Motivational speaker Kevin Atlas visits PA
March 1, 2023
Kevin Atlas, motivational speaker, visits PA
“A little bit higher,” Kevin Atlas said to the students working the auditorium light and audio at the beginning of his speech, “no, sorry, a little bit lower.”
On February 22, motivational speaker, disabled basketball player, and inspiration to high school students all across the world, Kevin Atlas spoke in front of a captivated audience made up of students from Princess Anne, Cox, Kempsville, and Kellam.
Atlas (real name: Kevin Laue) towering at 6 ’11, and sporting size 17 shoes, Atlas is a (certified) giant. His height has helped him become a basketball player, the first ever disabled player to receive a full scholarship to a D1 college.
Atlas faced much adversity in his upbringing. He was born with half of his left arm, a result of his umbilical cord severing it in the womb. On top of this, he spent his childhood living in a wealthy neighborhood as a kid from a poor family, with divorced parents, both working two jobs. His dad died of cancer when he was 10, he had ADHD, dyslexia, color blindness, asthma, and anger issues.
However, despite these many obstacles, through hard work and a lot of blood, sweat, and early mornings, he overcame them. After being dropped by his middle school basketball team, a coach from another team gave him a chance, one which he cites as one of the most important moments of his life. That coach taught him to use his “nub,” as he likes to call it, as a weapon, one that no other basketball player could have.
He became the star of his high school basketball team as a junior, attracting country-wide attention. He recounted the story of how he was able to meet the president of the United States at the time, George W. Bush, and break his leg, canceling all of his previous scholarship opportunities, in one day.
Despite that low point, he was able to persevere, and after playing a postgraduate year at Fork Union Military Academy, he received a full scholarship from Manhattan College to play D1 basketball, as stated earlier, the first for any disabled basketball player.
Atlas has become a successful basketball player, entrepreneur, public speaker, multimillionaire, author of his own book “Get in the Game”, and a star of a Hulu TV show.
In the hour-and-a-half timeframe of his presentation, he outlined his keys to success, which he wished that he had known himself as a high schooler. He didn’t charge any of the schools for the speech, “I’m here because I genuinely care about you guys,” he commented.
The presentation was part of a 200-stop nationwide tour with Varsity Brands, part of their “Believe in You” campaign. Themes of self-discipline, empathy, and student leadership coursed all throughout the presentation. Atlas also involved the audience, interacting with Gage, the Cox football team’s QB, and Kenneth, a junior at PA.
Disabled basketball player, successful public speaker and entrepreneur, and much more, Kevin Atlas finished his speech to a large ovation. Despite all of the troubles he had to go through, he was able to pick himself up and still be successful. “The only person who can make you successful in life is YOU.”
Student buzz fills PA with the visit of motivational speaker Kevin Atlas
A whirlwind of advice, slight moments of confusion, sudden eruptions of loud clapping, microphone screaming, and harsh statements filled the auditorium on the morning of Feb. 22. For an hour and a half, Kevin Atlas, a motivational speaker currently on a tour with varsity brands, spoke to PA students as if he was speaking to his high school self.
From the very beginning he informed the audience that “I’m going to be very blunt, I choose to be real.” He took the audience through his experiences growing up, each one touching on a message to reflect on. His main points included building healthy habits, showing love and support to those around you, and finding self-love in changing your attitude.
“I thought that the speaker was very nuanced. He gave you the realities of life.” said IB senior Ashley Christian who attended the speech. IB senior Toni-Marie Alibah, however, felt that some of his arguments were generalized and lacked a conclusive scope.
A big argument Atlas mentioned throughout the speech was success, and the journey to attaining success.
Alibah disagreed with his arguments as she felt that “some of his points about success and how to build success, I would say are possibly a little outdated, they don’t include the entire scope.” When referring to success, Atlas focused on the possibility of success stemming from working hard and pushing past life circumstances that cannot be controlled. “I think [circumstances] play much more of a role than what he mentioned. Your circumstances depict whether you have the ability to work hard,” said Alibah, “you might have the drive to work hard, but your situation is keeping you down, you can’t always just push through that.”
Another controversial technique that Atlas used in his speech was sudden yelling. To strengthen his point and the impact of his advice, Atlas would raise his voice or use a more stern voice at the audience. While Alibah said that it “did not feel great”, Christian remarked “when he was screaming at us I feel like that was an expression of his anger toward himself and what he didn’t do,” perceiving it more as one of his motivational techniques.
However, Christian acknowledged that “there were a lot of miscommunications to what he was saying. I personally don’t feel like he could communicate everything he was trying to communicate to us in an hour and still captivate a high school audience at 8 o’clock in the morning. It’s very hard to do all those things, so that’s why I feel like some people weren’t keen to it”
Even though Alibah found it difficult to relate to Atlas’s perception of success, she explained that his reflection on showing support for each other in school and being kind was important. “People need to be there for each other if you want people to be there for you,” she said.
Halfway through the speech, Atlas pulled out biology teacher Ashley Karunaratne from the audience to show that support and kindness need to extend farther than between students. “It made me a little put on the spot but i didn’t feel uncomfortable in any way” said Karunaratne, “I don’t think it was me that he was singling out, I think he was using me as an example of how students should be treating their teachers or be grateful to their teachers, which I certainly feel was a good message.”
Karunaratne explained that she agreed with a lot of the messages conveyed in the speech. “He was very good at connecting on a level and speaking with experience. The way he talked was very engaging,” she said.
Similar to Alibah, she felt that “there were maybe little bits and pieces that I thought maybe I didn’t agree with everything he said, I thought overall it was impactful and the way he delivered it, I think the message was received.”
Karunaratne explained that “as a mother of a teenager it made me think more about things in her perspective and maybe thinking about how she approaches things or ways that I could support her.” Furthermore, she will also use the insight in her classroom. “[It] helps me feel like I better understand the perspective of students in the classroom,” she said.
Another topic that was repeated throughout the speech was the idea of creating healthy habits and implementing them in one’s life. Atlas mentioned practicing self-love and creating a habit out of it in order to combat hatred and isolation in high school.
“I will be thinking more about supporting people who I want to support me. I wasn’t really thinking about that beforehand, and I think it was a good point” said Alibah.
Christian agreed with Atlas’s perception that high schoolers often get lost in negativity as she agreed with the argument stating that “If you change your attitude of something then it will affect the outcome.”
“I think a lot of people do show up for others at this school,” said Alibah “PA does have a lot of school spirit, I do think though, that people can implement it in their own lives, even outside of school.”