What Elliot Young Learned About Determination and Success at the Junior Olympics

Over the summer, we had a chance to interview 9-year-old Elliot Young of Houston, Texas. Elliot and his twin brother Isaac are talented three-sport athletes. They play basketball and soccer, as well as run track. This past school year, both of them qualified for the Junior Olympics for track. 

We caught up with Elliot and asked him about his first experience at the Junior Olympics, what keeps him motivated, who he admires, what success means to him, and more. 

Read on to learn more about our Sneakz Kids Ambassador Elliot Young!

If you could change anything about school, what would you change?

I probably wouldn’t have kids take tests. I would just teach and go with the flow. I would probably teach third grade and we’d have an extra hour of recess. And school would only be five hours; seven hours is too much.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I used to want to be a chemist, but now I kind of want to be an engineer.

What makes you want to be an engineer?

My dad is an engineer, and I love building things.

What do you like about yourself?

I like that I’m never going to quit. That’s where the determination comes in. Nobody can beat me in determination—maybe in running, but not in determination. I always think good about people and maybe how I can help, and not the bad things about people.

What is your favorite thing about having a twin?

My favorite thing about my brother is that he’s always super funny. He’s always making jokes and making you laugh. The one thing I don’t like about having a twin is that so many people ask me if I'm Isaac or Elliot—sometimes that gets annoying.

How are you and your brother different?

I think Isaac is more rambunctious. At times, I’m more calm. On race day, Isaac is more like, “Let’s get tacos at the end! Yay!” I’m more like, “Gotta beat these guys, gotta win.” That’s kind of what’s different about us.

What makes you so determined?

Making family happy. And I just want to be joyful, basically. I want to push my limits and never give up. Never give up is my main thing. When I see people give up, I don’t like it. 

Why do you think people give up?

I just think people believe they can’t do it, and that’s when I think I can do it. Some people get bad grades so they think they’re stupid. Which they aren’t, they just need help with their grades. Some think they’re not good in sports so they quit—but it just means they need more help in sports.

What’s the thing you most enjoy doing? That every time you do it, you’re always excited?

I really like when they shoot the gun at a race and we all dart out there. At the Junior Olympics, it was really long and wide with about 300 kids. And right when they blew the gun, everyone darted out there—it was great.

How did you feel leading up to and during the race?

The morning of the race, I was super nervous. My heart was pounding when I woke up. We had eaten a good breakfast, and then went on the bus. When I got there, it was really cold. I was kind of worried about that, too. There was a lot of stuff on my mind. But, the main thing I was focused on was just doing the race. I was nervous because I had never done a race like this.

My heart was pounding at the start line—it felt like it could almost fall out. We waited for about five minutes. Everyone was quiet, and he just blew the gun. That was the moment I felt so good. I felt awesome because everyone just darted out and gave it their all. Everyone was sprinting.

In that moment when the gun went off at the start of the race, I felt peaceful. I was determined to win even though it was only my first time. I knew maybe I wasn’t going to get into first, but I was still determined. It was so fun because I saw everyone dart out and give it their all.

What lesson did you learn from that experience?

How just a small thing like determination can lead to a huge thing like the Junior Olympics. I didn’t even know there was a Junior Olympics, so it was pretty cool.

What do you want to accomplish?

I wanted to get all A’s this year. I’m good with my grades, but I’ve never gotten straight A’s. Also going to California and New York City, as well as getting on the blue team in soccer. There are levels—Elite, Blue, and Black. I have a shot at the Blue team this year, so I’m excited about that.

Who do you admire?

I really like Usain Bolt and Stephen Curry. The reason I like Usain Bolt is because Kenya is super hot and kind of poor. You can get thirsty. But, he kept going and went to the Olympics. The reason I like Curry is because he’s super small like me, but still has the skills and can still make 3’s with 6-foot-people swatting at him.

I like James Harden, too, because he carries his team the whole way. He’s got tons of new people on his team, too.

What is different about professional athletes? Why do guys like Harden and Curry get to play in the NBA and others don’t?

I think they may practice more. And most of them have a rough background, which may be what makes them determined...the people who have good backgrounds, what determines them is having idols they want to be like. The people who don’t make it, I feel like they are really trying, but they just aren’t good enough, or aren’t determined enough or trying enough.

What motivates you about doing hard things?

I’m motivated because it’s hard. I know it’ll be rough to do, but if I keep trying, practice makes perfect. I can do it, I can reach my goal. I feel like other people don’t really like that, but it’s what motivates me the most—it’s the rough area, the rough patches.

What does success mean to you?

I feel like all of the goals I’ve accomplished mean success. The goals I haven’t accomplished yet but will is also success. I think my determination through the good and bad spots is what success means to me.

What do you wish for the older version of yourself?

I hope I’m still determined and having a really good life. That I’m always helping people and not looking at the bad things about them.

What does it mean to have a really good life?

It means you’ve made people happy and helped people accomplish their goals. That’s what is a really happy life- helping people.

I feel like Martin Luther King Jr. did a really good job of helping people. In the culture at the time, white people were viewed as superior and he knew there was something wrong with that. He knew it was going to be rough, he knew he might get hurt, but he still did it. He did it to help the people and follow the golden rule—treat people the way you would want to be treated.

What would you write down on a piece of paper when you were 80 if that’s all people had to remember you by?

I would probably say never give up. Be determined. Don’t think the bad things about people. Don’t think they can’t do it, just seek the joy in everything.