4/10/18 What I’ve Learned From Being an Athlete
I’ve played sports since the age of 6 years old. I started out as the only girl on a boys baseball team, The Dodgers. I remember feeling like the odd one out, and that I may not be good enough. But by the end, I was a teammate, a contributor, and a developing athlete. This moment would begin a trajectory of competing for me that has continued to last through adulthood.
Just so you have a background of my level of play and how much I have done. I’m going to break down my years of play by school years:
Elementary: baseball, softball, soccer, track
Middle School: soccer, softball, basketball, volleyball
Junior High: soccer, basketball, volleyball, track
High School: volleyball, basketball, golf
College: volleyball, intramural basketball, golf (class)
Adulthood: indoor volleyball, 5k’s, 10k’s, triathlons, mountain bike, doubles grass volleyball, Ragnar Relay Races, women’s basketball league
Needless to say, as you can see, I have always played something.
My parents had learned at an early age that I loved to compete and be challenged. I realized early on that I fed off being challenged, but I also strived for improvement. That feeling of being better than before, better than others, and the strong sense of community I developed kept me wanting more.
It’s important for me to acknowledge some of the challenges that I faced over the years; reasons I was motivated to do something over others. And, why in some instances the pressure was too much. You see I will glorify what being an athlete has done for me; because the good out weights the bad. However, it broke me many times. And, it’s maybe put me into a category where I put up with more than most because my mentality is “just a little further to go”.
Challenge 1: Doing something to avoid something else…it’s painful either way.
When I was in 7th and 8th grade, I decided I would run track. My motivation? Not having to ride the bus home from school every day for 90 minutes. I would much rather run than sit on that god awful bus. Now, because I didn’t care about the sport or my teammates, the universe had its own game as I forced to run the 400 meter race and 400 meter relay race. I hated it. It was literally the worst. I cried every practice. Was yelled at by the coach…I can still remember it. Mr. Benzie “Morse, tap an aspirin to your leg and get moving, “ he did not give two shits. He was great. I hid at some races, intentionally missing my start, to avoid having to run at all.
Learning lesson: I hurt my team more by coming into track with this attitude. I did not do my best most of the time. And, my excuse was the driving force for how I engaged. I have never since done anything out of extrinsic motivation for something else. All my actions are done with intention and authenticity.
Challenge 2: Filling someone else shoes…pressure to perform
I played varsity basketball all 4 years of high school. I was pretty damn good. There was a shining star on our team, Lorraine Skow. She was one year older than I was. Literally she beat every boy on the varsity team. She was the shit! I always looked up to her, was grateful to have such a solid teammate, and attempted daily to work on my skills at home in order to be as good as her. So, when she graduated, I was stoked…because I thought, Ok now it’s my chance. I will really get to shine. The first week of tryouts I was pulled into the coaches office. I can’t remember the exact conversation; but the tone and the way I felt when I left changed me. Something about I have to carry the team, be the new “Lorraine”, there is a lot I have on my shoulders…it was heavy, and pressured, and I didn’t like it one bit. I went home, cried and cried and cried; and quit! Yep. I quit. I stopped playing for the team that day. It was too much. Now I filled my time in other ways, I played club volleyball (which ultimately got me a scholarship); but quitting, not following that season through still haunts me.
Learning lesson: Why did my parents not push me to keep playing? I need to ask them that. I wonder how much of what was said, was the pressure I was putting on myself? Quitting basketball was a cop out. I think it reinforced a behavior now, where once I’ve committed to something I will see it through endlessly no matter the discomfort of it. I realize that may not be healthy easier….so I am working on a fine tuned balance. But, I wish I would have played.
Challenge 3: The transition team
I was so stoked to play college ball. I watched Misty Mae and Carrie Walsh growing up and thought, “man, if I could be like them that would be so rad.” My college playing experience was not like most, I will guess. My first year I didn’t play much, which was expected. The team was awesome. I loved everyone and felt accepted by everyone. We had a great team and came super close to the finals. That summer our coach resigned. The assistant coach picked where he left off….that year sucked! We sucked. It felt so disconnected. Out of wack. My third year, we got a new coach. The next two years would be the vain of my existence. Did I want to quit…fuck yes. But, I would never. He made me hate the sport at times. I hated teammates at times. I hated myself at times. I worked my ass off, more than any time before, but still never felt good enough. I was pinned against teammates, challenged to “earn” my spot in ways I had never experienced before. I dreaded practice every day. I dreaded bus rides to games. I dreaded all of it. I don’t know if any of the girls felt the same way…but I just felt completely shafted from the very beginning. We had so many solid players; but to me, our coaching just left us not ability to pull out a solid team!
Learning lesson: Coaches do have a major impact on the success of the team. Looking back now, although I did not feel good enough then, there are many huge successes I had those two years which I didn’t think were possible. My teammates were some of my best friends; and they had my back…it was the coach that didn’t. Pushing through those challenges made me grateful for the experience, and I’m glad, this time around that I did not quit.
Being introduced to team sports and competition has given me valuable life skills which I have carried into my personal, professional, and physical well being.
Being an athlete has:
Created a desire in me to be better than yesterday. Its helped me to appreciate and reap the satisfaction for the hard work I put in. It gave me the mentality that to be the best, the after hours dedication must be present. It reminded me that there is always room to grow and be better than. It pushed my mind and way of thinking, to challenge myself to do more than I thought possible. It helped me learn to never give up. It helped me develop a sense of pride in every action. It urged me to pursue after failure. It pushed me to put aside excuses in order to continue putting in the work.
Sometimes the effort and time that I put in wasn’t fun. But, I couldn’t imagine my life without it.
If you have a child who is not in sports…that’s okay. They can learn all the same things in a different manner. Maybe find a club or organization that they can join. Maybe it’s a church youth group. Maybe its you taking them out on hikes, journeys, explorations.
Sometimes it’s creating things on the whim, that get them out of their comfort zone and into problem solving mode; surpassing what they thought possible for themselves….building legos, art, welding haha I don’t know. Think way outside the box here. There are always ways to increase mental grit!