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Saturday, July 4, 2020

Sports > General

20/20 on 2020 senior athletes: Tri-Valley's Andrea Decker

Jun 25, 2020

By Richard Ross - reporter/photographer

By: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Andrea Decker
GRAHAMSVILLE- “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom,” posited Aristotle. Even though it's been nearly 2,400 years since the iconic Greek Philosopher graced this planet, that maxim attributed to him is every bit as cogent as the day it was uttered.
For those who are serious about athletics as a gateway to personal enlightenment and a better understanding of others, sports can be a great crucible from which such insights can issue forth. Tri-Valley's Section 9 Shot Put Champion Andrea Decker is a prime example of that fact.
For Decker, the greatest reward of her impressive career of hurling implements has been what she has learned about herself and what she plans to do with that awareness. Now as she moves forward to begin her studies in Physical Therapy at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia, Decker's reason for doing so is based on her burning desire to give people hope.

“I want to help someone get back to what they could be and give them hope for the long haul,” she says.
Decker recalls that her gravely ill grandmother overheard an oncologist tell her husband that she was going to die and there was no point in getting a second opinion. The woman who had battled long and hard gave up hope upon hearing that and died the next day. The experience affected Decker deeply. She says she wants to work with wounded veterans or children disabled from cancer, perhaps those who have lost limbs.
Listening to her talk it is hard to reconcile such maturity at her age. She is insightful, compassionate and candid, all attributes derived from her sports engagements and ones that will serve her well after her seven-year study at Shenandoah University sees her begin practicing PT.
She was recruited to join the track team there by coach AJ Blaisdell and the school's great PT program sealed the deal. From her start as a complete novice back in seventh grade abetted by the strong encouragement from coach Eric Marburger, to her last throw wherein she claimed the Section 9 title in the shot put this winter, Decker has not only developed the art, style, grace and strength to improve her distance from its initial inauspicious heave of 20 feet to a lengthy 33-3 ½ feet, she has learned that mindset is the key to success, not just in track and field but in every arena of life. Belief in yourself is essential.
“You have to say I can,” says Decker, advice she freely gives to other throwers from her school and elsewhere who either tell her they will never be able to do what she has done or who simply don't believe that they can compete against others.
Decker is quick to remind them that “how we think about ourselves determines what we can do.” Furthermore, she adds, “I try to compete with myself, to be the best I can become. There will always be someone better. You can't take the measure of yourself by comparison to others,” she sagely counsels.
Decker's sports history reads like a menu in a Chinese Restaurant: one from column A, two from Column B etc., a veritable mélange of sports. She has played soccer, tennis and softball but it was indoor track that caught her fancy. She has continued in it for six years throwing the shot put with greater and greater finesse and marshaling steady increases in distance along the way.
In Ninth grade she decided to give up softball, once her favorite sport and improve her throwing prowess in outdoor track adding the discus to her resume and occasionally, at certain meets, throwing the weight and the javelin as well.
”I love being outside with the sun and I love making friends,” she said. “You meet people from different schools, branch out and meet people just like you. When you're having fun and talking to people you have a good day and it translates into good throws.”
Decker recalls a thrower from another school telling her, “I am motivated by you.” She has since tried to pay it forward by encouraging others.
This spring, Decker aspired to make it to states and nationals but Covid-19 nixed that.
True to her nature, she took it in stride. Back in seventh grade when Decker joined track and Marburger suggested throwing since running was not her forte, her training became the purview of the older girls on the team as Marburger was a former runner and didn't know much about throwing technique.
Decker learned a lot from Amanda VanSaders for a year until the latter graduated. From there it was trial and error and a lot of watching other girls in the throwing circle. Decker is an avid learner. She's seen very petite girls throw humongous distances and knows that throwing is not about size as most people believe, it's about technique.
This past fall Decker ran cross-country, not only for the conditioning and the stamina, but for the joy of running with others, particularly those whose goal was primarily to finish, not win.
Decker minces no words when she talks about how sports have changed her.
“It doesn't matter what other people think. It's about what you think of yourself. The only person you can always rely on is you. You have to be happy with yourself,” she adds.
Decker has that rare superb connection of body, mind and spirit. All three she has learned need to be integrated to gain self-knowledge and achieve success. The uncanny support she has received comes from her mom Michelle who is always there at meets, her dad Bill who helped her train, her late grandfather Bill who loved to watch her indoor meets and Coach Marburger who got her to join the sport that has become not only second nature but the inspiration for her continuing life journey.
“This is what you can do to truly find yourself,” she asserts. Andrea Decker is a true champion but one not interested in annotating her own personal glorious achievements. For her, it's about encouraging others who have always felt second best or unworthy to realize their true worth and success.
In short Decker is an example of the real value of sports to forge the best in people who in turn can inspire others to do the same. We change the world one life at a time and Andrea Decker is truly a life changer.







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