To whom this may concern (you know who you are),
Sports have been an extremely large part of my life since I was about 3 years old. Having a sister who was 19 months younger than I didn’t help my overly competitive personality and increased my interest in sports. For a chunk of my life, my mother coached my little league softball team, and although I didn’t particularly get along with her everyday, it has taught me a lot about respecting your parents as well as being a parent coach for the future. I can also honestly say that my mother didn’t play me because I was her daughter; she didn’t play me at all if I wasn’t anything but 100%, and that is another great lesson learned from my mother.
As I grew up, I had many coaches, and you all had one main goal to win, but I think it goes deeper than that. You wanted each of us to succeed on and off the field/court. You genuinely cared about our well-being and our growth.
To my coaches, I have learned some of life’s most valuable lessons from you indirectly. And although you may not think so, I owe a great deal of where and who I am to you all.
I grew up starting Tee-Ball at the age of 3, started playing competitive basketball and softball in second grade, was a 5 sport athlete while I was high school, and I also played college softball. There are many teams I got to be a part of, and I can easily say, I am grateful that each team I played on included gals who were generally as competitive as I.
Early in my elementary years, I played sports because I enjoyed playing, and it was a reason to be with teammates and friends. “Everyone was doing it”. I actually came to enjoy building relationships with you. I enjoyed sharing part of your passion. But what I didn’t know when I started sports, was that I would come to appreciate the life lessons that came with playing for you.
I have learned how important it is to live a healthy lifestyle, and how your body needs nutrients and water to accomplish goals and compete. During middle and high school, I did not provide my body with the nutrients that I could have or should have provided my body with. I took advantage of my metabolism and the production of mac n’ cheese and pop tarts.
Story Time: During the summers, game days got to be extremely hot and long with batting practice starting around 1:30-2:00 PM, getting the field ready or traveling, warming up prior to the game, and actually playing the game around 6:30 PM. I wouldn’t eat anything after lunch, requiring my mother to purchase a hotdog bun or a snickers from the concession stand so I could gain fast energy to finish a game. For away games, I would down a Monster Energy drink or a half-gallon of apple juice to be able to discard any waste bogging me down.
If I were to go back, I would have definitely eaten better, and taken care of myself a little better prior to sporting events.
During practices, we would have mini competitions with our teammates. At the time, I didn’t like these because I knew that I had what it took to win or work towards eventually winning those competitions, but I felt bad for others who may not have won those competitions and didn’t have the raw talent or the confidence to work towards that goal. Fast forward to now, I understand that if you don’t have friendly competitions, it doesn’t push you or your teammates. You are only as good as your weakest link. It was never about who was the best, it was to encourage improvement and support throughout the team.
Survival of the fittest – one of the few lessons I remember from my class work, and it still, to this day, comes back to me.
Along with in-house individual competitions, we also had team competitions. Being a part of a team is so much more than a name and a number on a list of paper. Teamwork was one of the hardest, most rewarding lessons I have ever learned although it can backfire when working with those who don’t know what that word means.
As I said above, you are only as good as your weakest link. When everyone puts in the time, supports each other, and is selflessly working towards the same goal, it’s called teamwork. I learned to work with others. I learned to find my teammate’s strengths and weaknesses; part of being a teammate is to help your teammate improve their weaknesses and sharpen their strengths even if they don’t necessarily ask for your help.
Story Time: Each and every day at the end of basketball practice, we, individually, shot 10 free-throw shots calculating and recording the percentage of makes. Following that, we would start a drill in which each person on the team would line up on the baseline. Starting at one end, each person got two chances at free-throw shots. If you made the first, you were done and the next person stepped up to the line. If you missed, the whole team ran the length of the gym and back, and you shoot again. If you made it you were done, and if you missed again, well, the team ran again. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t really care to run at all, let alone after I had run and worked my butt off for the past two hours. This was a team building activity; we supported each other make or miss. Needless to say, we got really good at free-throws.
Between in-season and off-season practices, individual camps, team camps, and individual home workouts, I have learned the value of hard work. At a very young age, I learned that if I wanted something, anything at all, it wasn’t going to appear on its own. I would have to work towards small goals to accomplish the master goal – one day, one step at a time. If I didn’t get my work done, it ultimately brought down my team, and I certainly didn’t want to be the one keeping our team from success. When I did accomplish my goals, big or small, it taught me to appreciate my abilities as well as self-respect and respect for others supporting me and those working toward their own goals.
If I was having trouble with achieving my goals, I wasn’t scared to tap resources from my coaches or ask them stay after practice to work on a skill. After all, that is what they are there for. Not only did I build relationships with my coaches, I trusted they knew what was best for me and my team. If I didn’t agree with my coach and their decisions, I may have confronted them for a reasoning, but I always respected the coaches that could give a reasonable explanation. If I wasn’t playing as much as I thought I should, I didn’t get my parents involved. I would sit down with coach and talk about my concerns. I worked harder to prove myself.
I spent a lot of time during the school year as well as the summer being involved in sports and speech. Sometimes, I would start my days with morning practice at 5:30 AM and not get home from a game until 10:30-11:00 PM. Although we had practice and game schedules, it didn’t take me long to learn time management skills and discipline. If we were late to practice, it was seen as disrespectful to the coach and your teammates resulting in some form of extra physical activity such as running to make up for each minute late.
If I had school work to complete, often times, I found anytime I could to complete it as I knew I wouldn’t get anything done when I got home late from a game. This doesn’t just relate to school work, but it has taught me not to procrastinate. If there is one thing I dislike, it is being late.
Story Time: When we had early morning practice for volleyball, my sister and I would leave our house a half hour early to drive 8 minutes to practice. We spent the extra time driving around listening to music or napping in the parking lot until practice, but we were never late.
You taught me self-pride, accountability, and to believe in myself. I let my coaches push me harder than I thought I could be pushed. I took responsibility when my coaches were disappointed in me, in my actions, in my errors, or progression with a skill. You have spoken gentle words, and I have heard you raise your voice in frustration, but I knew that it just meant you thought I could do better. That feeling alone encouraged me to strive to achieve those goals – small or big. I knew that if you believed in me, all I needed to do was believe in myself.
I learned that individuality is the best trait you can bring to the table. For a long time, I worked towards being like or as good as some of my peers, but in high school I realized, that I had my own role on the team and I needed to work hard to improve that role, not try to play someone else’s role. Thank you for teaching me that I am great the way I am, and each of us were needed to make the team whole.
I have learned so much from playing sports, and being a part of an organized team. It was very difficult for me to cease organized team sports after playing for 19 years. I can honestly say, I am who I am today because of the lessons I have learned from you, my coaches, while playing sports.
I know I am not the only person who feels this way, and I know some of my peers came out with poor experiences with their coaches and sports, but I am forever grateful for my experiences and my coaches. You took a lot of your personal time to be with us in season as well as out – it doesn’t go unnoticed. I can only hope that my children someday will take away these life lessons from their activities.
Thank you forever,