Sunday, March 29, 2015

What I Owe to Sport

Although I'll use some examples of my own ups and downs in life, this piece is really for parents of young athletes, and of course, for my hockey friends...

As it so happened, I received the following video in a newsletter I regularly receive from an exercise guru.  I'd seen the video before -- long ago, actually, but it struck me in a different way today.  In a way, it has nothing to do with the title of this entry -- or does it?  You tell me..

Motivational speaker, Eric Thomas, is on a tear there, but he's actually talking about things that take place on a daily or nightly basis in the sports world.  I happened to have been a team sport guy, but I'll suggest the traits Thomas is talking about are honed in athletes playing on either the team-type or individual sports.  Once again, I'm saying that athletes learn those kinds of things every day, at a field, gym or rink.

From a personal perspective, I'm talking about broken noses in practice -- without missing my next turn, a few broken fingers -- still not missing time, along with the occasional sprain and pull.  I'm lucky that the worst of my sports injuries involved serious ligament tears in my right ankle, that I bounced back quickly from -- DESPITE my doctor's orders.

I honestly don't believe that the physical bumps and bruises are what really makes an athlete grow, however -- at least beyond a point.  No, being benched, being bumped from your starting job, or even having a coach suggest those things might happen are what will surely get the real athlete's attention.   (I'll even go so far as to ask in a article, "Are Bad Coaches Good For Players?")
By the way...  Although I only participated in team sports -- from baseball to football to hockey, I'm here to tell readers that the setbacks I've noted to this point are personal.  In other words, although you're part of a team, you better know that teammates are worrying about their own injuries or fears of being replaced, and it's not their job to be worried about me (or your kid).  That's why I'm saying it's a personal thing, or something the individual suffers through on his or her own.  Sure, parents might commiserate, but that's about all they can do.  It's up to the athlete to battle his or her way forward.  Ya, it's a lonely time as an athlete goes through those trying times, but I'll suggest that it's those trying times when he or she has the best chance to grow.
I think the reason that video struck such a chord with me this morning is because I've been reflecting on some setbacks lately.  Let me tell you, though, that "reflecting" is the right way to put it.  I mean, I am not dwelling on any of them -- at all.  In fact, Brenda and I were talking about the worst of occurrences that took place shortly after we met -- about the people who seemed only too glad to nearly wipe me out, and I told her I just had to put them out of my mind.  Oh, that doesn't mean that I don't see a given face flash in my mind from time to time, but I use those more as motivation, and hardly as a chance to sulk.  No, that wouldn't have worked battling through an injury, it wouldn't have helped keep my position on a team when it was in jeopardy, and it certainly wouldn't help me today to slowly but surely put my business life back together.

Then, hoping I've made my point here -- about how growing up in sports prepared me well for life's challenges, let me return to Eric Thomas' video.  For, I think the real message in his story was the need for the young subject to realize whether or not he really "wanted it".  To me, some things are worth paying a great price for, while others mean very little to me.

And, while I was ready to close on that last paragraph, something else hit me that I feel the need to share...  To be honest, my mom and dad supported me unbelievably, but they never pushed -- one iota.  One thing they never did to me, though, was to tell me what I was trying so hard at wasn't important.  On the other hand, I see and hear a lot of the opposite nowadays -- be it due to political correctness or whatever.  Don't forget what I said above, however, in that the athlete, himself or herself, takes things personally.  Few others are going to care, but I think the parents surely could, at the very least, show their support -- without that support being a crutch.  No, the parent doesn't want to take away the learning experiences that could last their youngster a lifetime.
If you liked this entry, you might like "Being Honest With Our Hockey Players".