After A Near Fatal Car Accident, Star Coach Beverly Kearney Faced Professional Disaster
Welcome to our brand new column, Reset. Written by Karen Taylor Bass, this column, published each Tuesday, Reset is about life lessons learned and finally mastered mentally, spiritually, and physically. We’ll be taking a closer look at the real challenges faced throughout the journey of life, no matter how successful a person is.
Meet Coach Beverly Kearney. Inducted into the U.S. Track & Field and Cross County Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2007, during her tenure at the University of Texas (Austin) her team won six NCAA championships and she counts nine Olympic medals among her team members, including gold medalist Sanya Richards Ross and Deon Hemmings. In 2002, a car accident nearly killed her and took the lives of two other passengers. Kearney suffered severe spinal cord injury and head trauma, which left her paralyzed. Kearney vowed to walk again and did after years of rehabilitation.
Although, she had cheated death, her biggest challenge was yet to come. Kearney was forced to resign from UT last January after the athletic department put her on leave following the discovery that she had engaged in a long-term relationship with a female track athlete she coached in 2002. (You can read this story from CNN for more detail surrounding the controversy.) Ironically, Kearney was set to receive a five-year contract extension worth more than $400,000 annually. Alleging discrimination based on her gender and race as well as retaliation (another coach, Major Applewhite, a white male, also had a relationship with a student but wasn’t dismissed), Kearney has filed a $1 million lawsuit against the university. The story was so big when it broke, it was covered by the Associated Press.
Recently, Kearney pressed RESET.
MN: Describe your state eight months or so ago?
BK: I was in a state of confusion. Confusion that you experience when the world stops around you and you are standing in the middle of an intersection confused because you’ve gone a certain direction your entire life. Are you going to go left or right? When you are stuck in the middle of road and everything comes to a halt, you have to get back to the core and accept what you are left with. We move constantly and are conceited enough to think we do everything on our own. [We] don’t realize that environment plays an integral role in development. I had to go back to the starting point to find me — all of me, being comfortable with me.
MN: What was the life lesson you kept repeating?
BK: Compromising; not being truthful to my ultimate mission and spirit. I was being subservient to my ego… My childhood and car accident taught me that I could overcome anything. However I was still living based upon others’ standards. I forgot the importance of self-love. The lesson for me to master was love. Love who you are, your choices, and accept all God has provided.
MN: What happened to you that made you press reset?
BK: I grew up in chaos and as an adult I’ve tried to avoid chaos. I went from being homeless as a child, to a star college athlete and accepting my first coaching job at 22. It was my crusade to break down barriers in a predominantly male, white world in collegiate sports and UT afforded me a national stage as an African-American female coach. I recruited the best, cultivated smart, gifted and accomplished student athletes. With that said, in a blink of an eye it was all taken away.
My reset button was pushed when my personal life became a public scandal. I’ve always been prepared, never feared losing material things, but what I did not realize is how my personal brand — the most valuable part of me — was being tarnished by my peers. I had to fight for my brand and not allow the scandal to tarnish what I had accomplished thus far.
MN: Describe yourself today?
BK: I am more mindful, peaceful, balanced and my health is great. Life is a journey of sacrifice, self-evaluation and letting go of ego to walk in service. I’ve become a better version of an older me. At the end of the day, I am still a work in progress.
MN: Why is it important to get uncomfortable in life?
BK: I’ve learned without darkness how can you appreciate light? Without hatred how could you discover love? The challenges in life are here to make us better, smarter, [and] fearless. I’ve learned that challenges are not to destroy us, but to make us greater. I’ve pressed RESET.
Coach Beverly Kearney is completing two books at present including an autobiography and a movie on her life. Check her out at BevKearneypursuitofdreams.com.
Karen Taylor Bass, Author, PR Expert, Brand Mom, Corporate and Small Business Coach and Adviser. Follow her @thebrandnewmom on Twitter.