Tyler Merren is the most experienced member of the U.S. Men’s Goalball team competing in Tokyo. These Games will mark his fourth Paralympics and he has two medals in his collection…a bronze from 2004 and a silver from 2016. Tyler and his teammates will be gunning for that elusive gold medal in Tokyo. Find out more about this Western Michigan grad in this Q&A:
Q: How were you exposed to goalball?
A: My first game of goalball was in May of 1999 at a Michigan Sports Education Camp at Western Michigan University put on by Dr. Paul and Sue Ponchillia. Crazy story though, one of my teammates for Tokyo, John Kusku, was my teammate for my first ever game of goalball
Q: What is one obstacle you’ve had to overcome to get to where you are?
A: I’ve always been a big believer in balance. As much as I love goalball and competing at the highest level, I’ve also wanted other things in my life at the same time. Probably the biggest obstacle for me, which I don’t even like calling it that, because it was so positive and important to me, was my family. Other things like my career and community as well, took time and energy away from goalball, but in the end, enriched my experience so much and ultimately made me stronger for it. There was nothing better than winning a medal and having my wife and children get so excited for it. It was a double win.
Q: Do you have a warm-up routine? Music?
A: Take it slow at the beginning, lol. I certainly have movements, stretches, and routines that are in every warm-up, but I tend to listen to my body and adjust to what it’s telling me I need to do. Also, I love me some Breaking Benjamin, Skillet, Thousand Foot Krutch…you know, the good stuff.
Q: What are you most proud of?
A: I think that I am most proud of the totality of my accomplishments. For many, it would be enough to say they had competed for two decades, hit 15 different countries, four world championships, three Paralympic Games, and collected over 60 medals in their sport. But I did that while doing school, family, work, and the rest of life. I haven’t always done it perfectly, but I feel like I can give myself the nod for this accomplishment.
Q: How will you further your success?
A: I love winning. I love striving to be the best. But more than anything, the challenge of being better tomorrow than I am today, and better today than I was yesterday, is something that is ingrained in my personality, and is something I teach when I am speaking to groups. I’ve never been afraid of work, and I think that my success will continue to grow because success is bred from hard work. Also, I don’t just measure success on medals and trophies, but my sweat equity and growth of my team. Seeing other players improve around me makes me feel just as successful as if I had taken the gold.
Q: How did you manage to stay driven during the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: Barely even a challenge. My team decided from day one that this would make us better, and they pushed themselves consistently, which kept me motivated even without my normally high level of intrinsic motivation. Look, life has a way of trying to yank the rug out from under you. You have to learn to roll with it and stay on your feet. Sometimes you will fall, but getting back up quickly and fighting on is a key to being a champion, both in life and sport.
Q: Cheat food?
A: Don’t really have one. I like eating well, mostly a plant-based diet, and I’m not a huge sweets guy, but if I had to pick, it would probably be pizza. I love pizza, and try to keep it reasonable when I have it in front of me.
Q: Life after goalball?
A: Doesn’t exist, lol. Honestly, the same as it is now, family, work, etc., just a bit less physical pain.
Q: Favorite athlete/sport?
A: I am a pretty big fan of pro football. Those athletes are incredible…upper echelon in my opinion. I don’t know if I could just pick one, but I like Matthew Stafford…not only a great quarterback and athlete but a classy guy and a good family man.
Q: Favorite place you’ve been?
A: I really enjoyed China…the culture was so different, and the history so rich.
Q: One interesting thing about yourself?
A: I don’t like fish. Not in the same way that other people don’t though. Kill it, cook it, and drop it on my plate and I’ll dig in, but the thought of handling a live sea creature like a fish or crab or anything like that gives me the shivers.