Kevin Atlas overcame incredible odds to find success both on the basketball court and in life. On Monday night, the motivational speaker was in the Capital Region trying to inspire the next generation of athletes.
“To me, I never really saw myself as a hero, I was just somebody who was trying to live,” said Atlas.
With one arm, Atlas navigated a childhood where his parents got divorced, his father died of cancer, he had a speech impediment, couldn’t read until third grade, was dyslexic, color blind, and terrible at soccer.
“You know, I didn’t have a great start,” he admitted, “but overcoming my adversity, and the knowledge and wisdom I gained by doing so, my successes become a light at the end of the tunnel for those out there going through similar hardships.”
Doctors were forced to amputate Atlas’ arm at birth when it got trapped between the umbilical cord and his neck. The amputation saved his life, but created challenges growing up. With the support of one coach, Atlas latched onto basketball and ultimately was rewarded with a DI scholarship to play at Manhattan.
Over the past six years, the 29-year-old has taken his story all over the world and to 49 states to motivate the next generation.
“High school’s changed, and it’s become a very difficult place to live,” he said. “It’s filled with negativity, and ultimately I’m trying to get these kids to support each other.”
He’s doing that in part by launching the hashtag #believeinyouchallenge. The challenge encourages teams and athletes to support other teams and groups around campus.
“Not just the football team being supported, but create real school spirit, a sense of community, like a heartbeat. What that does, is that elevates all these students academically in a way that they feel appreciated. You don’t see people sitting alone at lunch. They become a family. They become a unit. And that’s when you can have real pride for your school.”
Atlas took that message to Columbia High School Monday, where athletes and coaches from at least five area schools were in the audience being empowered to change their own lives for the better, and inspired to become leaders.
When he turns 30 next year, Atlas will have brought his story to all 50 states and all seven continents.
For more information about the Believe in You Challenge, what it is and how to fulfill the charge, visit this website.
The documentary “Long Shot: The Kevin Laue Story” was made about Kevin’s journey to become the first player with one hand to receive a division one basketball scholarship.