For years Kirk Mango has worked diligently toward one goal, writing a book.
Dedication and determination aren’t new to Mango, 54, a two-time college All-American gymnast.
At the heart of his book, Becoming a True Champion, Achieving Athletic Excellence From the Inside Out, which will be published in May, are the lessons and life-skills he learned as an athlete, coach and parent. Now he hopes to share what he has learned with young athletes.
Mango, a resident and physical education teacher for more than 30 years at , said he became concerned about what he was hearing from young athletes and parents. He said the focus for many young athletes seemed to be less about learning through hard work and more about what athletes can get, whether that is a place on a college team or making money as a professional.
“I saw things were backwards,” Mango said. “The intrinsic value is on the inside but everything is backwards. … A lot of kids are playing for the wrong reasons, whether from parental pressure or societal pressure.”
The winning at all costs attitude often leads kids to make bad decisions that have lifelong impact, he said.
Mango said that he has awards and medal, but calls them dust collectors, what mattered more was the process that allowed him to earn those awards and there were no short cuts involved.
Many other well-known athletes seem to agree with Mango and have endorsed his book. Olympic gold medal gymnast Nadia Comaneci wrote the foreword to the book.
In the process of writing his book Mango faced a number of challenges, including searching for an editor to help him with the book and finding a publisher who would bring the book to the people.
Just as Mango faced challenges with his book, athletes may face challenges and without the dedication he learned over the years, he may have set it aside and given up. Yet, Mango said he didn’t let the stumbling blocks keep him down.
“The book is about showing the athlete the process if they want to seek it, whether they want to be a professional or not, it’s about finding the best you can become regardless of what you want to do,” he said.
How a person thinks directly affects their ability to act, Mango said. To be successful there is a ladder that needs to be climbed.
“People want immediate gratification,” he said.
While there is the desire for athletes to be “bigger, faster, stronger,” athletes need to take steps to meet those goals the right way and with integrity, Mango said.
Drawing from his own personal experience as an athlete, coach and parent to two Division I college athletes — his daughters played soccer and volleyball — helped Mango write the book and find its focus. He hopes the book will reach athletes 14 and older, along with their parents and coaches. But, he said the book was written specifically for teen athletes.
As a teacher Mango is around teens and young athletes and said he inspires them by setting a good example and “letting them know that short-term gratification doesn’t get you what you want.”
Once his book is published he hopes that it will resonate with teen athletes, though he said he wrote it to make a difference and not to make a lot of money.
“I’m a firm believe that every person has innate potential to be good at something, it’s about applying themselves,” he said. “It’s about choices and sacrifices to get to a certain place.”