To celebrate Black History Month, The Sports Museum will be sharing an essay each week from our annual Will McDonough Writing Contest.

Character Counts, Willie O’Ree

By Ada L.
WS Parker Middle School in Reading, MA
6th Grade Entry, ‘09 Will McDonough Writing Contest

The most important thing a successful person need is determination. The quote by Willie O’Ree is an excellent creed: “If you think you can then you can. If you think you cannot, then you’re right.”

We make our own goals, or in other words, set standards for ourselves. Take kicking a ball for the first time, for instance. If your goal is that you will kick the soccer ball, then your brain will try its absolute hardest to achieve that goal and kick the winning shot. On the other hand, if you think you will never be able to kick a goal, you brain, without you knowing it, will automatically give up. Chances are, unless you change your mind, you will never be able score that goal. Success therefore is based on the limits we place on ourselves.

Even though people discriminated against African Americans, Willie O’Ree became a well-known professional hockey player. O’Ree must have been thinking in his mind: “I know I can do this. I just have to.” Right after he finished that thought, his brain started right away looking for a way to help him join the team. He was so determined that even if he did fail during the first few attempts, he would never give up. On the other hand, if he had thought that he would never do something even close to joining an all whites team, he would have been right. Also, after he hurt his eye, the first thing that came to mind could be that he may never be able to play again. But that was not the way he was thinking. He had strong determination and was most likely thinking that there has to be a way so that he can still play on ice. Again, his brain fought through all the challenges and reached his goal. This can only happen through determination.

O’Ree was born into a loving family. He had a dad that was a city engineer worker and his mother was a supportive and caring one. Willie also had an older brother, Richard, who was a good athlete. Willie followed in his brother’s footsteps to become a successful and determined hockey player. Willie O’Ree learned to skate at age 3 and played in a league at age 5. With a loving family and his never-ending determination, it’s no wonder why he became so successful.

Examples from my own life are all the achievements I have made in the past. Like O’Ree, I also have supportive parents and relatives always there for me when I am not sure of what to do. My parents are always reminding me that determination is all I need in order to succeed in anything.

Sports aren’t the only places where this quote comes in handy. School, playing an instrument, becoming the president, getting a job, and inventing something all require this kind of spirit. Anyone who wishes to accomplish something in life must have this kind of determination and responsibility.