William and mom, Kenya, walk toward Big Ben after a long day of experiencing the sights and sounds of London.
Like many of you, I’ve found myself engrossed in this summer’s Olympic Games. To see these young athletes realize their long-held Olympic dreams is nothing short of inspiring. Inspiring also describes William Watson. Last week, this 7-year-old member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley and his mother, Kenya, flew to London to watch his hero Michael Phelps compete in the Olympic Games.
In his short life, William has suffered pain and loss no child should have to face. After nearly drowning at the age of 2, he developed a severe fear of water. This past April, his father, William Watson Jr., suffered fatal injuries as the victim of a senseless shooting.
This brave boy began attending the Knoxville Club when he was 5. Club staff encouraged William to take part in im (pronounced “I am”), a learn-to-swim program created by Phelps. With nurturing and coaching by Club staff, he overcame his fear of the pool. He’s now the youngest member of his Club’s swim team.
Michael Phelps’s accomplishments as a competitive swimmer may never be surpassed. With 22 Olympic medals, including 18 golds, he is the most decorated Olympian in history. His hard work and dedication are truly inspirational.
With his recent retirement, Phelps says he plans to focus on helping young people stay safe in and around water, and to participate in competitive swimming.
Phelps’s first duty following his remarkable performance at the Games was to present the inaugural head & shoulders Confidence Award. The annual award honors a person or group who exemplify what it means to remain confident and strive for success in the face of adversity. I’m proud to tell you that the award went to William.
As youth development professionals, it’s our job to provide young people with opportunities to be successful; meaningful experiences to help them to see their innate potential.
I’m honored Michael Phelps has chosen Boys & Girls Clubs as one his principal partners. I’m humbled to know the program he created enabled a young boy to overcome his fears and make the trip of a lifetime to the Summer Games. Because of his Club Experience, William is better prepared to deal with obstacles that may arise on the path to a great future.