Marion Jones’ message was simple: no matter who you are, no matter how big or small, there are consequences for your actions.
And Jones should know just how much a wrong decision can cost you.
Once an Olympic track and field star who won five medals at the 2000 Olympic Games, Jones was stripped of her medals for using performance enhancing drugs. She would also serve six months in jail for lying under oath during a federal investigation.
Upon her release from jail, Jones — who was a dual-sport star at the University of North Carolina on both the track and field and basketball teams — would go on to play in the WNBA for two seasons.
But track and field was where she made her name.
And while she was once at the pinnacle of her sport, all most people want to talk about are her lows, which is never easy, she admitted.
She was one of the keynote speakers at Trinity Western University’s Complete Champion Coaching Symposium on Friday morning at the Langley Events Centre, speaking in front of a crowd of 125, predominantly teachers and coaches.
“Some of the decisions I made led to a lot of avoidable pain and heartache,” said the 42-year-old, who travelled from Texas to Langley with her three children to speak at the event.
One of the biggest examples of this was when she lied in federal court, resulting in her six-month jail sentence.
“Out of fear, out of shame, out of trying to protect myself and others, I made the decision to lie,” she said. “A decision that lasted 30 seconds, and it transformed my life and eventually sent me to prison.”
“Making decisions, we all know is not easy, in fact sometimes it can be very hard, it can be intimidating, but making good choices is really the only way that you can protect your future,” Jones added.
“If I knew then what I know now, I would have made a lot better choices, or at least I would have had the tools to better navigate through a lot of the chaos that happened because of some of the poor choices I made.”
Jones also touched on how coaches play a significant role in their athletes’ lives.
“There are coaches who even when I was unable to win races or basketball games for them, they believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself for a little while there,” Jones said. “These are folks who have been invaluable in my life and I am grateful for their sacrifices, their advice and their love.
“I say that to you all because I want you to know that you absolutely make a difference even when you don’t think that you are.”
“You are all invaluable and so under-appreciated,” she told the coaches. “You make a difference even when I know the paycheques are small or non-existent.
“Even if it is only one student-athlete whose life is changed because of you, then you have done the right thing.”