Community Voice: The Importance of Mentoring - An Interview with Jean Driscoll
Jean Driscoll was born on November 18, 1966, and is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Jean was born with spina bifida and has used a wheelchair throughout her life to participate in a variety of sports and activities, including wheelchair soccer, ice hockey, football, softball, tennis, swimming, and square dancing.
The bulk of her activities began during her junior year in high school, when Jean met a young man who also used a wheelchair. It took him about 8 months to convince her to try wheelchair soccer, but when she finally did, and learned how competitive it was, she submerged herself into every wheelchair sport that Milwaukee offered, including basketball. Jean became widely recognized as a competitive player in basketball and was ultimately recruited to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to play wheelchair basketball. However, she also concentrated on track/road racing and after college this became Jean’s focal point.
As an elite racing athlete, she trained for 3-5 hours per day, which included lifting weights 3 to 4 times per week. In the spring, summer, and fall, she performed 1 to 2 workouts a day on the track and also on the road. This training consisted of 120 to 150 miles per week. During the winter, Jean trained indoors by pushing on rollers, which is similar to wind trainers used by cyclists. She also trained on the hand cycle a couple of times per week. Although Jean retired from competitive sports in December 2000, she continues with her workouts, typically using her hand cycle 3 to 5 days per week for 1 to 2 hours each time, as well as lifting weights.
Jean holds eight victories in the Boston Marathon and is the only person in any division to have won that event eight times in its 112-year history. Her best world time is 1 hour, 34 minutes, and 22 seconds. Although this is not a world record, Jean still has the world record in the 10,000-meter track event at 24 minutes and 21 seconds. Unfortunately, Jean explains, the 10,000-meter track event is no longer held for women at national or international meets due to the lack of participation by women.
Today, Jean is the Associate Director of Development in the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She raises funds for the college and has the opportunity to meet other many alumni throughout the U.S. During her downtime, Jean plays the guitar.
When asked if there is anything else that she would like to share with our readers, Jean stated, “Without role models and mentors coming along at poignant times in my life, I never would have known the success I enjoy today.” For Jean, these role models include Cindy Housner, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association (GLASA, www.glasa.org), who, Jean says, “talked my parents into letting me continue to participate when my ‘E and J’ started breaking down and they wanted me to stop.” Jean further states that Don and Mikel Vandello, who have both competed for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC, www.ric.org) teams in the past, “took me under their wing…because of their assistance, I qualified for track nationals in 1987 as well as the Aylesbury, England.” Jean also learned “a lot about sport and life” from her basketball coach Brad Hedrick and track/road coach Marty Morse who “still influence me today.” These people, along with the persistent young man in high school, were critical to Jean’s early success and she thanks them, urging others to never pass up the opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s life.
To learn more about Jean Driscoll, read about her book, Dream Big, Work Hard, in the September 2007 edition of the NCHPAD Newsletter.