On November 2, 2016, MMA GROW* hosted its Inaugural Orange County Keynote Speaker Event at Center Club in Costa Mesa. U.S. Paralympian Allison Compton inspired the audience with her personal story of empowerment.
Allison lobbied to create the first U.S. Women’s Paralympic Volleyball Team and played for the team for many years. The team brought home the gold from Rio this past summer. In addition to her success on the court, Allison has developed a successful career in business. In her address, she shared her experiences, the things she’s learned as a competitive athlete and how those lessons positively impact her life today.
Allison was born with an undeveloped femur and has worn a prosthetic leg since she began to walk. While she encountered obstacles along the way, Allison never let them keep her from living her life and playing the game she loved. She says, “It was never a matter of if I could do something, it was how.”
Growing up in Huntington Beach, she played a lot of volleyball and got the opportunity to play alongside volleyball legends. As the years progressed, Allison’s determination and talent drove her to make the varsity team in high school and go on to be the first woman to join the Men’s U.S. Paralympic Volleyball Team. However, playing on the global volleyball stage posed its own challenges. She was denied the chance to play in the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney solely based on her gender. In response, she worked tirelessly with the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Volleyball. Her efforts paid off, as she successfully formed the first U.S. Women’s Paralympic Volleyball Team in time for the 2004 Paralympics in Athens. Since then, the U.S. Women’s Team has medaled in every Paralympics and won the gold in Rio this past summer.
After seven years competing, Allison retired and used the lessons she learned to propel her forward as a successful businesswoman. At the speaking event, she encouraged the audience to empower their own lives and offered three practices that she’s found invaluable.
- It is okay to say no. Instead of being mediocre at many things, Allison urged attendees to focus on their strengths and do those things exceptionally well. “Saying no and delegating allows us to take a step back and focus on our strengths.”
- Have humor. Allison maintains a sense of humor about her physical disability, referring to her prosthetic leg as “Freeda.” She says, “Life is too short not to have humor,” and notes that it always lessens tension in a room.
- Keep an open mind. Allison has encountered many shocked looks when people find out that she is physically disabled. As she says, “Jumping to conclusions ruins our problem solving ability.” She adds that having our blinders up keeps us from finding a new way of doing something.
Allison’s story left the audience inspired, both personally and professionally, and made Orange County’s Inaugural Keynote Speaker Event a wonderful success.
*MMA’s women’s initiative, MMA GROW, was formed in 2010 to attract, retain, educate and support women in the firm.