Pogo Sticking is the Reason I'm a Professional Athlete

I was recently asked in an interview why I love soccer so much. I’ve thought about this a lot lately. I love the sport itself. The team camaraderie. The winning. The creativity and freedom of expression it allows. But one of the things that’s undoubtedly at the top of the list is the continuous, never-ending improvement that comes from dedicating myself to the sport.  No matter what level I am at, I always feel compelled to give more. I love testing myself to see just how far I can go, especially when times are tough.  I tried to pinpoint when I developed this passion for improving. It brought me back to one distinct moment during my elementary school days, with one of my most prized possessions: my pogo stick.
Growing up, every kid has their thing. Whether its playing with dolls, collecting rocks, or picking boogers, everyone has that one thing that makes them smile just at the thought of it. Mine was pogo sticking. Ever since I opened that present at my 4th grade Flower Power birthday, I would not let the thing out of my site.  My pogo stick was the classic design with a black shaft, one neon green handle, the other handle neon pink, and a replaceable black rubber tip at the bottom for premium traction on the ground.

Pogo sticking didn’t always come easy to me, but I was determined to master the craft. While the average elementary kids spent their Monday morning indoors eating fruity pebbles and watching Sponge Bob, you’d find me in the driveway pogo sticking my heart away. I was always trying to improve my record before the bus showed up.  My first record I tried to beat was 16. Three days later I had reached 47. The next few weeks I’d made my way into the hundreds. A month passed, and now I was pounding out over three hundred consecutive pogoes.

Pogo sticking became easier than taking candy from a baby. I was in need of a challenge.  Something that set me apart from all the ordinary pogo stickers my age. So I started out with the simple, yet classy “no hands.” I did this by squeezing my legs together and grasping the pogo stick between my legs.  A couple weeks of ultra-focused pogo-ing later, and I had perfected that technique as well. I still needed something more.

One afternoon I was rummaging through my garage and found the perfect piece of equipment to take things to the next level; my jump rope. Fourteen mornings of grueling hopping later, and I had the trick down pat.  But I was still hungry to push my limits even further.

It seemed like fate when my 3rd grade brother and his friends asked me to be their guest appearance in their aerobics skit at our Annual Ainsworth Elementary School Talent Show. A 5th grader at the school, I was the top dog and knew this was the optimal opportunity to show the world my dedication and talent.

As the show began, my heart was beating faster than I’ve ever pogo sticked. The largest crowd I’d performed in front of was my two brothers, my parents, and my dog. But here I was about to pogo stick and jump rope center stage in front of a room full of over a hundred people. But I couldn’t let this get to me. I made myself stay calm, because I knew if I psyched myself out too much my palms would get sweaty and Lord knows what that would do to my grip on the pogo stick.

And then it was time. My brother finally cued me to enter the stage “And lets welcome our special guest Stacey Stue!” (that was the name he came up for me. Good one bro).

Here we go, here we go. Time to shine Kendall. I amped myself, and then headed out full steam.  My adrenaline was through the roof, but I willed myself to stay focused.  Jump, turn the rope, jump turn the rope.  I’d made it almost halfway across the stage and everything was going exactly as planned, until all of a sudden I felt my pogo stick lose traction on the wooden floor. As I went to hop the pogo stick flew out from underneath me and I landed smack down on my back. Immediately after, the entire audience, very choir-like, all in unison sang ‘huhhhh!!”

I was petrified. I couldn’t just get up and keep going after something like this. So instead, I just lay there. Motionless. My brother and his friend sat there for a second, looked at me, then each other, and then just proceeded on with their skit. The entire time I’m lying there on the ground in between them thinking “Kendall you idiot! Idiot! Idiot! Why didn’t you change your grip, you should have known all that pogo sticking would wear down the grip.” After about a century, the curtains finally closed, symbolizing what I perceived as the end of my life.

That night as I lay in my Hawaiian pink flowered bed, I glared up at the Big Dipper (of glow-in-the dark stars on my ceiling) and did some serious life evaluating. I had a choice. Let this incident define me, or overcome it.

At this moment, I felt a sharp twinge of pain deep in my bones. And this was more than just the lingering pain from getting obliterated by the wooden floor a few hours ago.  Was I really going to let one fall determine my career? I could never live with myself if I just gave up. I was meant to be an extraordinary pogo sticker and wasn’t going to let this moment bring me down.

The next morning I was back on the pavement hitting harder than ever before. Looking back, this incident was the inauguration of my relentless mindset. It is the reason I am playing soccer professionally today. The reason I didn’t leave the park until I beat my juggling record because I just had to get to 100. It was the reason I ran two laps around the 4 mile Fairmont loop when a coach cut me from the team because I wasn’t fit enough. I didn’t care what I was told, or how it happened, but I had a goal of playing professionally, and made a conscious effort to improve every day.

This is what Arrow Living is all about. It’s about knowing what we want in life and going after it relentlessly. It’s about knowing that we are in complete control of our outcomes, and not letting anything or anyone prevent us from pursuing our dreams.  It’s about using every situation-the good and the bad-to our advantage. The more we struggle, the sweeter it will be when we hit our targets. 

In the meantime, we must continue Arrow Living. Remain focused, continue to learn and adapt,  stay calm and keep hopping on. 

Cheers to Arrow Living.