Kevin Atlas, the first player with only one hand to earn a D1 basketball scholarship, is touring the nation to share his motivational message. Atlas spoke to Van Wert High School Thursday morning. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
Van Wert High School students gathered at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center Thursday morning to hear Kevin Atlas, the first basketball player with only one hand to earn a D1 basketball scholarship, give a motivational speech.
Atlas used his personal tales of struggle to encourage the students to be better. Atlas was born with an underdeveloped left arm; his parents split as a kid and, while they were good parents, they spent most of their time working. In addition, his father died of cancer when he was a teenager.
As a junior high student, Atlas was told he couldn’t play basketball because he only had one hand. When he succeeded as a young player, he was told he would never go to college to play basketball, despite being one of the top high school basketball players in California. After high school, Atlas went on to play one postgraduate year at a military school in Virginia. He then earned a full athletic scholarship to play for the Manhattan College Jaspers in New York City.
After college, Atlas continued his career by playing professionally in Asia.
Today, Atlas is traveling the world sharing his experiences and the message of his campaign, “Believe In You,” through the support of Varsity Brands. Atlas will make 300 stops at high schools nationwide over the next two years.
The goal of the campaign is to spread the message to students that they matter and to elevate student experiences through sport, spirit, and achievement. He challenged students to support one another.
“Our mission is for every student in America to have someone who believes in them,” said Atlas. “We are on a coast-to-coast crusade to bring our Believe In You message to campuses across the country because I’ve been at schools where this exists, and it’s beautiful. Young people today need to feel that support and love. I’m so thankful for this opportunity, and I know this will make a difference.”
According to material provided by Believe In You, “Students who have someone who believes in them are 77 percent more likely to go on to college.”
Atlas posed the question, “Are you happy?” to students in attendance and dared them to start doing things that make them feel happy. He noted that each day in the United States, there are over 3,041 attempts by young people in grades nine through 12 – making suicide one of the leading causes of deaths in teenagers and young adults.
“If you’re not genuinely happy every day… you deserve to be. Sorry if this is the first time you’ve heard that,” said Atlas to the students.
Atlas encouraged the students to own and embrace the things that make them different. He said he spent a long time hating the fact that he was born with one hand, but after learning to use it to his advantage and embrace it, his life and perspective changed. He also encouraged students to empathize with others and what they are going through.
“If you guys want to be real leaders and crush it in life, you’ve got to learn to see the world through other people’s perspectives,” said Atlas. “It’s a super awesome trait.”
During his motivating speech, Atlas asked students what they do when they go home. He asked if they are working toward their goals or if they are currently floating through life. He asked what kind of impact they are making now.
“Legends are made behind closed doors,” said Atlas recalling what his high school coach told him. “You have to come to school for seven hours a day, what do you do on your time when you leave here? That’s what is going to make you successful.”
Near the end of his presentation, Atlas asked students to stop thinking about themselves and start finding ways to improve the lives of others. He told students to compliment each other more. He dared the football team to support the marching band at one of the concerts, as the marching band does for every football game; he dared all students to support others students at events they normally don’t go to.
“You guys all want to be loved and appreciated all day, but you zone out about yourself all the time, and that’s why you’re all so miserable,” Atlas stated. “Wake up. You deserve to be happy. You will never be happy if you put yourself first, and leaders don’t put themselves first.”
To conclude, Atlas asked students to take photos of them supporting other students and to post them on Instagram with the hashtag #BelieveInYou.
Atlas was brought to Van Wert High School by Rob Welch, Van Wert Business owner of Northwest Ohio Welch Trophy and BSN Sports associate, to help promote success and motivation to Van Wert High School.
“I am extremely excited about this opportunity for Van Wert High School and hope that this message inspires the athletes, students and coaches when they hear his message, to be part of something bigger in life and motivate them to be their very best and believe in themselves,” said Welch before the event.
Atlas's visit to Van Wert was free of charge.
Original article courtesy of Times Bulletin.