Olympian Todd Rogers spoke with UCSB students on Friday, February 27, about the trials and successes on his path to the gold medal as part of the athletics department’s “Natural High” lecture series, which is designed to showcase successful individuals who find passions to take the place of drugs or alcohol.
The first thing Rogers did upon being introduced and waiting for his applause to die out was to produce his Olympic gold medal and give it to the audience. “Feel free to check it out, try it on, just don’t junk it,” joked Rogers. “And remember, I have a fair amount of speed.”
Rogers, a Santa Barbara local who graduated from San Marcos High and later from UCSB, won a gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics in beach volleyball alongside his partner Phil Dalhausser. Once the murmur of excitement that followed the gold medal through the crowd had passed, Rogers had lots of advice to offer the students who crowded the bleachers before him in the UCSB gym. He spoke of setting goals, and how the swell of pride you get by meeting any goal, from winning Olympic gold to working on your garden, gives you the confidence to find continued success.
Nevertheless, Rogers admitted that the value of setting goals is more important than even reaching them. “I learn a lot more from a loss than I do from a win.” While this might appear paradoxical, Rogers believes that failing to achieve a goal prompts a re-evaluation of what you consider important. Why did you set the goal in the first place? How will you do better next time? When Rogers and then-partner Sean Scott failed to qualify for the Olympics in 2004, Rogers remembers saying to himself, “Okay, how am I going to get to Beijing?”
Rogers urged all in his audience to be honest with their faults. Rogers confronted his partner Dalhausser in the years before the Beijing Olympics for being lazy and uncommitted. Rogers believes that if he had not made this criticism – and if Dalhausser had not been professional enough to accept it – the Olympics would have been unreachable for the duo.
Attending to the theme of the lecture series, Rogers stressed the importance of living drug-free. As a professional athlete, Rogers gave up all thoughts of drug use when he set his sights on a life of competition. While this was in part motivated by his desire to keep proper focus on his goals, Rogers was also concerned with his growing influence – small as he admits it may be – on the greater public as a known sports figure.
Unlike Charles Barkley, Rogers believes it is the responsibility of anyone receiving media attention, and the possible attention of youth, to lead a clean life and set a positive example. With regard to this, Rogers responded to questions about Michael Phelps’s recent drug-drama.
“People make mistakes,” said Rogers in defense of the eight-time Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer. Rogers offered Phelps’s youth in defense of his actions. “He’s basically a senior in college,” said Rogers. After all, he seemed to suggest, when did we all make our biggest, most embarrassing mistakes? While Rogers believed Phelps ought to treat his position with a bit more care, he also implied a great deal of guilt rests on those responsible for distributing the pictures of Phelps smoking marijuana, saying: “Some kid in South Carolina made one to two hundred grand off that picture!”
Rogers praised and recommended playing sports, abstaining from illegal drug use, writing an autobiography whoever you are, and the daily creation of goals to help build confidence in your life and your endeavors.
As Rogers left the stage, an organizer seized the microphone and peered suspiciously into the crowd. “Okay, where’s Todd’s gold medal?”