April 29, 2024

Resilience and Faith: Aaron  Miechiels’ Journey from Athlete to Healer

Aaron Miechiels

PBA News

Aaron Miechiels’  journey is a testament to resilience, faith and the pursuit of excellence. As a standout athlete and dedicated student at Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA), Aaron, who graduates this spring, has not only navigated the challenges of collegiate sports, but has also embraced his academic pursuits with an equally formidable passion and faith. He has been accepted into the University of Miami’s prestigious Doctor of Physical Therapy program, where he plans to blend his love for sports with his commitment to helping others. 

Navigating Challenges: Injury and Change Lead Aaron to PBA 

From Atlanta, Georgia, Aaron’s early years were spent honing his skills in lacrosse, a sport that would later define much of his college life. However, his path was not without challenges. After a promising start at Lenore Ryan University in North Carolina, Aaron faced a series of challenges, including injuries and the disruptions caused by COVID-19. This led him to reassess his direction —a decision fueled by his desire for a Christian school by the beach. For a time, he thought playing lacrosse was over until he came upon PBA, which matched everything he desired in a school.   

“I’m very passionate about exercise and fitness, health and longevity,” he said. ”Towards the end of high school and beginning of college, I had broken my back, which led me to not love lacrosse. I wanted to quit. So, getting on a journey to get back to playing lacrosse and helping others do the same led me to physical therapy.” 

Beyond the Game: Building Community and Leadership at PBA 

At PBA, Aaron’s athletic career flourished as he played a pivotal role in leading the men’s lacrosse team to its best season in the program’s history. But, it was not this accolade that was most important for Aaron. 

“My sole focus was to stay healthy and navigate the season without further injuries that could impact my studies. That alone was a personal victory, surpassing any record.” 

More importantly, he found a community that shared his values, a factor that deeply influenced his personal and professional growth.  

“Witnessing younger teammates step up and grow into future leaders was truly inspiring,” he added. Our camaraderie extended beyond the field with regular team dinners and meaningful gatherings at Chris ’Suds’ Southard’s house, where we bonded over games and shared values during our weekly Bible studies. These experiences have not only shaped us as a team but also deepened our connections, creating a lasting bond that will carry forward.” 

Aaron’s commitment to his faith was evident in his decision to participate in a mission trip to the Dominican Republic with his teammates, where they spent a week engaged in community service and sports clinics. 

Adversity to Gratitude: Overcoming Injury with Community Support 

There was a particular defining experience at PBA for Aaron that he says that will forever shape how he sees life and servant leadership. He fractured his jaw in February of 2023 and had to get surgery. His mouth was wired shut for two months. Being away from home, he never felt alone.

“I was especially grateful for the support that the PBA community showed me during a time of adversity. When it happened, I had the support of our athletic trainer, Zack Figura, who stayed with me in the hospital for hours that first day and brought me protein shakes the second day. Both Coach Jesse Vanatta and Chris Southard came to visit me in the hospital, and Athletic Director Courtney Lovely and Campus Pastor Bernie Cueto also reached out to me to check on me over the next week or two.” 

Aaron’s teammates, and even people he did not know, continued to shower him with care and compassion, checking in on him and “bringing gift cards to smoothie places.

Through it all, he says, he I learned to be grateful for what he has, even things that we often take for granted.   

The Value of Mentorship and Advice to College Athletes 

The combination of his athletic prowess, academic success and deep-rooted faith paints a picture of a young man who is prepared to face the challenges of his future profession and impact the lives of those he encounters. Aaron cites mentors like Chris Southard as playing a significant role in shaping his approach to life and sports, instilling values that transcend the playing field. 

“The thing I like best about Suds is he knows lacrosse is just a game. So, he tries to prepare all the men that he’s around, no matter how young, for what’s ahead. He always tries to relate the lessons that you would learn on the lacrosse field to how to be a good husband, how to be a good dad. Those are lessons that he’s tried to instill in all of us as PBA players over the years. He has been a very nice role model and father figure to have over the last three years.” 

He has some advice for young athletes starting college.

“Remember, for most student-athletes, college sports end with graduation. So, embrace a broader view from day one: prioritize your studies and foster meaningful relationships. What you achieve in the classroom and the connections you make may define your future far beyond the final whistle.” 

As he moves forward, Aaron’s journey at PBA has not just prepared him for a career in physical therapy, but it has equipped him with the skills to be a compassionate leader in his community and beyond. 

Find out more about PBA Athletics here or check out PBA’s Physical Therapy program.

To watch PBA’s 2024 Commencement recap video, click here

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