A victim fights back

Steve Bartlett
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Being bullied helped Reggie Lawrence become an elite athlete

He was behind the high school playing hacky sack when he realized they were coming.

“I heard these voices, chanting and cheering and getting louder and louder,” Reggie Lawrence recalls.

They were after him.

“There had to be at least 200 of them, and it really was at least 200 people,” the Conception Bay South resident says. “A lot of people weren’t even from the school.”

The throng backed the handful of people playing hacky sack against the school wall.

For Lawrence, now 30, this was the most intense attack of the extreme bullying he endured during junior high and high school.

“They had someone planned to fight me, so when he came in, I tried to kill time,” he continues. “It was really scary. I knew that they were going to jump on me soon.”

And jump on him they did.

Lawrence says he defended himself for a long time, until school administrators came out.

He managed to emerge from the bullying scrum relatively unscathed using techniques learned through martial arts.

“When you’re grappling, if someone is under you, you can actually hug them and allow them to be your armour. … So I just hugged him when I was down on the ground, and when they were kicking me, they were actually kicking him. I can hear his breath going out, so I just stayed there as long as I could. … It was unfortunate for him, but that’s what I had to do in that moment to survive, I guess. It was very overwhelming. They were all very angry, definitely mob mentality.”

Longtime friend Adam Tuck wasn’t at school that day, but he says everyone was saying he should have been there.

“I’m like, ‘Man, I’m some glad I wasn’t,’” Tuck quips.

He can say that now with a smile, but the incident — and the amount of bullying his friend faced — was no joke at the time, 15 or so years ago.

“It was just organized, well-organized, and for that age to be that organized, it’s a little scary,” Tuck says.

Especially for the victim.

Being intensely targeted and victimized deeply affected Lawrence.

He was apprehensive to go places and avoided drawing attention to himself.

“If I was at a party, for example, and one of this group showed up — and they were a large group — I would just leave,” he says. “It was really the constant fear, I guess, of being out of my own environment, because every time I encountered them, I ended up having to run from them.”

The attacks shook Lawrence’s confidence and weakened him mentally.

“All I wanted to do every day when I went to school was not be seen,” he says.

Things finally started changing as Grade 12 came to a close. Lawrence met friends from another high school and started feeling comfortable just being himself.

“That made my confidence grow because I realized not everyone was like this,” he says. “Up until that point, I thought this is the way it is. It’s just hard. Life is hard.”

He also started studying tae-kwondo, the sport that would change his life and take him places.

“I found my career in the martial art world just shot up very quickly,” he says.

The rise was indeed rapid. Lawrence — a guy once hesitant to leave the house — was soon fighting opponents around the world, in Mexico, Paris and Thailand, where he competed for Canada at the World University Games.

Being a victim of bullying powered his desire to succeed.

“All of a sudden, I was in this area where people were cheering for me, but really, I was cheering for me because we were doing so well,” he says. “And I’m doing something that I was so afraid of, which was confrontation. So in that sense, it fuelled me, yes, but not from anger, from inspiration, I guess.”

Lawrence started chasing an Olympic dream, the 2012 games in London.

Training was going well until a few months before the trials to decide which fighter would wear the Maple Leaf.

During a tournament in New Brunswick, where he was training, a ligament in his knee completely detached.

“I threw a kick and the way it came down after the strike, it just severed,” he says. “It’s almost like my legs were literally taken out from under me.”

Through physio and training, and desire, Lawrence recovered enough to avoid surgery and step on the mat for the Olympic trials.

He lost his fifth fight, finishing in third.

“I was close. It was great, no matter what,” he says.

Instead of committing four more years to another kick at the Olympics, Lawrence returned home and resumed a career in financial planning with Paradise-based Capital Management.

Back in Newfoundland, he’s also bent on sharing the experience of his teen years to help young people deal with bullying.

He wants to give them hope, to let them know all is not lost and things can get better.

Tuck applauds what his friend is trying to do.

“I think people need hope and they need a mentor,” he says. “There’s a lot of people out there who can help, but guiding them to that help is kinda part of the problem, I think.”

On Friday, Lawrence addressed high school students from across the Avalon during an anti-bullying workshop organized by the St. John’s Crime Prevention Committee.

Mark Fudge helped organize the event. He says Lawrence’s story connected and resonated.

“It’s a message of resilience and being able to make a better tomorrow,” he says.

“(Bullying) didn’t define who he became or who he was, and through that, I think he’s able to share a message of what other youth can do.”

