the football team that lost their star player because of injury and they were losing very badly. So a fan from the stands suited up and played. This inspired the other team mates and they put their all into the game and won.

Needless to say that they nominated me for Team Captain and I was offered a scholarship.

So showing up with passion and willingness ALWAYS shines through. People respect that and see the measure of the person


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