Youthful decision changed Kettner’s course in life [UPDATED]Published 7:24am Monday, April 1, 2013 Updated 9:29am Monday, April 1, 2013
It’s something she likes to tell the girls she coaches, that a gymnast should trust their feet and hands on the beam, the bars or floor, that they should rely on instinct.
For new Fergus Falls Gymnastics Academy coach Lori Kettner, her advice comes from years of having to live by that instinct.
Kettner was born completely colorblind and with severe nearsightedness, which makes her legally blind. For most of her life, Kettner had to wear thick black glasses and was picked on as a teenager for being different.
At 15, however, Kettner decided to try out for the gymnastics team in the little town of Cass Lake where she grew up. With the desire to strengthen herself, her appearance and attitude, Kettner started at an age when most gymnasts had been performing for years.
But that decision would set the roots of her life forever.
“I didn’t want to be known in a bad way, I wanted to be known in a good way,” said Kettner, whose struggles with bullying had weakened her self-esteem. “Then something cool happened. I had a coach who didn’t treat me any different and expected the same out of me as everyone else.”
That coach quickly became a mentor, and Kettner’s love for the sport sparked. Soon she was stronger and more confident than she had ever been before. She became a cheerleader and helped coach in the town’s gymnastic program, which doubled in size by the time she graduated.
Kettner went on to attend Concordia College in Moorhead, where, while working out through some gymnastics exercises in the gym one day, her athletic ability caught the attention of a track coach and she was asked to join the team. Kettner helped lead the Cobbers by competing in the pole vault event. Coaches would line the track and box with colored tape to help guide her.
But if there’s one way to describe Kettner, it’s as a woman with many passions. While athletics helped define her life, art was another outlet that challenged her disability. Kettner decided to pursue a degree in the subject while at Concordia.
“There were certainly challenges with that,” laughed Kettner, who said she prefers drawing because it doesn’t require color. “I had one professor who looked at me and said ‘What are we going to do with you?’”
Recently settled in Fergus Falls with her husband and two children, Kettner said the positive attitude of everyone in town and at the gymnastics association has made her feel very welcome and encouraged by all those who work tirelessly with the program.
“This town and this program, the parents, coaches and girls, it’s just a really amazing how everyone works so hard and well together,” said Kettner. “I’m just so glad to be here and so excited with the possibilities this program has.”
For Kettner, the opportunity to continue living out her passion through coaching means helping others defy the odds that challenge them.
“The best thing about being given a talent is giving it to people,” said Kettner. “I see too many kids who push themselves with the sport and by high school they’re burnt out. It shouldn’t be like that.”
As she lives on into her life, as a mother, wife, artist and coach, the sport that first allowed her to overcome her limitations will continue to drive her personally.
“I enjoy having a purpose and right now this is my purpose,” said Kettner. “It’s always been my happy place and I’m going to keep it as long as I can.”