My Scottish Highland Games and Festival adventures have seen me toss haggis, hang out with giant burly men in kilts (known as Scottish Highland Games athletes), enjoy the bagpipes and some Celtic music, and learn about Scottish clans.
This weekend celebrates the 137th Sacramento Scottish Highland Games and Festival (it’s one of the oldest Scottish festivals in the United States). I’ve shared my experiences from past years. However, here’s the perspective from a Scottish Highland Games professional athlete.
In Part I of my interview with Jon O’Neil, he shares how he started competing in the Scottish Highlands Games, his athletic career, life as an athlete, and some of the places he has traveled.
In Part II, Jon talks about pursuing your dream, his favorite travel destination, how Scottish Highland Games athletes are different than other athletes, and what lessons he has learned from sports and travel.
An interview with Scottish Highland Games athlete Jon O’Neil Part II
What’s your favorite travel destination?
My favorite place to visit so far would have to be Scotland. Even though it was only for 4 days, I did a lot of driving over there to get to the 3 local games that I competed in. I got to see a lot of the Countryside and old towns which was amazing. The sites of each of the games were so picturesque. It was the greenest of green and beautiful mountain side locations.
Competing in such a unique sport, what has sports and travel taught you?
Especially in the Scottish highland Games, sports and travel have taught me a lot. The biggest thing though is the friendships made. Compete like a gentleman and the people you come across will do the same.
I have met so many people from across the world and I know that if I needed a place to stay that their doors would be open, as is mine to them. I have friends now in France, Netherlands, UK, Austria, Japan and all over the US and Canada. It really is a big family.
How are Scottish Highlands Games professional athletes different than other athletes?
Scottish Highland Games professional athletes are different from other professional athletes in that most all Scottish Highland Games pros work regular jobs whereas other professional athletes get paid well enough where that is there main source of income.
Scottish Highland Games athletes usually have to pay for their own travel and the prize money they get is usually enough for them to break even. Now there are a few games that cover travel and pay well, but it isnt enough to make a living doing it. Most Highland games professionals do this as a hobby and aren’t really in it for the money. It’s more about the friendships made (at least for me it is).
What are your dreams and goals?
I got married 7 months ago, expecting my first son in 3 months, competed in the Olympic Trials 2 times, won an Amateur Title and a Pro world co-title, and am currently in the process of starting my own business. I would say that my life has been pretty successful so far.
I can only wish for continued success on the field, maybe a world championship one day, a successful career and a healthy and successful family. I also just set the North American Professional Record in the Breamar Throw in Phoenix a few weeks ago, which happened to be on my actual birthday, at 47 feet exactly, the old record was 46′ 5″ I believe. I would love to get another record before I am done with this sport.
I would love to maybe one day help out and coach young kids getting into track or the highland games. If it wasn’t for the coaching that I received from someone that believed in me when I was 16, I never would be where I am now.
What advice would you give to someone who is pursuing their dream?
For someone that is pursuing their dream, I would say to never give up. Honestly, I am not the best with words, and I am more of a doer that a talker. However, if you put your mind to something, give it 110%. Even if you don’t succeed in it, you might just fall into what you were meant to do. Never give up and use other peoples success to motivate you to be a better person.
Great advice from Jon! If you want to learn more about Jon, follow him on his site www.jononeil.net. Learn more about the Sacramento Scottish Highland Games and Festival, its history, and the events. If you want to follow the athletes in their competitions at the Scottish Highland Games, you can follow the competitions and rankings all year on the North American Scottish Games Athletics (or NASGA). Currently, Jon is ranked 4th in 2013.
What have I learned from Jon and my experiences at the Scottish Highland Games and festival? You don’t have to travel around the world to enjoy some of your best travel experiences!
If you love sports and travel, check out my best sports and travel memories in 2012, how sports inspired me to travel, why sports and travel go together, and the College Football Travel Tour with Expedia.
What person or advice inspired you to pursue your dreams?