As an up and coming sportsman Marcus Retief had much to look forward to. At 15 he was already playing semi-professional and by standard 9 or grade 11 in today’s terms he was offered a soccer scholarship in America which he wisely turned down until he completed his schooling. All his fortune came to an abrupt stand still when he had a freak quad bike accident, which left him paralysed and never to play sport again… or did he?
There were a million thoughts running through Marcus’s head and one of them was the mere fact that he knew while lying there on the ground that he was paralysed, never again to have the opportunity to compete on a pro football circuit. Marcus battled to come to terms with his accident and after many fights with his inner demon, he focused on taking the poor cards he was dealt and turned them into a winning hand.
Pause for a moment… and reflect on the last paragraph. Here is man whose life was ripped apart, given the raw end of the stick and left paralysed. Somehow in a few short years he managed to fight back and not only make the South Africa National Wheelchair basketball team but competed in the Beijing Paralympics and now well on his way to again proudly holding the South African flag high in his second Paralympics in London later this year.
Marcus’ key to success he believes is “Put your head down” and “Just Go”, and “Just Go” These simple yet powerful words have the ability to change a persons life. Marcus reflects back on some of his friends and sees that they have done nothing with their lives and this for him is unacceptable.
Subsequently to Marcus’s ”on the court” antics his flair resonates off the court as well. As the Marketing Director for Compute Corporate Technology Solutions he is kept well busy running the department and giving frequent talks.
It is amazing how the human mind works and the passion and leadership qualities overflow into other areas of one’s life, like in the work place. Marcus said that sport has changed his life for the better! He believes that through being in a team sport and around individuals it has helped him come to terms with his disability and helped with building good friendships and friends who can bring you up when you are feeling down. Marcus also attributes his sport to helping him come out of his shell and teaching him to communicate better with people. This has helped him immensely in the corporate environment and personally, he adds.
As I tweeted not so long ago, “When life gives you lemons, cut down the lemon tree, short the market and sell your lemons at a premium” Life and sport is about looking for opportunity in the midst of tough times. By trying, you are exposing yourself to greater opportunities, and success just can’t resist but find you.
The power of the human mind and spirit is incredible and Marcus is a testimonial to any abled bodied or disabled, that if you put your mind to it, remain positive and keep going, great things are possible.
Not bad for a man, an athlete, a captain of the SA National Team who has never even touched or played basketball, up until his accident!
Sean is a sports scientist and director of Advanced Sports Performance.
Catch his column in The Citizen every fortnight.
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