Track star determined to keep pace with God’s word
The path toward a purposeful life is one of discipline, resilience and endurance, according to Tennessee Hall of Famer Robert Ware.
The Cleveland native, who is being inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame tonight, said he is proud of the life he has lived and the road he has taken. He is determined to keep it on track.
Ware was an all-around athlete at Cleveland High School in 1970-72, playing football, basketball and being a star on the track team.
He still holds the track record in Cleveland as fastest man in the 100-yard dash and came in fourth in the 1972 Olympic tryouts in Atlanta in the 100-yard dash.
Now at age 55, Ware said he reflects on his glory days with pride and still savors watching track and field events.
“When I can I still go to local track meets and cheer the runners on,” said Ware. “I enjoy watching athletes run. Each time the Olympics come on or they show college track and field — I’m on it. I still hang on to my sport. That’s about the only time I watch TV.”
Ware recalls being the fastest child in Cleveland in the 1960s when he and other children in the neighborhood would race, stating he “always enjoyed running just for the fun of it.”
His life on the track and field has translated into a metaphor on what Ware calls a more important race going on in his present-day life.
“Mainly what I’m on is a race for life,” said Ware. “I like hearing the Word of God and singing gospel music with my wife, Janice. Just like a runner in a race, it’s important to have discipline in this race for life. You have to change your lifestyle, your habits, say no to bad behavior.”
According to Ware, how fast a person can run in this race for life is not important but completing the race is.
“My goal is to finish this race, to take one step at a time and to be whatever God wants me to be in life,” he said. “Another thing is to be aware of your diet. Like an athlete watches what he eats, I have to watch what I take in.
“You have to watch the people you hang out with, who you let in your life. You can be in that race and that’s when the devil is going after you. Once you accept the Lord and try to do the right thing — that’s who the devil wants.”
Ware even drew comparisons between stumbling and falling in a race and the importance of being resilient to finish it.
“Once in a race — in the 100 dash, I tripped and fell,” said Ware. “I was a sophomore at the time. It was the strangest race I’d ever seen. I don’t even know how I fell but I did. I didn’t think about it though. I got right back up, kept running and I actually won that race.
“So if a person trips and falls in life, the best thing to do is to get back up and just keep running. If you stay down you’ll be set back further and further. If something is bothering me now, I’ll seek out spiritual advice from my minister or me and my wife will sit down and talk about it.”
Ware’s wife, Janice, is the person he credits with getting him back on track in his race for life. The soft spoken, mild-mannered 55-year-old maintenance man at the First Baptist Weekday Ministry has been married for 18 years. They have five children and eight grandchildren between them.
Ware said one of his greatest accomplishments is in working with children at the Weekday Ministry, where he can encourage them to respect their parents, get an education and learn about Christ.
After 11 years, being the only male among 21 ladies at the center, Ware is affectionately called “the rooster in the hen house.” Staff describe him as an indispensable member of their extended family who the children love and adore.
Preschool teacher Jackie Lord said, “I can’t say enough good things about Mr. Ware. About two and a half years ago my family’s house burned. He was the first one out there to try to help us as soon as he could and as much as he could.
“For personal reasons, I really appreciate how he goes out of his way to help. He’s around a bunch of women all day and we yell, ‘Mr. Robert,’ and he’s always there for us. The kids love him too.”
Ware admits to being surprised at the honor of being inducted into a sports hall of fame, but said he personally cherishes his golden age in sports.
Although the man who ran the 100 yard dash in 9.4 seconds doesn’t run much anymore, he recalls a time in which he had to run after one of his grandchildren.
“I had to discipline my grandson when he was being disrespectful on one occasion,” Ware said. “I had to give him one of those old fashioned whippings. He ran through the house because he knew the further he ran it was going to make things harder and I wasn’t going to run after him that much.”
Once his grandson accepted discipline, Ware said he went on to make the honor roll at school.
Being aware that there are many bumps in the road, in his race for life, Ware said the one thing that makes the difference in success and failure is prayer.
“Instead of giving up or turning back to my old ways, I just pray and turn it over to the Lord and it all works out. I think that’s one of the best thing to do to be successful,” he said. “Turn things over to God.”