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Coach Dar Shares Her Road Map for Overcoming Adversity

Coach Dar speaking at a YEP event.Darleen Santore is far better known as Coach Dar for a reason. You don’t have to listen to her speak for long to understand why.

Coach Dar is always coaching, always looking for lessons she can pass along to the people she works with.

Even while she’s having a stroke. (She’s had three.)

Coach Dar gave the keynote talk March 11 at the inaugural Youth Empowerment Luncheon hosted by the Amputee Coalition’s Youth Engagement Program near Chicago. She told the audience how she found a metaphor for life in the way the lines on her heart monitor traveled up and down the screen.

“Flatlining is coasting in life,” she said, “and it does not really give you the full meaning of life. The ups and downs, the heartbeat of life, the upbeat and the downbeat, and the back upbeat and the downbeat and the back up, that is where you build resiliency. That’s where you get gritty. That’s where you get stronger, in this fighting for life.”

Coach Dar works with professional athletes and business leaders, teaching them to strive for greatness. She was born into an Italian American family in Connecticut. She speaks with a hint of a New York accent and a wealth of experience.

Her message to the young people assembled in Illinois fit with one of the key themes of Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month: Elevate Your Potential.

Looking around the room, she found plenty of potential.

One of the reasons was that the youth in attendance had already developed an important life skill.

“You have all been through so much adversity that you’re equipped,” she said. “When you could learn how to get through adversity early on, it kind of sets you up. You have a little bit of an advantage. This becomes a competitive advantage.”

Coach Dar believes so strongly in the power of resiliency that she decided to include a chapter about it in her recently published book. When she began writing, though, the theme of resiliency took over and became the subject of the entire book.

The Art of Bouncing Back was born. Coach Dar felt it was important to relate her own experiences to people who are just beginning to write their own books.

She outlined the principles of RISE during her keynote address:

  • Release what is weighing you down
  • Ignite the passion inside you
  • Seize the moment
  • Elevate your mindset

“Bouncing back, we all know, is an art,” Coach Dar said. “It really is. It’s not easy, and it’s an art form. And art is just so creative. There’s not any one linear plan to art. It’s beautiful, and that’s what life is.”

So, she encouraged the audience to define their own plan. Often, that involves a concept she calls “reframing the game.”

Learn to look at adversity as a way to advance. View obstacles as opportunities, problems as possibilities.

“We defy odds all the time,” Coach Dar said. “We see people defying odds all the time. And that’s what you do. That’s what we do. We defy odds.

“If you think it’s not possible, then it’s holding you back. But if you think it’s possible, now you have opportunity.”

Coach Dar says her philosophy blends psychology, life, and experience to inspire greatness in others. In 2017, she was named the most inspiring woman of the year by the WNBA.

She works with athletes in the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB. In business, she coaches CEOs of Fortune 100 companies. She is also a board-certified occupational therapist and has founded a consulting firm.

She delivers her coaching through one-on-one sessions, impactful webinars, and speaking engagements.

Her message to the YEP luncheon attendees was the same one she shares with people she works with.

“You just have to take your gift and talents and you meet the world’s needs with it,” she said. “And that is purpose. And it doesn’t take anything special. It just takes you to find what that is for you, meet the world’s needs, and go after it. And don’t let anyone tell you you can’t.”

She also had advice for people who are just starting out in life.

“We learn how to work with our emotions,” she said. “That’s so key when we’re talking about how to handle life. You have to learn how to handle the emotions, because emotions are going to come. It’s what you do with them that really makes the difference.”

In the end, everyone is in charge of their own journey.

“Your story is an inspiration for someone else,” Coach Dar said. “What do you want to do with it?”