For more on Reggie Lawrence's quest, watch Telegram TV, 8 p.m., April 24, on Rogers TV, channel 9.


Twitter: @TelegramSteve





Organizations: World University Games.Being, Capital Management.Back

Geographic location: Conception Bay, Mexico, Paris Thailand Canada London.Training New Brunswick Newfoundland

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Recent comments

    April 25, 2013 - 12:58

    Dear High School: If you read the article with any depth/reflection you would have understood that it isn't about getting into ONE "scrap" in school. Furthermore, even if it were, one or two experiences like that have a SIGNIFICANT IMPACT (and I'm fairly certain the bullying was an ongoing thing and not an isolated event). Please don't take it upon yourself to try to diminish what he endured. When people like Reggie come out and share their experiences it helps to provide young people with relatable experience, offers them hope and normalizes how they feel. I'm not sure if your aware of this or not but it only takes one experience to have a detrimental impact on one's life- if you so much as glanced at the teen suicide rate as a result of bullying (it can be one experience or multiple experiences). I'm sure many people can relate to what you shared Reggie! What unfortunately isn't newsworthy is someone trying to reduce his experiences and chalk it up to one spat outside of school 15 years ago. As a crisis counselor I see the DEVASTATING impact bullying has on young people and this is an extremely powerful thing you are doing here! Sometimes all it takes is one person to reach out and change the path for another.

  • chantal bourque
    April 25, 2013 - 11:41

    Met you at Grand-Barachois TKD and was amazed by your skills. I became an instant fan and followed you on facebook and JD TKD. I am so proud of you and having a teenage daughter who has been bullied as well at junior high enough that she would tell me at night that she did not want to live no more, tore me inside, you are very inspiring and I wish you the best of luck in your future. You show us that their is a light at eht end of a dark tunnel. Thank You. .

  • Holly Howard
    April 24, 2013 - 21:08

    Reggie, you are an awesome person and I hope you are proud of the person you are. You are very thoughtful and kind, something your aggressors weren't. I'm sorry you had to experience that. Nobody should have to and even though it was 15 years ago, it's something that moulds who you are. Fortunately you were stronger than they thought and you came out on top. You will have a wonderful future and Peter and I, as well as Jordan and Josh, I'm sure, wish you all the best.

  • Geraldine Sturge
    April 24, 2013 - 18:07

    Reggie, I'm glad to hear that you are doing well. Though we only worked together for a short time, I want you to know that you made a big impact on my life. Thanks for sharing your story and being the genuine person that you are.

  • Shawn Ferrie
    April 24, 2013 - 14:21

    I may not know you but I am so very proud of you for your resiliance

  • High School
    April 24, 2013 - 13:04

    By's... it's called getting into a fight in high school. How many times did the entire school empty out to see a few people scrap it out behind the school. I know bullying is a serious issue, but when did getting over one spat with a group of people at your school become news worthy... 15 YEARS later.

    • ken power
      April 24, 2013 - 16:41

      man, instead of saying something so ingnorant, go take a nap, or something.

    • awesome
      April 24, 2013 - 16:47

      As... still in high school? No worries, one of these days you will mature into the awesome adult you think you are. Oh, by the way, it's your kind that is the problem... thought I would point that out to help you along your way.

    • Anti-bully
      April 24, 2013 - 18:19

      When a large group goes after one person and consistently "goes after" that person, it is called bullying- cowardly, weak people do that. Those who come out and say something when they are strong enough actually help kids in the same situation today. Your comment makes me wonder what kind of person you were in high school...

    • Big G
      April 24, 2013 - 20:02

      High School; I think you need to go back & read this again, the topic is about bullying in schools & what happened to Reggie when he was in School was a lead up to what he is now trying to do help young people deal with bullying. & that Sir or madam is News Worthy. Keep up the good work Reggie, our young people today need alll the extra help they can get.

    • Good
      April 24, 2013 - 20:25

      It's not your usual fight. He said 1 guy started and then others jumped in and started kicking him. That's not "getting into a fight in high school" . These situations can ruin a life and maybe end one. Enjoy the story. We don't get one every day.

  • Lee Edwards
    April 24, 2013 - 12:36

    I had no idea about your very tough times growing up, Reggie... People tend to think that pushing others around while they have the backing of a group makes them tough. Sadly that is evident at all ages, and those that partake of such behavior fail to see the cowardice of their actions...and worse still, fail to see the bravery it takes to stand up alone and just keep going or hanging in there each day. I hope that your message sticks in the minds of both the victims of bullying and the bullies themselves...so that the people who have to deal with the miserable acts of others know that their lives can be amazing...not defined by their petty tormentors...and so that the bullies out there realize that they may someday look at their victims in awe, as I am sure yours do...

