Thursday, October 20, 2016

An Athlete's Truth - Ronneil Herron

        We have a very special treat to hear from a very good friend of mine named Ronneil Herron. Ronneil has been a friend of mine for many years and has been an incredible example of what it means to be Coached in Truth. He has an incredible story to share and I know everyone who takes the time to read it will be inspired by his character and his relentless pursuit to love God. Here is a quick bio on Ronneil, followed by his story and his definition of what it means to be Coached in Truth.

Ronneil Herron’s Bio

        In high school I played basketball, baseball and football up until my sophomore year.  During my junior and senior year, I focused on basketball and baseball.  I earned a few individual accolades in basketball my junior and senior year, but as a team we weren’t that good.  I had the privilege of being the starting 2nd basemen my sophomore, junior and senior year on the varsity baseball team.  Our teams won back to back state championships my junior and sophomore year.  As a student I maintained a 4.17 GPA.  At Syracuse University, I had the privilege of playing collegiate ball between 2000 and 2004.  And in 2003, I was fortunate enough to be on the team that won a national championship.  As a student, I majored in Electrical Engineering and earned a B.S. degree in 2003.  After graduating I attempted to play ball overseas but after weighing my options, I chose to pursue a career in electrical engineering and I’m currently working for an electrical utility as a system planner.

Like my father was, and how my son is now, I’ve always been drawn to sports.  As far back as I can remember, I had some kind of ball in my possession or I was outside playing some kind of sport in the neighborhood.  At a young age, I was fascinated by the competition associated playing a sport and the idea that there’s always room for improvement, which has been a concept that has tremendously helped me outside of sports.  
I say this with great humility, but growing up, I was that kid that naturally played sports well and excelled above my peers.  By nature, I’m a pretty even keeled individual who isn’t easily excited.  However, whenever I participate in anything involving athletics, there is focus and peace that overtakes me and I know I’m in my element.  There’s an aggression in how I play that displays itself.  There’s a level of confidence knowing that I’ve been entrusted with certain talents.  There’s a push to healthily be better than whoever I’m competing against.  There’s a focus that wants to triumph beyond circumstances and be victorious.  There’s a peaceful joy being able to express myself through the athleticism loaned to me.  
Growing up, I knew that I was good at sports, and folks would often vocalize it, but thankfully it never filled my head.  I attribute that to my parents keeping me grounded and helping me to keep a healthy perspective that just because your good at something, it doesn’t equate to you being better than anyone.  My parents never directly shared Biblical scriptures with me, but they would share Biblical principles.  And one of them was to in humility, consider others better than myself (Philippians 2: 3).  Another concept that kept me humble growing up was the fact that at any point, I could face someone who was better than or just as good as me.  I don’t know exactly how I gained this perspective at an early age, but I do know that this is something God wove into my heart.  So as a result, I enjoyed practicing and taking time by myself to improve my skill sets.  Now, I can’t say that I’ve always had a good work ethic.  In the later parts of middle school and early on in high school, I began to not train as much because I could rely on my athletic ability.  However, as those I played against began to get stronger and more explosive as result of maturing and training, I couldn’t just be more athletic than my competition.  I had to start consistently training my body in order to compete.
I’m grateful that I was surrounded by coaches and mentors,who helped me to mature physically and in the process, helped me to mature in my character.  When I had to start lifting weights consistently and doing drills to help improve my quickness and explosiveness, I was not a big fan.  I enjoyed training, but as we all know, it’s not always pleasant pushing our bodies to new limits.  But in learning to do so, I learned the importance of denying myself (not giving up) so that fruit could be born (maturing physically and mentally).  And those who trained me always told me the truth, but it was done out of carefor my well-being.  I think being constructively criticized at an early age definitely helped me to embrace input given by others as I got older and to not take it personal so I could digest what was being presented to me and grow from it accordingly (Proverbs 19: 20-21…….Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails).
Coming out of high school, I had a few offers to play collegiate basketball at smaller programs in California (UC Davis and Sacramento State).  I was also offered an opportunity to play minor league baseball with the Milwaukee Brewers.  But in my pride, I didn’t want to play at a smaller program and the big name schools weren’t checking for a 5’11’ guard who only weighed 143 lbs.  And I never knew about the opportunity to play minor league baseball until weeks after my high school graduation.  The scouts were communicating with my parents who told them that I was going to college and if they were interested in signing me, that’d have to wait until after I completed a degree in college.  This was a decision my parents and I made when I was in the 8th grade and started to get noticed by scouts.  But as a 18 year old kid, I was blown when my mom finally told me about the offer because I felt like I had missed out on a golden opportunity.
Since I wasn’t getting recruited in basketball by any big names schools, and I couldn’t play baseball professionally, I decided to go to Georgia Tech to major in electrical engineering.  Well, my financial aid paper work ended up falling through and so I was left with studying electrical engineering at my second choice of school’s……Syracuse University.  While at SU, I had no plans of trying to play basketball but the more I went to the gym to hoop for fun my freshman year, the more I heard folks telling me that I should try and walk on to the team.  After one of my floor mates told me that he was going to try out for the team and needed a workout partner, I figured I might as well try out.  After all, what did I have to lose?  Long story short, I ended up not making the team.  After the tryout was over, I was pulled aside by one of the assistant coaches and told that if they were to keep any one as a walk-on, it would have been me.  But I needed to get in better shape and put on some weight.  So with that motivation and a lot of help from a good friend, I trained the rest of my freshman year and the beginning of my sophomore year so that I could be ready for the tryouts again in October.  And thankfully the work that was put in paid off as I was offered a spot as a walk-on.
Being a walk-on was rewarding but yet humbling at the same time.  I was grateful to be able to play a sport I loved at the collegiate level, but I also had to work just as hard as a scholarship player knowing that I probably wouldn’t play all that much.  And so there was a constant battle within me.  I knew that as long as I was on the team, I needed to be improving as a basketball player.  And I wanted the opportunity to play in games.  But I also knew that my role was to push the scholarship players and get them game ready.  So there were times that I would question whether or not it was beneficial to be on the team knowing that I was less likely to play significant minutes in games.  But thankfully I didn’t allow my pride to get the best of me and I had folks around me to remind me just how special of an opportunity I had.  As luck would have it, the work I was putting in was being noticed and during my junior year, I, along with another walk-on, was going to be offered scholarships.  We were both starting to get more reps with the 1st team during the pre-season.  However, before the season began, one of our teammates was dismissed from the team and another one transferred.  As a result, our program was penalized by putting a hold on scholarship offers.  So the scholarship I thought I was going to receive was no longer an option.   Naturally, I was blown away when the coaches broke the news to us.  But it didn’t deter me from maximizing the opportunity I had been given. Being a walk-on taught me many things.  Pushing past my desires and wants and doing what’s best for the betterment of others was one of them.  That same principle is something I go back to as I attempt to lead my family.
I am eternally grateful for the men and women God has put in my life to help keep me grounded and view myself through sober lenses.  Unfortunately, not everyone has a support system where the development of your character outweighs the development of your physical abilities.  When you’re good at anything, there’s always a temptation to start feelin’ yourself and believe that you deserve the praises of others.  I know I did and still can.  And we all know, sports are no different.  But just like in life, tough or difficult times don’t necessarily built character, they more expose the inner fiber of our beings. Thankfully God has used sports to help expose, shape, mold, and refine my character to help equip me for this thing called life and live it truthfully!

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