At the end of the 2019 season, we traveled to Thibodaux, La., for an FCS playoff game. After that tough loss, Hunter shared with his dad, sisters and me that he felt that might have been the last college football game of his life, even though he had another year of eligibility. I reassured him he’d be back for his senior season to accomplish the college football goals he set for himself and team. Less than a month later, Hunter’s ability to play football again changed after his skiing accident that resulted in a spinal cord injury.
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After the accident, I did think Hunter’s college football journey had ended. But with time I began to see new beginnings and different goals and desires for Hunter.
Hunter Pinke, after his last game as the UND football team captain on May 2, 2021, at James Madison University, following UND’s 34-21 loss to JMU in the FCS football quarterfinals in Harrisonburg, Va. Pinke will enroll in graduate school at the University of Arizona to compete as an adaptive athlete in the fall of 2021. (Katie Pinke / Agweek)
In December 2020, after a delayed football season from the COVID-19 pandemic, Hunter was named one of five captains of the UND football team, achieving a goal he set for himself in high school when he committed to play for UND.
“When you can’t change the direction of the wind, adjust your sails.” H. Jackson Brown Jr. made the quote famous in his best-seller “Life’s Little Instruction Book” in the early 1990s. I relate my life to this quote often and repeat it to our kids; my husband keeps the quote hanging in his office.
Since the 2019 playoff game, Hunter has adjusted his sails numerous times. He’s always had support during the adjustments from medical professionals, teammates, coaches, professors, friends, family and even strangers.
The spring 2021 FCS football season gave Hunter, his teammates, coaches, our families and fans one more season we needed together. The accident and a global health pandemic were not storms that broke our bonds and weakened our resolve to move forward.
Your circumstances change. Your situation is not always what you dreamed it would be. Adjust your goals and keep working to achieve new goals and live out your dream.
This month, Hunter graduates from the University of North Dakota with a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering. He speaks at several schools and events in the area, sharing his story. He has just announced his next steps. He will be attending architecture graduate school and competing as an adaptive athlete at the University of Arizona.
As his mom and loyal cheerleader, I want him to chase after new pursuits. His rural North Dakota home will always be waiting for him if he chooses to return. But continuing to adjust his sails, finding new direction and writing his next chapter is a rich reward to watch as parents. Some of you ahead of me on this parenting journey understand. When you’re in the depths of raising young kids (I call them the “blurry years”), I struggled to see ahead to moments like Hunter is chasing now. Through trials and challenges, we kept going through life’s storms by adjusting our sails to chase and achieve goals.
As a family, we’re turning the page to the next chapter. Thank you for all of those named and unnamed supporting Hunter, cheering him on and finding us along the way to give encouragement.
I think we’ve all experienced moments of struggle over the past year during a pandemic, some of us more vocally than others. Don’t let the wind keep blowing you in a direction you don’t want to go. Adjust your sails. Set your goals. Move ahead with confidence in your ability to accomplish your dreams and goals.
Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at email@example.com, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.