Why do you love the sport that you play? Is it because of your teammates? Your coaches? Is it a family tradition or the love of competition? Do you love it because you’re good at it or because it’s just become your identity? Maybe it’s a blend of all of these things together.
Is it sometimes hard to love your sport? When you have to say no to hanging out with your friends because of a tournament or practice? When you realize that because of the systems in place, you may never be able to play professionally at a high-paying level? When you want to play another sport, but the seasons overlap? When you feel you aren’t good enough to make varsity, or play collegiately, or get drafted?
Why do you continue to play your sport? Is it the notoriety? Is it because it’s cool? Do you feel you have something to prove? Maybe you’re not a quitter, and you want to see it all the way through? Maybe you see it as a means to an end? What is your end? Maybe you don’t know. Maybe you just keep playing because it’s fun. Maybe it makes you feel more confident.
Who are you when you play your sport? Are you a leader? Do you ask for “one more” when you’re at practice? Do you root on your teammates? Do you work hard even when you finally get in the starting line up? Do you compete against your teammates? Do you compete against the last version of yourself? Do you complain? Are you grateful?
Where do you want to be when your athletic career ends? Do you want to coach? Do you want to never see your sport again? Do you want to have a career in sports? Do you want to forget it ever happened? Do you think you’ll miss it?
Life is not perfect. If being an athlete teaches us anything, it’s that we can try for a perfect outcome, and even though there are no guarantees that things will be perfect, we can always try for excellence. As athletes, we know that preparation is key. So my advice is to prepare for life. Prepare for the day when you no longer have to practice your sport because there aren’t any more competitions. Prepare for the day when it’s your last day to walk onto the court, deck, or field. Prepare for the day when you walk into your first job interview and they ask, “So, tell me about yourself.” Will you be proud of your athletic accomplishments? Will you be proud of the relationships you built along the way? Will you speak of your time as an athlete with a smile, or will you feel bitter and resentful?
If you prepare now, wherever you are on your athletic journey, I guarantee you’ll look back on your experience with a smile. Prepare by asking yourself, “Why?” Your ability to be clear and truthful with yourself about “why” will lead you to discover your passions. Everyone’s athletic career ends at some point—that is the truth of the matter. For some, it’s sooner than others. You can discover your inner truth by aligning your passion with your purpose to feel empowered wherever life takes you. The first step is to ask yourself, “Why?”