If you watched her at a track meet, you would see three things: power, grace, and beauty. While only a Freshman, Charlotte Brown is an academic star, and she has cleared heights in the pole vault that no female at Rains High School in Emory, Texas ever has.
“I’d definitely consider myself very competitive. And I think a lot of that comes from my older brothers. They are never giving me a break.” Competitive she is. When talking about her first track coach, Charlotte said, “Our coach was pretty harsh. He was like … there’s no excuses … you are going to run and you are going to be good at it … and you are gonna like it, and if you don’t, you can leave.”
What Charlotte said next summed up the real secret to her success: “It’s easier to run hard than to have to think about an excuse.”
What’s incredible is that Charlotte would not have to think very hard to come up with an excuse because she is legally blind.
When describing her sight, she said, “When I look out right now, I see a pin dot of white, which I guess is the grass. And it’s blurry … kinda like looking through a coffee stirrer.”
Running is not the only thing Charlotte never makes excuses about. She doesn’t make excuses about carrying extra large text books, or that she has to use a talking calculator, or use a magnifier to make the pages of her books and any paper work huge so she can barely read it.
Her mental toughness comes from her parents who say it’s her job to recognize and overcome problems. The phrase “no excuses” has been the family motto right from the beginning.
Charlotte’s mother said, “One of the first conversations we ever had with Charlotte [was] when she was about three. We told her at that time, everyone struggles with something in their life. Everyone has something in their life that they have to overcome in this world, and her vision was going to be her something, and she might as well figure it out and move on. And … she did.”
Charlotte was born with natural vision, but quickly developed infant cataracts. Her sight went back and forth between good and bad until sixth grade when she lost most of her sight. It is now 20/-400.
So, how does Charlotte pole vault? First, she gets a little help from Ulala. Ulala is a tennis ball with a smiley face and wig attached to a spike Charlotte puts in the ground to help match her path. Ulala sits exactly at her 14th step away from the bar. She starts with her foot touching Ulala and plants the pole on her 14th step, not seeing where she is going.
When she trains, she runs on the inside lane where she can barely make out the contrast between the grass and track. Her cross country teammates wear bells on their shoes so she can follow. She even plays on the basketball team. She counts her steps and listens to the ball. Watching her play, you’d have no idea she cannot see.
Her parents never told her she could not do something. Instead, they always asked her, “HOW ARE YOU GOING TO DO IT?” … and she always came up with the answers.
Here are some more wise words from Charlotte, “I don’t think disability should be in the dictionary. That’s a dumb word. A disability is something that limits you or stops you from being able to do the things you want to do. And I don’t think anything, even if it’s vision impairment, should stop you.”
The last teeny, tiny bit of sight that Charlotte has could be gone at any moment. So, what is holding you back?