February 03, 2024 3 min read 1 Comment
Skippy Mattson was the first Geezer Jock. I reheated the glossy magazine Geezer Jock (2005-2008) into a newsletter and Skippy got me off to a great start as my first story. Just an amazing person. Skippy passed Dec. 23 at 70 of pancreatic cancer.
“You don’t need to apologize for the gifts you’ve been given. Only apologize for not using them.” Sister Madonna Buder, 80, champion cyclist known as The Iron Nun.
The man at the gym looked at Skippy. Then he looked at the tire that takes several grown people to fit onto an earth mover. The man looked at Skippy again. You know what he was thinking.
No way this lady is flipping that tire.
Don’t smirk at Skippy.
Another man standing nearby, who knows Skippy Mattson, said the smirker wandered into dangerous territory. Skippy took that big tire at The Forum Athletic Club in Atlanta and she flipped it. Then she did it again.
“I like flipping tires during my workouts,” Skippy said.
She is 5-foot-4, 110 pounds, and was 66 years old at the time she flipped the tire. She is 68 years old now and not done flipping tires. She is not a weightlifter, by any means, but she responds to the most bracing of environments, like dares in gyms.
She is a Masters swimmer, a licensed physical therapist, and certified athletic trainer, but don’t dare Skippy to leave her lane in the pool, or otherwise.
Those tractor tires can be a heave, but with sturdy legs and leverage and willpower, the tire might as well have been fixed to a tricycle.
You see Skippy’s gifts, right? The ones Sister Buder was talking about?
Mattson is saturated in relentlessness and pushing boundaries. Skippy never apologizes for her drive. It is why she is one of the most sought after PTs in Atlanta. She has worked at Children’s Health Care of Atlanta (CHOA) since 2004 and she turns her profession upside down. Skippy refers patients to doctors, and doctors and patients refer back to her.
Mattson sees injured patients who are typically 9 to 20 years old. If you asked an orthopedic sports doc what injury is complicated, they will likely say shoulder injuries. It figures that Skippy works on the complicated shoulders of these kids. Shoulder injuries threaten careers of the ambitious.
Mattson is so good at her job she was the PT for the U.S.A. Olympic Swim Team in the 1996 Olympics. She has worked for USA Swimming at World Championships, too.
In the pool as a Masters swimmer, she has won medals and national championships galore. Top 10 this, Top 10 that. Her specialties are distance freestyle and the 200 backstroke.
You want a glimpse into Skippy’s head? It’s this:
She lives by effort and consistency. Determination is also part of her ethos. That is what you want in a physical therapist. An accomplice in rehab that comes with accomplishments.
Skippy played Little League in New Jersey before they officially allowed girls to play Little League. Of course she did.
When she became better than the coach’s son, the rule book came out and she was told to scoot along to girls’ stuff, which she made just as rigorous as the stuff boys were doing.
She started college at Slippery Rock and played softball, lacrosse, and swam. She transferred to Penn State and was on the swim team. She was good, not great, but she was an academic, too, not just a jock. Mattson said she learned from world-class exercise physiologists at Penn State. She is still building on that training four decades later.
“I want to be better every day,” she says.
She got her nickname in college. She’s not sure how, but Spunky was probably already taken, so they went with Skippy, instead of her given name “Patricia.”
What is it about Skippy? What can we learn from Geezer Jocks like her?
It is her infinite mindset. There is no end game; just joy in the process.
Some of the youth swimmers she counsels at Dynamo, a swim club in Atlanta that has sent athletes to the Olympics, talk about their workouts as a chore. Skippy talks about swimming like it is a bag full of candy on Halloween.
She rises at 4 a.m. to swim five days a keep week. She lifts weights, which is more than just flipping tires. The youth can’t keep up with her when she gets to doing side plank supersets.
There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.Simon Sinek, Start With Why.
Skippy, no doubt, inspires human behavior, the good kind, the self-sufficient kind. Her day job as a physical therapist is about manipulating muscles. Her lifetime job is inspiring the rest of us.
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