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Lionheart: A person of exceptional courage and bravery.

Otherwise known as “Heart of a Lion” – an expression used when one is referring to courage, fearlessness, and valor. Years ago when I was a head girls’ basketball coach, I always opened our first practice a bit unorthodox. This would set the stage for a “theme” of the season. One year, I had all the players in front of a big whiteboard and I had a bunch of dry-erase markers. I asked the girls to go up and write the character traits of a lion. Here is what they wrote:

character traits of a lion - on a whiteboard

And there, a conversation was born. We all agreed that we wanted to possess at least some of these traits and born was our theme, “Heart of a Lion.”

What exactly does this phrase even mean and why I am writing about it on a kayak blog? From what I can find by doing a quick search, the phrase dates back to Elizabeth I – “I may not be a lion, but I am lion’s cub and I have lion’s heart.”

Why a lion? Lions are considered the king of the jungle. They are Africa’s largest carnivore. To say a lion is large might be an understatement with males reaching upwards of 550 lbs. and females reaching nearly 300 lbs. Lions are known for their roar, which can be heard up to 5 miles away. They are known to be strong and here is a fun fact ladies, the lioness is the primary hunter. Lions are also the world’s most social feline. They live in groups called “prides” that can be as many as 40 lions within the group. It is fairly easy to see where such a saying comes from when you start to dig into the characteristics of lions.

Throughout that basketball season, I would remind my players to act with the heart of a lion and they also reminded me and the coaching staff. I mean really, who wouldn’t want to possess many of these character traits? That reminder allowed me to grow as a coach and my players to try things they were afraid to try for fear of failure. It was the metaphor they needed to reach beyond what they thought was possible that season.

Let’s talk about how the “Heart of a Lion” can apply to you as a kayaker.

How many times have you doubted yourself? A voice from within that says “no” or “you can’t do this.” I am a HUGE believer in positive self-talk. Even if just an image of a lion pops into your head when you are fearful of something could be all the push you need. You have to be real with yourself though. If you should walk, walk. If you aren’t ready for that river just yet, don’t go. However, if your goals are to up your game, there has to be a point in your head where you start acting more like a lion and stop doubting yourself. Visualize yourself successfully running that rapid, or safely navigating that river. Do this over and over again. If you know that you are capable, then stop all the self-doubt and do what you know you can do.



I started kayaking in Wisconsin of all places, because this is where I am from. I then moved to San Diego and took on kayak surfing along with heading to the Kern River when water was available. I then made the move to Asheville, NC and have been hooked on this sport since my Wisconsin days. With whatever it is that you do, do it because you love it, not because society tells you should or for other outside factors. Don't simply exist, live!