I sat one day in a coffee shop in De Pere, WI waiting for my interview to arrive. I was early for once and was looking forward to the experience. I was looking forward to it because I was expecting something different. This interview was not going to be with a household name or sports icon, but I was eager to hear the story. From the first time I talked to him I was struck with the fact that there was something different about him besides the obvious things that the World sees. So as I waited, I receive a text from him saying, “I’m here!”. I got up and opened the door for him so he could wheel himself into the coffee shop. This is the story of Para-Olympic hopeful Joshua Myers.
Josh was born and raised in Green Bay, WI in a Catholic home, but from early on his parents realized that something was amiss. “I was not able to do the same things that a normal baby could do like sitting up crawling… stuff like that.” Josh was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy between the ages of 6 – 9 months. As Josh grew up he tried to keep a great outlook on life and his situation. “I never had a problem making friends or being social, but I would struggle with the question, ‘Why can’t I do the same things that my friends can do. Or even bigger than that, why can’t I do what my brother can do!’ things like soccer and so on. But at the same time I never struggled with that because I always knew there was a bigger plan for me somewhere.” Even though Josh kept his outlook positive, there were some specific challenges. “There was a period of time around 8th to 9th grade I struggled. It was when guys start to notice and like girls and I went through a self-pity phase, because what girl is going to want to go and marry a guy in a wheel chair! And I acted out to get attention, but as I got older and matured more I learned to play the hand I was dealt and how to deal with my situation.”
Part of that maturation process came when Josh went to college. “The biggest turning point of my life was when I was 18 I had gone away to school at the University of Iowa. I got involved with an organization called ‘Campus Crusade for Christ’ for a brief period. That is when I learned that this whole disability was for a purpose. There was one weekend that I sat in my dorm room and did some serious soul searching and discovered why I was put on this earth. God helped me see my potential and ever since then I had a new outlook. I became a lot more positive and upbeat. When I do get into difficult situations that may get me down I lean on God and realize that it was just another learning lesson and believe me, there have been a lot of learning lessons in my life! But God pulls me through!”
Josh graduated from UW Green Bay after starting his college career at U of Iowa. However, Josh has always had a competitive side that still needs to be satisfied. “I have always been competitive! When I was in high school I wrestled. I simply wanted to be a part of a team and even at a young age I loved the WWF and WWE and wanted to be a part of that. Then my brother brought me up to a wrestling practice and I fell in love with the sport. I was never any good. I won one match my entire life through high school. That means that I lost over a hundred, but I love the sport more than probably any champion. Anyway, I wanted to keep competing so I started powerlifting. I found out with CP I’m at a huge disadvantage for that sport. But I found out about track and field. I hate racing because I’m slow, but with all the lifting I became really strong. With the shot put and discus a lot is dependent on strength. There is technique of course and I moved out to Arizona for a little while to discover that. I found out I was pretty good and I love it. The very first regional I competed in I won. I have been competing ever since and do as often as I can afford to.”
Josh has competed all over the country against other athletes, but the meet in Arizona holds a special place in his heart. “I love going to the event in Arizona because of what it represents. Giving people with disabilities from all over a chance to compete against one another is awesome. It also is where it began for me, so it will always be special.” In May of 2014, Josh went back and had another reason for this meet to be special. “I was able to throw the shot put and broke a wheelchair sports USA national record that’s been held since 2009. The record was 4.85 meters and I threw 5.13 so I beat it by almost a half a meter.” Josh’s dream is to make it to and win the para-Olympics and with the determination and drive he can hopefully do it, but there will be some hurdles to get over. “It all takes money to train and enter competitions. I have a website called JustMaxFitnessNutrition.com to sell supplements because I got sick of the stuff I was buying that just didn’t work. I am able to use it for myself and hopefully help others. I offer consultation along with a good product. As a result I can raise some money to hopefully get to the Olympics.”
Even though the ability to compete is an awesome blessing, Josh considers that icing on the cake. “I have been happily married for nine years and have two wonderful boys. The biggest dream I always wanted to accomplish in my life wasn’t the Olympics, being a millionaire whatever… the biggest thing I wanted to accomplish was having a little boy and God has blessed me with two of them! I don’t ask for much more, that’s all I ever wanted.” As a final question, when we were finishing our drinks, I asked Josh what he would tell people who are going through tough times or doubted themselves. “It’s simple. Trust God, believe in the bigger plan, and be the best person you can be for yourself and nobody else. When I had those down times I found myself trying to impress others so they would like me, but how would anyone like me if I didn’t like myself? So just trust in God, believe in the bigger plan, and be the best person you can be for yourself and nobody else.” When we finished I thanked Josh for the time and we parted. No matter what situation you find yourself in, God has a plan for you that is outstanding. But like Josh said, you have to trust Him. May God continue to bless you Josh and throw long!
You can hear part of the coffee shop interview with Josh in the “Media” area.