Joetta Clark Diggs inspires Tech athletes as part of Leaders for Life Program


By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information Coordinator

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – What does it take to be a champion? The most common responses might include a strong work ethic, athletic ability, and lots and lots of practice. And that all plays a part.

But to truly understand what it takes to be a champion, there may be no better method than to absorb the knowledge and experiences endured by one of the best. That’s exactly what motivational speaker Joetta Clark Diggs provided to Tennessee Tech’s female student-athletes Wednesday evening, as the four-time Olympian spoke to the Golden Eagles about her life and career in the latest session of the Dr. M. Dianne Murphy Leaders for Life Program.

Considered by sports enthusiasts as “America’s most successful middle distance runner” ever because of her longevity and consistency, Clark Diggs has been running for more than 28 consecutive years, never missing an indoor or outdoor season, with her races being in the 800 and 1500 meters. An Olympian in 1988, 1992, 1996 and 2000, Joetta Clark Diggs has displayed more consistency and longevity than any other American half-miler.

She has competed in every outdoor USA Championship or Olympic Trials since 1979, winning five of the last eight. Indoors, she has been in the national championship race in 18 of the last 19 years. Not surprisingly, Clark Diggs has ranked among the top 10 Americans for 21 years now. Clark Diggs has been ranked in the top 10 in the world since 1991. Moreover, in 1997 at age 37, she was ranked number four in the world. This was her best ranking.

On the evening, Clark Diggs began by letting the Tech athletes know that everyone has an "A" game. It's your "B" game and your willingness to follow the five "P" Principles of Success (also the title of her book) that lead to becoming a champion.

She stressed that everyone has an "A" game. It's part of who you are. Part of your persona. And the "A" game has a deeper meaning. In your "A" game, you are Aware, you Got it, you are All in, you are Motivated, and you are Empowered. These are all things that you can control.

But what happens when your "A" game isn't enough or something gets in the way of your "A" game?

Clark Diggs taught that you need to remember what your purpose is. You need to think about how you prepare. You have to be patient because failing does not make you a failure, quitting does. You have to get perturbed or upset and use that to persevere. These five "P"s are needed to transition into the key to being a champion. Your "B" game.

Not everyone has a "B" game. It is what sets the champions apart from the rest. Champions have the ability to Bounce back when something goes wrong. They know how to Get after it when they don't have a good start or when they are behind. They will then Apply their skill sets. They use the things they learn along their way. They have to Make it happen because often times in life, it comes down to that last inch (I Never Cease Hoping). To overcome that inch, they have to Elevate their game to another level and never get complacent in their goals.

One of the best of her time, Clark Diggs presented a great example of the "A" game, "B" game, and transitioning between the two. In her trek to qualify for the 2000 Olympic team, she recalled (with video evidence) that she quickly fell to the back of the pack. Her "A" game was already not enough if she was to qualify. She showed that throughout the 800m race, how she transitioned from her "A" game to "B" game using the five "P"s to success. And with that determination and the strength of her "B" game, she was able to just eke out a third-place finish (by maybe an inch) to qualify with her sister and sister-in-law.

The inspiring story led her to her final point. Champions don't wait for someone else to make something happen for them. They go out there and make it happen themselves. Champions don't give up. They know they have to work for it. Most people have enough to be successful because they have their "A" game. But to be the best, you need a "B" game.