This is a post outside of my usual scope of just talking about fitness or how to be better at fitness.
Recently I posted an article written by Ray Allen where he writes a letter to his younger self, telling the thirteen-year-old version of himself to keep working and keep working hard.
The article had me thinking about my younger years and how those years shaped who I am today. After some self-reflection I realized my younger life revolved entirely around sports, and sports are the reason I am who I am today.
Sports taught me everything. How to win, how to lose, how to make friends, how to work with people I don’t like but most of all it taught me how to work hard.
I believe more than anyone that some people are born with raw talent, but I also think that not everyone is born with the ability to work hard. Many people now days will work for something for a short time, but without the immediate return on investment, they quit. I see it every day in my profession.
Hardly anyone enjoys the journey.
Cue the sad violin music for this next sentence.
I have never been the biggest, strongest or fastest person, but I have always known how to work hard, and it is the trait that I carry with myself through my professional career.
Now although I do believe that everyone can work hard I also think that you have to be taught or shown what hard work is. This is where I gained my advantage in life. Like many people, I saw what it was like to be a hard worker in a professional atmosphere from my parents who both worked their butts off to provide a pretty awesome life to my sister and me, but I feel I gained my advantage because of my two best friends.
See my two best friends growing up were also my cousins. Both of whom are intellectually, physically and athletically gifted. These were the guys you cheated off of in class and started on the football, basketball and baseball team rolling from sport to sport with their preseason prep being the ending of the last sports season.
Growing up they lived a five-minute bike ride away. I would get home from school jump on my bike and head over. We would play pickup games of basketball or touch football. Hit endless amounts of soft toss or play catch for an hour or so. We never let the other person win even if we had won ten times in a row; everything was no mercy.
My Uncle, my cousin’s dad, was a significant influence in our sports life. He helped us understand that if we wanted to be better, we could not rely on a couple of practices we had with our teams each week and that we needed to put in work on our own. Add those words of advice with a competitive atmosphere between the three of us, and we progressed quickly both physically and mentally.
I can remember my dad cutting a broomstick to the length of my baseball bat and throwing dozens golf ball sized whiffle balls to me every day when he got home from work. Or when I started to only focus on soccer he built me a goal in the backyard. He had me shoot one hundred shots on each leg, from different spots in the yard to different target points every day and I enjoyed all of it because I knew that at some point it would pay off.
Because I wanted to be better because I enjoyed the journey because I learned from a young age that putting in the extra work would help me get further, I learned a valuable lesson. I learned that working hard will take me a lot further in life than just having the talent to get you noticed.
I know it can be hard to have kids in sports. Time is a big factor. I still do not see how my parents did it. I have very vivid memories of my dad and my uncle both picking us up for practice or games, eating on the run and then going back to work when practice was over. As a kid you take those things for granted but looking back on it, I really appreciate it, and I owe my family a lot.
If you have young kids put them in sports. Teach them the importance of hard work and what it takes to be better. Support them in everything they do and go to every game. I wanted to do my best every game because I knew my mom and dad would be in the stands watching. That one thing motivated me to be the best I could be more than anything. Your sacrifice now will mean a lot to them when they get older.