Local athletes talk about overcoming adversity at PLAAY Summit
Everybody gets knocked down in life. The secret to success is getting back up.
It’s far from easy, but overcoming adversity can strengthen a person’s drive to be great.
Off-the-field tragedies can push an athlete on the field, and rather than shutting down, they turn it up.
Alaska sports stars Dominick Meriweather, DaJonee Hale, Denali Strabel and Jalil Abdul-Bassit know all too well the story of redemption and will share their inspiring stories at the fifth annual PLAAY Summit.
PLAAY stands for Positive Leadership for Active Alaska Youth and is an initiative of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. The PLAAY Summit is an accredited conference and every year features a panel of Alaskan athletes providing their insights on youth physical, emotional and mental health topics.
This year’s panel topic is adversity and members will discuss the roles mentors and sports played in helping them navigate difficult personal circumstances.
The panel discussion, led by moderator Eric Boyer, will take place Saturday from Noon to 1 p.m. at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Building at 4000 Ambassador Drive.
The general public is welcome to walk in for the panel discussion as well as the Keynote Address provided by Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum.
Despite the violent nature of MMA, the sport brings out the softer side in many fighters. Dominick Meriweather is no different. Raised by an abusive father, and watching his mother struggle to help her family survive, he lived with rage and carried it everywhere. He needed an outlet. He got involved with mixed martial arts in Anchorage. A formula of training, discipline and structure did wonders. His attitude on life shifted. Confidence replaced doubt, peace overcame fury.
From long shot to hot shot, DaJonee Hale went from being a troubled teen in Anchorage to NAIA National Player of the Year at Central Methodist University in Missouri. Hale was once homeless and hopeless as a teenager before getting a second lease on life, thanks to Michelle Overstreet of MyHouse, an Alaska organization dedicated to ending homelessness. “I can’t thank her enough,” said Hale, who recently wrapped up her first pro season in Germany.
Denali Strabel has been open about her past struggles with substance abuse and the path of self destruction she was taking during her days as a college athlete. The Seward native now finds satisfaction in mountain racing all over the world, coaching women groups and kids running, and her job in the Special Education Department. She has gone on to become one of Alaska’s top mountain runners and participated at the Skyrunning World Championship in 2019.
Jalil Abdul-Bassit overcame numerous hardships to become one of Alaska’s most successful basketball players. His mother was murdered when he was a young boy in Anchorage and his father was incarcerated through much of his childhood. Extended family and coaches helped him navigate personal tragedy and basketball provided an outlet. Abdul-Bassit went on to star at the University of Oregon and played professionally in Australia, Mexico and Albania.
To read more about PLAAY Summit, please click here.