I often see parallels between interscholastic athletics and life – sometimes I win and sometimes I lose. And the losses are always more instructive than the wins (though the wins are more enjoyable.) Over the years I have won much – and lost much, but the basic love I have to compete has never changed.
One would describe me as a competitive person. And I would admit guilty to that charge. Years of athletics have made me that way. Yet I know this competitive part of me enables me to accomplish a lot. It enables me to reach for goals that many say are unattainable. And it enables me to attain them.
This competitive side does not feed on hate, however. It thrives on love. Aristotle said, “The good man obeys for love, while the evil for fear.” He hit upon a substantial truth in that statement. I believe that a good athlete competes for love. Sometimes that love can be expressed in a fierce, intense manner, but at the heart of every great athlete is a love for his/her sport.
I can honestly say that I have an inbred love for both tennis and cross-country. I think that the same love is found in the bottom of both – a love of competition, or maybe even a deeper love beyond that.
I remember that as soon as I was old enough to stand, I wanted to play tennis. After all my father (my hero) played tennis, so why couldn’t I? I went out with the neighborhood guys and hit in the streets with the wooden rackets that I found in the closet. My father saw me out hitting in the street and decided it was time to travel to the courts with me. Most of my childhood memories involve my father and the tennis court. You could say that my relationship with my father has its roots on the court.
As the years passed, and my game picked up some speed, I learned to see the beauty in playing the game. I learned to channel that love into a competitive machine. These characteristics were easy to apply to other events outside of the athletic arena. I learned to be a fighter.
Running goes the same way. My father was a wonderful runner during my childhood. Running was one more way to be with my father. I remember when he was running a race one day I just decided to start with him (at age 8?). Without his knowing I took a short-cut and was able to get a very competitive time. He was so proud, I just couldn’t tell him what really happened. So I went out and practiced so that I could be a great runner. I became the fulfillment of what my father expected.
Now that my High School athletics are coming to a close I can see that though the actual competition between schools will cease – what I have learned will prove invaluable throughout life. I know that to succeed in anything I (1) need a definition of success, a goal, (2) A plan to achieve that goal and (3) the self-discipline to carry out that plan and achieve the goal. My participation in athletics has taught me much about this process.
Yet athletics have also taught me about myself. They have taught me that I can accomplish my dreams – if I am only willing to make them happen.