MONMOUTH — A former world champion bicycle stunt rider on Friday offered elementary school students a healthy dose of principles to guide a life well lived.
Chris Poulos, 43, a former world champion bicycle stunt performer, punctuated his admonishments with wheelies and balancing tricks. The motivational speaker urged the few hundred kindergarten through sixth grade students who gathered at the Monmouth Academy gymnasium to be kind and healthy and to try and make their corner of the world a better place.
“Real success is not what you have,” Poulos said. “Real success is what you do.”
Dressed in a T-shirt, jeans and a helmet, Poulos spent most of the hour-long presentation riding his BMX bicycle back and forth across the gymnasium. The tricks, which ranged from the run-of-the-mill wheelie to standing on his handlebars while coasting across the gym, elicited screams of delight from the students. Poulos said his first trick, when he was six, involved simply sticking his leg out to the side while coasting. The students laughed at the simplicity, but at the time Poulos told his family it was the greatest trick in the world.
“No matter where we are going we have to master easy things,” Poulos said, noting that one can’t spell without knowing the alphabet or do advanced math without recognizing numbers.
Poulos urged the students to be critical thinkers and to make good decisions. He also urged the youngsters to be kind and to try and make others happy.
“I have bad days, we all do, but I try not to put my bad days on someone else,” he said.
Poulos said he hopes he is remembered for being a good husband and father, and a man of his word, rather than a good bicycle rider.
“We want people in the world who are responsible,” he said.
Poulos, who has performed in every state and in more than 100 countries across the world, urged the students to live healthy lives. That involves more than eating right and exercising, however. It also means paying attention to the world around you and doing things to protect yourself, like wearing a helmet on a bicycle. Poulos showed the crowd a helmet he had broken during a fall from his bike.
“Imagine if that had been my head,” Poulos said. “I would have been in big trouble.”
The performer urged the kids to make friends and even called students forward to help model ways to introduce yourself to strangers and to help others feel included. He urged the students to be known for being a good friend.
“If you treat friends well they’ll be your friends forever,” Poulos said. “If you treat your friends bad you’re going to lose them forever. It’s that simple.”
Poulos urged the students to watch what they say, to stand up for others and to keep trying if at first they do not succeed. Poulos reminded the students that it is OK to be afraid and even acknowledged his own fear of the ocean.
Much of what he said boiled down to the Golden Rule.
“You always want to do the things you’d want to have happen to you,” Poulos said.
Craig Crosby — 621-5642 firstname.lastname@example.org