HEALTH -- I am a sports geek, there is no getting around that. I love everything to do with competition (if you couldn’t already tell) and have always dreamed of competing at the highest level.
In fact, Athletics for Life started with me wanted to prove to people that competing at the highest level was possible even with disease.
It was an avenue that I was ready to jump down, ready to try after years of thinking about.
And yet, I have been close to it and walked away.
I’ve gone up to the door of what I thought were my dreams, and shut it before ever stepping foot inside. I had the opportunity to attend an open tryout for the local semi pro soccer team and I had the confidence that I could’ve made an impact at that tryout.
Third string keeper maybe? Maybe on the second team as a practice squad... Either way, pretty good for a guy who has only been playing seriously for just under two years. And yet, I didn’t go to the tryout.
In fact, this was a defining moment in my life, but not one towards semi-professional sports but rather away from it.
Like I said, I love competition. I enjoy it so much yet walked away from a chance to compete with the best in the area.
Now this is an important question. Why is always an important question, no matter the topic.
So why did I walk away from this specific opportunity? It was everything I had been working towards in the last two years, wasn’t it?
The answer to this is slightly complicated.
This whole time, my idea was to prove that it can be done. Yet, along the journey to this point I’ve learned a lot, not only about soccer and disease, but about myself and what I feel is the true meaning of sport.
A life of professional sport would be cool. Honestly, it involves playing a game you love and getting paid for it, as well as keeping your body in its prime condition for as long as you can.
But should it really take a quest to professional sport for one to aim for these things?
Have I been playing sports my entire life in an attempt to get to professional sport or have I gotten something much more important out of all the sports I’ve played?
On the surface, I can say, “Yes I have played sports to try to achieve a professional level.” Yet, my reason for doing so was to do something I loved for the rest of my life.
Since then, I have found what I want to do with the rest of my life, and it provides me with more than just money, but also a way to give back to the community. To me, that gives me more than any professional sport ever could.
But that’s not the important part I want to discuss; I’m more interested in the second part of my question: what is it that sport has given me that makes sport worthwhile?
This is again complicated yet simple.
Sport has formed me into the person I am today. Sport teaches us life lessons. If you work hard, you will improve. Winning isn’t always everything when you give 110%. Teamwork is essential to success.
But the biggest thing sport ever gave to me was character. It gave me determination, a competitive fire, and most importantly, it gave me hope.
It sounds strange, but it was the qualities I learned through sport that helped get me through the darkest days of my disease so far.
I learned sheer determination and audacity in sport. No matter the odds, there is always a chance of winning. I brought that to facing my disease. Oh there’s no cure? Screw it, I’m going to fight back anyway and I won’t let this thing take over me. I will not lose.
What was that? I shouldn’t be able to play sports because my disease symptoms are bad? I’m going to do it anyway. I am going to compete against my disease and I’m going to win.
Am I winning? Well, I’m walking out my door this morning in confidence, so I’d say I’m a point or two up on the scoreboard.
Sport teaches you some life lessons, and it does so in a way that you aren’t even aware you are learning.
I’ve gone my whole life developing mental toughness and confidence through sport without ever knowing it. Truthfully, it wasn’t until I spoke to a colleague of mine who wants to be a Sport Psychologist, that I truly realized what we really get from sport.
It has led me to the following conclusion.
Do we need to play sports for the sole goal of reaching professional sports?
Does that mean we shouldn’t be competitive and just play for fun with no score?
It’s the competition that helps develop the character.
Sport helps create the person and yet is so much more. I often have a hard time truly expressing everything sport has given me. It can be so personal, but there are definitely widespread advantages and positive outcomes, not all of them simply physical health.
So where does that leave me?
It leaves me still playing every week. I feel alive standing between those goal posts and facing off against an opponent. In that moment, nothing matters. The connection you get between you and your teammates, facing off against a common goal.
On that field, in that net, it doesn’t matter that I have a disease. It doesn’t matter how bad my day has been and it doesn’t matter what I have to do tomorrow.
All that matters is the moment.
That very second, when the ball is flying in the air. To me, there is a beauty in that, there is a peace that I don’t often find in our chaotic day to day lives. At the end of the day, sport has formed who I am today and it offers me moments of peace.
As long as I can move, I will participate in sport. And even the day when I can no longer walk, I’ll turn to chess.
But one thing is for sure, I will always compete.