NewsDeja Young

How Pursuing Greatness In Sport Has Led Me To Find My True Self

by Deja Young

Deja Young poses at the Team USA Tokyo 2020 Olympic shoot on November 23, 2019 in West Hollywood, California.



What's Your Why presented by DeVry highlights athlete’s individual motivations that drive them to pursue greatness on their journey to achieve their Olympic & Paralympic dreams.


Greatness has been something that I have always strived for in everything that I have ever pursued. 
I found a Muhammad Ali quote at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that I wrote down every chance I got. 
“Impossible is just a word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing”. 
At one point, I felt like achieving the goals that I set for myself were impossible. But the challenges that I have faced with in the past few years have made me want to pursue that greatness even more. The struggle with my mental health and countless battles with injuries have pushed me more than I ever expected and allowed me to find my true drive. 
So what drives me to pursue greatness and my Paralympic dreams? It’s knowing that through all of my challenges I am not only overcoming obstacles, but I am able to share my story in hopes that it helps others. 
If the platform that I have been given can save a life, it will mean more to than anything else. Knowing that I am able to do what I love and talk about the things that I care about drives me every day, even on my bad days. 
When COVID-19 rocked the entire world, I felt like everything that I was stiving for was put on pause. During that time of stillness, I was able to find what I really wanted to achieve on and off of the field. I was also able to find the true person that I was when I was off of the field. 
As an athlete, I want the earn the highest achievement possible – become a Paralympic champion. This past year has been hard, but it has been the type of hard to where I want a Paralympic title more than ever. 
I feel like this win would mean more to me than any other win because of the confidence that I’ve had to gain back. I say this because of the year that we are coming off of. The anticipation, uncertainty, anxiety and so many more emotions have made me work harder than I have ever worked before. 
This past year, I was able to figure out who I was outside of sport. It was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. 
My goal off the field is to be more than just an athlete. With everything that happened this past year with the Black Lives Matter movement, it is important that I am seen as more than just an athlete. I don’t want to feel like I am limited on the things that I am able to speak on. 
My goal is to be able to speak on important things that are going on around the world and keep my voice within the mental health community. I am grateful that I have been given a voice and a platform to speak about mental health. I want to be able to give others a voice as well. 
Education has always played a very big role in my life. I love school and I love to learn. But I have always known that I won’t be able to do athletics forever. 
Being able to further my education has helped me realize what I want to do when I am all finished competing. Of course I want to continue to help people and have a voice in the sports world. 
I currently have my degree in social work, but at the beginning of this year I started an MBA program with a concentration in business. This was a very big step for me because for a very long time I didn’t think about life after athletics. As an athlete, education has taught me that anything worth having is worth working for.
When we are young, it’s easy to think about becoming a professional athlete. As we mature, we realize that it doesn’t come easy, and there’s a lot of hard work and long days behind closed doors.  
Education is the same way. It’s a process that’s slow but steady. You spend countless hours with your head down, patiently learning and improving. You look up and suddenly you’ve achieved your goal and learned so much in the process.  
So whether I’m down in the starting block on the track or in the classroom, I’ll look forward and apply all of the hard work that I’ve put into mastering my craft. I appreciate patience and dedication that’s gotten me here.