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Bret Williams – Mind and Heart of a Champion

by Don

Bret Williams National Handball Champion (far right)

Bret Williams National Handball Champion (far right)

Bret Williams is a 50 year old, long-time, talented multi-sport athlete who lives in Gross Point Park, Michigan. Over the years Bret has participated in running, gymnastics, racquetball, handball, pole vaulting, and yoga. While he excelled at pole vaulting in high school, and hoped to receive a college scholarship, a very bad ankle injury ended that dream. Not to be stopped, Bret went on to compete at a national level in racquetball and handball, giving professional players a run for their money on more than one occasion.

Serendipitously when searching for employment, Bret came across a job posting for a pole vault coach at his former high school. Funny that it had crossed his mind that someday he wanted to give something back to the school and sport that shaped his life. He took the job, and has now found himself with the desire to vault once again. It feels right to Bret that he resume vaulting because it was 33 years and one week from when he suffered his final ankle injury to when he vaulted again. Bret has his sights set on breaking the 50 and over world record of 15’ 6 ¾” by the end of 2010. Bret sees this comeback not as just a run at the world record, but also a way to get back on the horse and try to get over the career ending injury he suffered 30 years ago.

Bret explained to me how he got started playing racquetball at age 14 when the friend he played tennis with cut his tennis racquet off so he could play the new game of racquetball. For a week or so, Bret refused to cut his tennis racquet, because he still liked to play tennis. Finally, after a week of not being able to find anyone to play tennis with him, he cut off his racquet and got hooked. He then got into handball when he became worn down by the handball players at the court chiding him to put down the “sissy sticks”, and play a real man’s game. This is a recurring theme as I interview people, how we tend to fall into sports that end up hooking us. I’ve always been a collector of people stories, and find it interesting how often life changing things happen to us out of pure chance.

Bret has learned a number of valuable lessons in his long years of participation in various sports that he shared with me during the interview. One thing that struck me in talking to Bret is his love for sports, training, and the people he gets to meet through his participation in sports. Bret has the mind and heart of a professional athlete, and I look forward to keeping in touch and finding out when he breaks the pole vault world record next year. Good luck Bret.

If you are an athlete 50 or over and interested in being interviewed, please email me

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