Jarryd Wallace poses for a photo with his son, Levi.
Jarryd Wallace is a two-time Paralympian in track and field, and 2017 World Champion in the T44 200-meter. Wallace made his Paralympic Games debut in London in 2012, and is now vying for a spot on his third U.S. Paralympic Team for the Tokyo Games. In October 2019, Wallace and his wife Lea welcomed his first son Levi, and is celebrating his first Father’s Day.
At 20 years old, I had my leg amputated. For the three years leading up to that surgery, I was overwhelmed by pain, addiction and the loss of my identity. I let my mangled leg steal my ability to dream or hope for the future.
A few months before the amputation, I sat in a doctor’s office as he asked me to consider what I wanted my life to look like. This doctor challenged me to not let my present circumstances dictate my future hopes. Instead, to continue dreaming and let my dreams drive me in the direction I wanted to go.
My answer to him was simple – I would love to be pain free, and Lord willing, one day play in the yard with my son.
An amputation and a decade later, that dream is now a reality.
I’m only 8 months old to this whole dad thing, but I have been pushed to grow more in the past 8 months than the entirety of the past 10 years. I know I have a lifetime of learning to do, but here are a few lessons I have learned so far:
1. Training schedules and routines are similar to baby schedules and routines.
As a fairly regimented and scheduled individual, I knew that early success with little man was going to be rooted in a routine.
Lea and I were totally on the same page with this and started Levi on a schedule almost right away. Whether Lea knew or not at the time, that schedule really helped me understand and learn more about having a kid.
In the same moment that a first child is born into the world, so are new parents. I’ve had to learn to set new goals and routines for what my days look like, and how to best use my time to care for Levi and Lea.
Now, we still fail a lot, and there are days that totally do NOT go as planned. But having a loose guideline helped me be prepared for the next feeding, or walk, or play time etc., while also taking care of myself and continuing to train.
As it turns out, babies and athletes aren’t so different, after all! We both thrive on knowing what’s coming next, taking naps, and eating lots of snacks.
2. Professional Athletes are selfish. Dad’s must be selfless.
As an elite athlete, there is a level of selfishness that is required for success.
I hadn’t realized how self-centered my days had become as I worked toward my own fitness and success. Levi’s birth immediately brought me face-to-face with the needs of those around me.
In the past 8 months, I have begun to learn how to continue to take care of my own needs as a human and an athlete without neglecting the needs of my family. Surprisingly, I don’t need as much sleep as I thought!
3. My “WHY” is evolving.
What is your why?
I often consider this question and ensure it is a part of my annual refocus and goal setting activities. As I have gotten older, and especially now that I have a son, my why has shifted greatly from what I want to accomplish in the near future, to the legacy I hope to leave in the long term.
This shift in thinking has been and will continue to be a valuable asset to how I view the world and opportunities around me. If I can shift my focus to my long-term impact, I am able to continue to move in the direction of my dreams, without fear of small failures or bumps in the road.
Regardless of how much I try, I can’t control every outcome, prepare for every incident, or perfectly orchestrate whatever I think needs to happen. However, I can choose to be present in every circumstance, knowing that focusing on my family and my long-term goals will continue to lead me in the right direction.
Ten years ago I made a decision that changed the course of my life. While that decision gave me the opportunity to live pain free, travel the world and race against the greats, that decision ultimately gave me the ability to succeed in my most desired goal yet - something as simple and profound as playing in our backyard with my son.