  • Hilary Hynes
    April 24, 2013 - 11:44

    We are so proud of you, Reggie! On behalf of your Mother, Father, Sisters and their families.

    • Dana Saunders
      April 24, 2013 - 13:54

      You always had a huge heart, so proud that you are doing this!

  • DC
    April 24, 2013 - 11:03

    Way to go, you are a superstar! I often wonder, as these people grow into adults, do they recognize their earlier actions, or do if they even realize what they done was wrong? How do they teach their own children? Thank goodness that these actions are no longer accepted and the knowledge is out there. Thanks to people like you that are courageous enough to share their story to help others. It is stories like this that allow people to grow stronger and move mountains despite their hardships. Thanks again!

  • Christine
    April 24, 2013 - 09:48

    Reggie is one of the most kindest, beautiful souls that I have ever had the privilege to meet. God bless him for sharing his story and being such a positive force to help others that may be going through something similar. Completely brightened my day to see his face! Cheers to you bud.

  • B
    April 24, 2013 - 09:45

    Reg...you did so well. So sorry you had to go through that long ordeal. I too was bullied and so frightened to leave the house for fear of someone coming to get me. The first time my Dad let me go on my own to Bowring Park to met friends from school. I walked the tracks to get there only to be confronted by two boys a bit older than I and one of them assaults me while both laughed. I believe I was 12 yrs old at the time. I never did tell anyone but lived with that fear and others incidents til I became an adult. Now I get verbally agressive when someone says a wrong word to me. I never got over it.

  • Susie Ayles
    April 24, 2013 - 08:49

    Great Job Reggie, I am proud of you and who you have become you are a GREAT guy. Miss you back here in Moncton :-)

  • Ben
    April 24, 2013 - 08:18

    Great story !!!

  • Good
    April 24, 2013 - 08:00

    Good for you. I'll bet the dirtbags are hanging around the local bar waiting for their welfare cheques. They are so brave when they have a crowd behind them. As a kid, I didn't see any mob attacks, usually one on one and if one went down, it was over. There's not much you can do against 200 kids. Cowards.

    • Carlisle
      April 24, 2013 - 10:50

      Why do you assume they're waiting for their welfare cheques? What a stupid, bigoted, generalization. By the way, kids aren't eligible for welfare.

    • Good
      April 24, 2013 - 12:42

      Because bullies like that generally don't get along with others. I wouldn't hire them. Read the story. It happened 15 years ago. I assume they are finished school, maybe they are not. Can you get welfare if you are 30 years old and still in high school ??

    • Twill.do
      April 24, 2013 - 13:49

      Carlisle, While I didn't post the comment you responded to, I feel the need to add my 2 cents. I do not believe that the original poster was intending to suggest that the people who jumped Mr. Lawrence in High School were all of a poor background, which I think you were suggesting in your response. I think it was more a comment to say, or perhaps wishful thinking, that people who would gang up on someone like that have gone no where with their lives given their attitude and actions. I'd rather hope that they have learned how to treat other people and have made changes to their lives and how they conduct themselves. I can't see how the comments were "bigoted" or "generalized" - a bit of an overreaction. I think it is fairly clear from the article that the attack/assault happened many years ago when Mr. Lawrence was in high school/junior high, and assuming that the aggressors age at the same rate as every other person in the province, I would be willing to bet that they are now adults capable of receiving social assistance if necessary.

    • Good
      April 24, 2013 - 20:17

      TWILL>DO ... thank you. There were 2 bullies that I remember from childhood. Both did jail time. Neither one did much with their life. Some of them change and others become quite successful from being a bully. I like to enjoy life getting along with people.

  • Lisa
    April 24, 2013 - 07:41

    So nice to see what this man has accomplished so far in his life. Hope those bullies see this ad to know that they didn't keep him down. It's a great thing to see him helping other young people who are targets of bullying. Keep up the good work!

  • Islander
    April 24, 2013 - 07:31

    Very inspiring story for all youths to be empowered by this young man's story. Thank you for taking the courage to share your story with everyone and especially for those who have been bullied.

  • Bob Strong
    April 24, 2013 - 06:48

    Reggie, I had no idea you went through this at school but I'm glad to hear you turned it around and used it as your motivator. Adversity sometimes makes great people and you seem to have come out well. I'm sure those unleasant memories will never leave you. Thank you for sharing your story and for helping others who may be in the same situation.