Seventh-grader Kevin Duncan’s world is filled with athletics. He lived and breathed football when he was small, living in Charleston. Then, in the middle of his third grade year, his family moved to Mounds City, and he was crushed to discover that there was no football program at Meridian. But, being above-average height for his age (he’s 5'9" as a 13-yearold), a switch to basketball seemed like the best course of action.
Stay confident, be true to yourself.
Now he’s playing on both the junior varsity and varsity teams, and excels at defense – he thinks it’s because of all the footwork practice he did in his football days. And as if that weren’t enough, he also plays baseball, his strong arm making him a crack left fielder and third baseman.
But don’t let his love of sports give you the impression that he is one-dimensional. A hard-working, serious student, Kevin has a particular affinity for history. He is fascinated by learning about the way the world goes through changes over time, sometimes fast and sometimes slowly. He is also thinking about maybe going into computer science one day. That is, if his dream of playing in the NBA doesn’t pan out. As a seventh-grader, he can be forgiven if his long-range goals are still a little undecided. But in the near term, his vision is clear: “I want to work really hard to get some kind of scholarship to go to college and play basketball,” he says, confidently.
Confidence is something that Kevin exudes. It’s a quiet, easy confidence that comes across as the self-assuredness of someone who is comfortable with who he is. Thinking back to when he moved to Mounds City in third grade – a new community, a new school, and all of his friends back in Charleston – Kevin says that he would tell that young man, “Stay confident, be true to yourself.” Spend a little time with Kevin, and you will come to see that this is not just an empty platitude. This is his unofficial motto, a simple, direct blueprint for life that he implements daily.
Kevin credits his step-father for inspiring his outlook on life. “He tells me a lot about life,” Kevin relates. “He stays true to himself.” Another big influence on young Kevin is his older brother, who went to college on a football scholarship, showing Kevin that he can go places in life just by doing what he loves. His brother taught him that he can overcome adversity and do things that he might at first think impossible.
It should be fairly obvious by now that Kevin has a pretty good head on his shoulders. He knows what is important in life, and what it takes to achieve his goals. But, this wasn’t always true. Kevin confides that when he was younger, he worried a lot about fitting in and being perceived as cool by his peers. But he came to realize that it was much more important to be true to yourself, like his step-father taught him, than to fit in with the crowd. He stopped caring what others said and thought about him, and began to grow into the confident, poised young man he is today. At just 13 years old, he is well on his way to a high school career, and beyond, full of success and high achievement.
And in ten years? Kevin sees himself playing basketball professionally. And, although it’s completely natural to think of the fame and fortune associated with NBA stardom, that’s not Kevin’s sole motivation. He also sees it as an opportunity to use the wealth and status he might one day gain to give a hand up to those who need it. “Hopefully, I would be in a position to help people in need,” he says.
That says a lot about the kind of person Kevin already is, and the kind of person he is on his way to becoming. But perhaps the most telling thing to come of our interview is Kevin’s answer to the question of what he would do if given a magic wand that could be used for whatever he wanted, but only used once: “I would use it to work my hardest to get to where I want to be in life.” Think about that for a second. He wouldn’t wish to – POOF! – suddenly be an NBA star. No, Kevin would use the wand to make sure that he put in the work that was necessary to achieve his dream. He wouldn’t want to skip the hard part, only to do his best at the difficult things. But that’s just Kevin, being true to himself.