Brianna was intrigued by how Gordon Park’s talent discovery was seemingly a matter of fate followed by kind words. Was this the true way talent was discovered, she wondered. Or is talent also developed through more of a mentoring relationship? The story of Wilma Rudolph gave her another model of how talent can be nurtured.
Wilma Rudolph was only 4.2 lbs. when she was born. As a child, she had more illnesses than anyone could imagine. These included pneumonia, scarlet fever, and polio. While she recovered from polio, she was disabled. Eventually, she learned to walk without any medical devices. Her leg strength returned and by her high school years, she participated in basketball and track. Wilma continued to compete in high school even though she became pregnant. When Wilma was only 16 years old, she was selected to compete in the Melbourne Olympics and won a Bronze Medal. Four years later, Wilma Rudolph won three Gold Medals in the Rome Olympics and became known as the fastest woman on earth. As her athletic career ended, Wilma Rudolph became a pioneer for civil rights, reduction of gender barriers in sports, and the development of young athletes.
As Brianna began to explore further what led to the discovery of her talent, she found two influences. She wanted to follow in her sister’s footsteps by playing basketball. She was an outstanding player and set a scoring record in her sophomore year. But it was a track coach at Tennessee State University (TSU) who helped Wilma finally utilize the talent she had begun to develop. Ed Temple, the track coach at Tennessee State allowed Wilma to train at TSU while she was in high school. He nurtured Wilma and helped her achieve her fullest talent.
Brianna wondered whether Wilma Rudolph would have succeeded as she did if she hadn’t faced such adversity early in her life? Brianna wasn’t sure. But the success of other persons who have faced adversity early in their life suggests that adversity can be a developer of their talent if they learn from it and use it as a guiding star in their lives. How essential is a talent coach to overcoming adversity? Again, Brianna wasn’t sure
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“Show me someone who has done something worthwhile, and I’ll show you someone who has overcome adversity.”
– Lou Holtz (former football coach at Notre Dame)