Former University of Washington standout Norris Frederick hopes to punch his ticket to London in the long jump.
His fundraising hook was a celebrity date auction. You could bid to go out with the Olympic hopeful himself, or other famous athletes from the school, or members of the female Seattle Mist lingerie football team.
Sometimes, Norris Frederick admits, he can’t stand the loneliness.
The life of a track star is a strange and solitary one. It’s a journey with the lights off, except for a few weeks every four years. Frederick, the former University of Washington and Roosevelt High School athlete, speaks with great eloquence about the joy and stress of being an Olympic hopeful. Even his greatest burden — the loneliness — can be a virtue at times.
Frederick looks up and sees his name, all alone, atop the world in the long jump.
As a man in today’s world, I struggle with motivation. I struggle with stress. I struggle with change and the fear of the unknown.
As a professional athlete, I’m taught and told to be confident. Never show signs of weakness. Through everything I’m always expected to overcome adversity or some type of struggle.
Now, the reason why I’m writing this blog is because I want to connect with people that are going through struggles and difficult situations. I want to be able to learn how you respond and how you deal with them. At the end of the day I am human. I have struggled through very difficult times and have emotions. But since I am a professional athlete, I’m put on a pedestal where I am expected to be flawless, maybe even slightly robotic. It’s tough to deal with the fact that everything I do is put under a microscope and easily criticized. But what about the hours where I’ve been training with no one else around? There’s no microscope out then but I’m giving it my all and pushing myself. There’s certainly no praise, and no criticism until I walk out the door and back in to the ‘real world’.
I don’t know the answers to everything, but hopefully this blog can shed some light on some of these difficulties I’ve been facing, as I’m sure some of you are going through relatable struggles. I am hoping that we can come together and you can help me reveal some advise. I need those of you who have been able to overcome the stress, the fears, lack of motivation and depression and have persevered, because this is what I deal with every day as a man and as a professional athlete. No matter the profession or the trade we all have similar struggles and these human emotions: the demons to fight off in our minds.
I’ve been in the world of professional athletics for some time now, and I’ve previously been able to manage my stress and deal with things as they come. But the older I get, I find that it’s not as easy to let certain things go and pretend or portray myself as if things don’t hurt. So I’m calling on you guys: the people that deal with these same types of struggles, the everyday warriors, to open up and express. Tell me what things are going on in your lives and how you’ve dealt with them. How you’ve overcome them and how you’ve pushed forward. So I am further calling you to please tune in, please engage and please share with me so that we can rise up and become even stronger together.
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Today I was tested in more ways than one. It’s tough pushing your body to it’s physical limit every day, especially while trying to keep a smile on your face during the rough parts. I feel like I’m forced to be so many things, but I can’t be emotional when something doesn’t go right in my sport or at practice. It’s been a rough season so far. I’ve been battling through injuries and struggling with my mind telling me to rest of take some time off while I feel like I don’t deserve it. Things that I would have never craved in the past are becoming more appealing, and things that I had previously fallen in love with and cherished for years can no longer seem to keep me inspired.
My name is Norris Frederick.
I’m a professional athlete and I’ve been a professional athlete for the past 9 years.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve uttered that statement or a statement just like it. However, it just dawned on me a few nights ago that I feel like that is all I am; “just” a professional athlete. The sad thing about that is, there are so many dimensions to being a professional athlete that the title shouldn’t feel like a “just”. Professional athletes are mentors, role models, coaches, therapists, brand ambassadors, advocates, philanthropists; the list could go on. Professional athletes are all these phenomenal things and more. But the headliner that sticks with most people is that you’re “just” a professional athlete. To me having this title has been a blessing, I’m not going to say anything negative about it, but now that I’m at the back end of my career and deciding if this is something I still want to pursue or not, I’m finding that I’m having a very difficult time with that decision. When I look at my resume, there are degrees and academic achievements but everything is dominated by my athletic accolades. And what I am struggling with about that is: how can an athletically-focused resume match up to all those purely academic resumes out there when trying to go after a job or go through a similar transition as someone else searching for their next career? How do I separate myself from the bunch?
So many people have asked me throughout my career, “What happens after you’re done?”, and at a snap of my finger I will think to respond: “Well, I’m going to do this…. No, I’m going to do that…”, and then I find it’s a challenge to actually come up with a definitive answer that I know I will follow through with. The truth is, this type of transition phase is pretty scary and I don’t know the right message to send or right things to say about it. When I ask others for advice all I hear is, “You know, just be yourself and you’ll be alright. You’re a likeable guy” and other seemingly generic things like that. But it’s hard to take a step outside of myself and think about what unique things I bring to the table. I see myself every day. I deal with myself every day. I know what makes me “tick” and what makes me happy. But somehow I don’t feel that I will be OK if I don’t actively do something about where I’m at in life. I’m constantly struck with the fact that one day my career as a professional athlete is going to be gone. Then what will I have? Then what will I be? What is my legacy outside of being a ‘former professional athlete’? What else do I leave behind?
I don’t know if all of this may be too ‘heavy’, but I want to be real with you guys. If anyone out there has any advice or would like to share what they’ve done during a time like this, I’m all ears right now. I’m assuming it’s not that much of a transition for a non-professional athlete going from one job to another, but I could be wrong in that assumption. So if anyone can shed some light on the situation and is feeling open to share, I’m very open to hear what you have to say.
At this moment I am at a standstill. But being at a standstill does not prevent life from stopping, so I know I cannot stay at a standstill. So please reach out and let me know what you have to say. I’m looking forward to your response.