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  • Raquel Kiaraa

The Rise of Rocky

For half of my life I identified as an athlete.

It was who I was, what I lived for and everything I practiced.


My nickname "Rocky" came from my coaches who recognized me as a fierce competitor.



I devoted my life to taking basketball as far as I could.

I dreamed of playing in Europe one day and set my whole childhood/teenage goals on achieving that. At the height of my career, averaging 31 points a game, one of the top point guards with top university school interests, I sustained a life changing leg injury. I was 17. My teammate, six foot four, 250lbs ran into me giving me my first and most detrimental injury in my athletic career. Post-surgery recovery off a torn ACL, MCL, Meniscus and broken bone injury was a year and a half. I would lose out on playing in the most critical year of my career.

I attempted going back to play 6-months post-surgery because I was in a vulnerable position of being in my grade 12thyear and having school offers but not officially signed anywhere. I had no scholarship guarantee unless I could play and finish the season. While I was out competing in a tournament in Michigan I was pinned between two girls in an attempt to drive the ball to the basket and blew out my leg again. I would go on to repeat this one more time. Three times I repeated this same injury within 2 years. I had three surgeries to repair my leg that would never be the same again. I was told by countless surgeons that sports were no longer an option along with the countless other things I would never be able to do.


At 18 athletics were taken away from me. When I watched my fellow teammates sign with top universities and continue to pursue their athletic dreams it crushed me. That was meant to be me and everyone who I played with was continuing on and reaching their goals. My peers who I shared the same caliber of talent with all signed with top Canadian/American schools that had once shared interest in me.

I felt left behind and meaningless.

No one remembered me, no coach or player reached out. I was easily forgotten and left to the curb with empty dreams.

Without athletics I seen no purpose.

I felt as if no one seen purpose in me.

I had a long and painful recovery road ahead, both physically and mentally.


How could I no longer be what I identified myself with all these years?


If I wasn’t an athlete than who was I?


Everything I had poured my heart and soul into was taken away and I no longer had a goal to reach for insight.

I went through an unimaginable depression; I didn’t know who I was or what my purpose was anymore. Somedays I honestly didn’t want to be here anymore. I lost myself. It was the greatest loss of my life. For a long-time I was dead inside. It stayed with me for a long time in everything I did because I felt like I failed myself. I felt like I failed so many people around me. Feeling like a failure consumed me. As life went on around me I was moving through the motions but I felt like I was constantly cemented in my wounds.

I made so many mistakes, compromising my integrity, hurting people I loved including myself because I was angry. At the root of the anger was guilt. It was a self-imposed guilt for not living up to my goals.


I couldn’t face that pain for so long, I was fearful of coming face to face with the emotions and truths. Instead, I pushed a lot of things and people away including my own healing process. I identified this as building my strength, but it was my greatest weakness. It was a wound so entrenched within me that it became the very anchor preventing me from transforming and moving into my new purpose.

I went through years of being everything from whom I actually wanted to be. I was compromising who I was physically, morally and spiritually. Not to mention that my leg was always in a state of pain, I was a twenty something young lady with constant leg pain, some days debilitating. I couldn’t walk or sleep most nights. I wasn’t properly healing physically or mentally.

The hardest truth I had to face was forgiving myself and moving forward. I was stuck for so long in feeling like a failure that I began to assume the part in my everyday life.

When I was 25 I came face to face with myself and asked

“What is your purpose”….

”What impact do you want to leave in this world”...

”Who is Raquel”…


I looked around at everything I was doing and where I was going. I wanted more, both for myself and what I could offer others.

Writing saved me in a lot of ways because it gave me an outlet to express myself and work through my thoughts and feelings. As I came more into poetry and began journaling more I was able to come into my voice and direction. I realized that everything I did, every goal I ever wanted to achieve, every move I wanted to make there was one similarity in it all; I always wanted to empower and inspire others towards their goals. I wanted to give people the gift of voice and leadership in their own life. For a long time athletics gave me that ability, with greater clarity I decided to pen and paper a new path to channel this energy.

Michael and I had long been friends since high school. Since we were 14 to be exact. When we re-aligned our paths in a more romantic way at 26 it came at the most opportune time. We both shared the same drive to create a movement that would empower people. We both shared a long passion for athletics and coaching. We both shared a vision to build a centre for peak performance in mind, body and soul. I admired him greatly, not only for his athletic achievements, but how powerfully he can heal others. It's a special and rare gift he imbues.

I was more than ever confident in what we could achieve with both our strengths aligned.

At one point I never knew that athletics would find its way back in my life. Cornell Performance was a gift and a calling to come back into alignment with my purpose. Not necessarily as an athlete but as a coach who gave all people the opportunity to transform into the athlete within them.

On a personal level I started taking my training more seriously, developing and learning better mechanics and techniques to heal my leg. I developed strength in all areas of my body and began doing things surgeons told me I would never be able to do. I was able to heal my leg and at the same time heal my mind back into believing I could do new things to empower my body. Although playing sports was no longer an option I could find purpose in my own strength training journey.

Cornell Performance was born in 2013. When we built Cornell Performance our mission was to provide a space that went above the status gym culture. Our space was about togetherness, connection, support, education and gaining confidence into ones power. It was about our peoples personal development and making them a part of something greater. We wanted people to know that from whatever walk of life they came from, they mattered to us and actualizing their goals meant everything to us.

My life has transformed through this business; the people, the connections we have made and the knowledge we have gained and continue to gain. We have had our fair share of ups and downs but what has never changed is our purpose to inspire positive change in our clients/members lives. This continues to allow myself and Michael the opportunity to transform and grow within ourselves and our business.

Healing others healed me.

Giving to others allowed me to give back into my story.

I am grateful.

Truly this journey has been powerful.

Meeting all of you; connecting, coaching and being a part of this collective space of growth – it’s exactly where I needed to be.

And I wouldn’t change any of it….

With Love & Gratitude,

Coach Raquel

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