Inspirational speakers and coaches featured at the TPHS Foundation’s Youth Summer Speed Camp
Captain Sarah Bettencourt (USMC, Retired) came to Torrey Pines High School on July 11 to engage 105 youth athletes ages 8-17 on the importance of having a positive attitude and mindset for mentally overcoming physical challenges.
“You can achieve and accomplish just about anything if you say you can.” Bettencourt was training as a helicopter pilot when a rare neurological disorder forced her to medically retire in 2012. With her constantly changing and sometimes very serious symptoms, Bettencourt struggled to find her place back in society until she was introduced to adaptive sports, where she realized by adapting equipment and technique, she could accomplish anything. Since then, Bettencourt founded San Diego Ducks Sled Hockey, is a 7-time defenseman on the U.S. Women’s Sled Hockey Team, is co-captain of the U.S. Para Surf Team, and is the reigning 2-time world champion in the Women’s Para Surf Prone 1 division.
“I love that I am able to speak to kids about what happened to me. I was at the top of my game and fell short from achieving what I wanted to do. I learned that falling was part of life and it was only me, or my thoughts, that could pick myself back up,” Bettencourt reflected. “I was told I couldn’t and I told myself I could. It was mental fitness that led to physical practice and repeating small movements over and over until I was able to move my body again.”
Expertly maneuvering her wheelchair from one side of the lecture room to the other, Bettencourt captivated the young athletes showcasing her adaptive sled and explaining her physical strength on the ice during hockey games. She also engaged the campers by asking them questions and encouraged athletes to ask her questions. The final question from a camper was, “If you could go back to when you were able bodied, would you?” to which Bettencourt straight faced responded, “No, I learned to overcome so much in my life from having this happen. I’ve learned that I can accomplish anything with my mind and I am much tougher and stronger than I was back then. I would not have my life be any different.”
Professional trainer and camp operator Marty Graham, of Solana Beach, said, “It is incredibly important for youth to understand that road blocks naturally come in life, and sometimes really big ones. It’s going to be your mind and attitude that get you to overcome these obstacles and move forward.”
The TPHS Foundation’s Youth Speed Camp was created by TPHS alumni athletes Marty Graham and Zephyr Fletcher as a fundraiser for the TPHS Classroom and Student Enrichment fund in 2019. COVID-19 shut down its second year in 2020. By the community’s backing, it resumed in 2021 and again in 2022, reaching record attendance. Fletcher commented, “We aimed to bring kids together to motivate them to be athletes for life, like Marty and I are. I am incredibly grateful for him, our amazing coaches, Jesus Reyes and Marcus Parker and our daily motivational speakers that have come to help.” Fletcher continued, “Not only did we have Sarah Bettencourt speak, we also had empowerment coaches, Deanna Nunez and Govindi Juneja.”
Nunez spoke at the speed camp July 12 and motivated campers to embrace their courage. She asked campers, “What happens when you experience self-doubt?” The kids shared, “Your body is weak. No energy. Your body language is droopy. Head down. Emotions are sad, or in fear.” She followed up with, “What happens when you experience courage?” The kids responded, “Your body has energy. Your body language is strong. You feel like you can do anything.”
Nunez explained to them, “The brain is as smart as a whip! Yet our brain can sometimes tell us we’re not good enough, or that we don’t have the confidence to so something we’re dreaming of. Courage is the I CAN emotion.”
Juneja, who focuses her coaching on inner child work, was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak directly with campers on July 13. She demonstrated and spoke about a variety of breathing techniques, along with meditation and yoga to release unprocessed emotions to empower the mind, which is used in reaching higher conscious of athletic potential. Fletcher stated, “All three female speakers captivated the young audience and were great additions this year to our camp.”
The camp’s daily schedule consisted of individualized training coaching, conditioning with applied mechanics, resistance weight room training and competitive team building. Speed camp coach Marcus Parker, 24, who is 14th in the country in the 200-meter sprint and All American ACC Sprinter at Clemson University, said this of the camp, “It’s wonderful to see youth athletes working together as a close knit group throughout the week. They learn important values in character and become open to what can be, versus what is.”
To learn more about the TPHS Foundation, Speed Camp or to donate, go to torreypinesfoundation.org. — Torrey Pines Foundation news release
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