As children of all ages gather around the Christmas tree this morning to open gifts, it is hard for me not to imagine a six-year-old Cole Johnson getting his first snowboard on Christmas Day over 17 years ago. Of course, that may not be exactly how it played out, but in the spirit of this special holiday, it is wonderful to imagine a young boy beginning to dream with a simple gift from Santa. He would begin his snowboarding career at that young age by practicing at familiar local resorts such as Boreal, Mount Rose, and Squaw. His life has been one that many of us can relate to with our children growing up in Reno. He attended Elizabeth Lenz Elementary School, Pine Middle School and then Galena High School where he graduated in 2012.
He was an active young man and played many sports like baseball and football, but it would be boarding that would become his passion, and he committed to practicing vigorously at a young age. By 16, he had won the Junior National Champions, which is an age-based competition in the United States. With that victory, he realized he could potentially take his dream much further and continued his hard work. As I interviewed Johnson, I was curious how a teenager growing up with the temptation of electronics and social media could put in the hours it requires to win a National Championship. He told me that in the eighth grade he got his first phone and just used it for calling. He understood the potential ramifications to his future dreams if he misused social media so only chose to post pictures of the mountains he was boarding on or videos of some of the scenery around him.
He attributes these solid decision-making skills to his parents who he felt were very consistent with him and provided appropriate consequences and discipline to keep him on track. He was required to maintain good grades if we were going to keep traveling to competitions, and that is what he did. He became friends mostly with teammates that shared his dreams and passion and was grateful for the patience and support his parents and sister provided during those teenage years.
In 2015, Johnson’s snowboarding career reached an entirely new level with an incredible accomplishment of becoming the North American Champion, which is not age-based but all skills based. He was 22 when he won the championship, and it earned him a spot on the U.S. Snowboard Team. He has already returned from Munich where he trained and competed and will spend the next several years traveling to various countries and states such as Utah, Bulgaria, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Colorado, Canada and Maine competing for the World Cup. He is currently working hard to become a member of the U.S. Snowboard Team that will travel to South Korea in 2018 for the Winter Olympics.
I could feel his passion as he discussed this sport and his dream to race for Team USA. He will attend college during this time in Utah and study architecture or engineering, so he has a career when he someday stops snowboarding. He talked about enjoying volunteering to help others learn to ski or snowboard including family, friends and other teammates. It is always so refreshing to meet such a well-rounded person, especially at the age 23.
He is facing expenses of up to $30,000 to cover these competitions, travel costs, and lodging. There has already been one fundraiser held earlier in the fall; however, if you are so inclined, you can go to www.rallyme.com and search for Cole Johnson. The dollars raised go to World Cup Dreams, which is a nonprofit organization that helps athletes like Johnson achieve their dreams.
On this Christmas morning, as you watch your own kids receive a new bat, glove, helmet, basketball, baseball, volleyball, football, tennis racket, lacrosse stick, golf club, skis, or a snowboard, it is fun to imagine for just a moment the look in Johnson’s eye when he first started snowboarding at age 6. Christmas, no matter the reason your family celebrates it, is about miracles and dreams. These special dreams can become a reality with hard work and discipline. I am looking forward to watching Cole Johnson’s accomplishments, and he invites anybody to follow his progress on his personal Facebook page. Good luck Cole! Your hometown is behind you all the way to South Korea.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of you!
Katie Coombs is the host of the radio show “Uncommon Sense with Katie Coombs.” You can reach her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/UncommonSenseKC/.