Do I Have What It Takes?

COMRADERIE / To thrive in the NFL, players confront weaknesses and strengthen them. Prior to every NFL season, players attend training camp for 6 to 8 weeks practicing and training to hone their skills. After daily practices players watch films during which they receive honest and objective evaluation. Once a player’s weakness is defined, coaches and team members work together to strengthen skills and during drills they are given immediate feedback until they make needed change. Team members don’t always like what they hear but respect and accept correction because the team goal is to win. If one cannot meet the standard of excellence he will be cut from the team because weak links take a team down. This system builds camaraderie similar to the military. I never knew that I would need this camaraderie in the real world. Having prided myself on preparation when I arrived at the Masters Program in Physical Therapy, I was confident that I was prepared and looked forward to my hard work paying off. Within two weeks I discovered that Loma Linda was not the Promised Land I had imagined and I had not properly prepared.

I began school in June of 1991. In less than two weeks I took my first Anatomy Exam and scored an 89% which was a relief. My relief turned to shock when I read the grades based on the class curve. My 89% was a C- and to stay in the program I had to earn a C in Anatomy. Surrounded by medical school genius types the grading curve was going to push me throughout the next three years. My weakness was exposed through objective evaluation (anatomy test) and I wondered, “Did I have what it took to compete in this arena?” I knew that I must quickly kick up my critical thinking and problem solving ability to the highest level of academia. Either I caught up or I would flunk out. In the NFL this would be called a Game changing moment. My daily routine of eating, studying alone and working hard in a micromanaged system failed to produce needed results. I could not catch up alone. In the NFL I was familiar and knew how to find help for myself but in this arena I was unfamiliar and unsure whom to ask for help.


During the next week, I observed my 60 classmates. Past experience gave me the insight that whomever I asked would have to be at the top of our class, grasp concepts, as well as an excellent communicator and problem solver. This individual would have to identify with me, maintain their sense of humor and not be intimidated by me. I prayed for the Lord’s direction and He presented me with the ultimate gift. His name was Scott Gillespie. A mature student, married to a wife he loved and an athlete. Often Scott set the curve for our tests. When Scott and I spoke we connected and he genuinely wanted to help me succeed. Scott not only taught concepts, he made me demonstrate and apply them. Miraculously he was unaffected when I broke out in a fit of frustration because I was unable to master a concept and my uncivilized King Kong emerged. Rather than shame me, he met my frustration with laughter and patiently helped me help myself. I am sure I aged him those first six months.

I arrived at Loma Linda University like a USC football walk on, hungry, willing to work hard, had potential but must go through the marathon process of strengthening my weakness and learn a new system. After a month, I finally made it from (walk on) to (starter) and Scott rewarded me by inviting me to join his study group team. This team had four absolute brains and me; we operated like an offensive line unit in the NFL. Brady, Scott, Chester, Samantha and I learned our roles and united to achieve excellence. In our endless study sessions, I learned higher levels of inquiry and aquired the ability to collaborate with a team and reach an answer. My four teammates were Mormons and I affectionately called them my “Mormon Family.” When King Kong came out, my Mormon family battled with me through tough concepts and ideas until I understood.

We decided to join the Physical Therapy Softball team, a needed break from constant studying. A memorable moment occurred during a game against medical students who had decided not to swing the bat but rather to wait on pitches and walk. As the team pitcher, the medical students decision pushed me over the edge and suddenly my competitive side emerged. The beast came out and Kong went from throwing underhand to overhand throwing burners at them. If they wanted to walk I would help them. Once one is hit by the ball, then one can walk. Scott called a time out. Approaching the mound with a grin, he asked, “Brad, what are you doing?” By now my veins were popping. Sporting a broad smile Scott inquired, “Brad, you do not want to cause us to forfeit our game do you?” He laughed when I replied, “Yes” and with intesity explained to him that they need to play or go home. Finally, after a short moment of humor and reasoning, I got myself under control. I could not disappoint Scott and let my team lose. Like so many other times, Scott taught me the art of servant hood. Our camaraderie made me a better man.

I often reflected back to the day of objective evaluation when I earned an 89%/C- on my anatomy test and my confidence was crushed. That night I prayed to the Lord and he told me, “Brad, how can you expect to facilitate healing without first being broken and having to overcome.” That revelation filled me with a new purpose and resiliency. It helped me to remain focused throughout the painful three year process of coming to the end of myself, learning to ask for help, and embracing radical change. In the midst of my journey, the Lord also taught me an invaluable character trait through Scott who not only tutored my brain but also my heart. Scott’s example taught me to serve.

During our final year at Loma Linda our team wrote our Masters Thesis. My Mormon Family chose an idea I recommended for our thesis topic. Our team’s paper was selected as a stand out. Shortly after this to my surprise; at our graduation ceremony Scott and I were selected for the coveted Faculty Award. This award is given to graduates whom faculty members believe will change the face of physical therapy. Standing on the stage I reflected how far I had come from my first C-. By graduation of 1994, I had transformed from a walk on to a member of the starting unit. Scott’s eyes no longer looked at me with compassion, but rather, respect and pride knowing that I finally knew I had what it took.

One Reply to Do I Have What It Takes?

  1. Frank Lieberman, PhD says:

    You certainly are a quick learner Brad. I like your competiveness.

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