I was recently asked, "When you were young, did anyone tell you to get into sports?"
I thought about that for a minute before quickly answering, "No." I think there was a bit of surprise in the face of the woman interviewing me, given the fact that I started competing when I was 8 years old. And, over the course of my life, I've been a swimmer, a runner, a softball player ( a little bit), a field hockey player( even less of that), a soccer player, a touch of golf, and now a triathlete. Sports have been a huge part of my life but nobody ever told me to do it. I remember a cross-country run coach at our school asking me if I wanted to try out for her team in the fall instead of soccer since she knew I was a runner. I think that's about it.
As I pack my bags to travel to my 5th Ironman, at age 43, this somewhat simple fact I speak about seems much more relevant.
My parents were always there for me, in my youth and now in my adulthood. I have no doubt that their unconditional support, gave me exactly what I needed.
Starting at a young age, I had good success with sports. Racing is my thing. But with success, comes pressure. Pressure to go faster. Pressure to win. Pressure not to let the team down. I put pressure on myself all the time. All. The. Time. I expect myself to be better each time I go after something. That, can be hard.
But Mom and Dad never put a single ounce of pressure on me. They were Always there at the meets. At the games. (They are Still at nearly all my races! ) They worked at most meets, they trekked my brother and I back and forth to morning and afternoon practices Every single day. They watched me win. They watched me go fast. And, they watched me have bad days, slow races and miss my goals. They also watched me get touched out at one of the biggest meets of my life. Something I will probably never stop kicking myself for. They watched me miss turns, get DQ'd ( disqualified) on my own and DQ Relays!! There's so much more... but not once, did they make me feel bad for doing 'poorly.' I already felt bad on my own. And they never did anything but help me feel better.
They were my safe place. It didn't matter if I lost a race or won a race earning good team points, the hug after the meet was still the same and the ride home was just as it would have been. It did't make a difference. Of course, they cheered so loud and were extra happy for me if it went well and they also had to console me plenty! But that's where it stopped. I never wondered if they were proud of me or not. They knew I had tried my hardest even if it didn't work out the way I wanted it to. That was that.
Over the years, sports have brought me so many things. I have learned to work so hard for my goals. I have learned that you have to make sacrifices and give some things up in order to reach your goals. I have made countless friends. There's been so much fun, excitement, thrill and pride. The experiences I've had have made me who I am today. I have learned how to win and how to lose. You need to be able to handle both with grace, I believe. It's part of life. I'm trying to keep this post short...to talk about all I have gained from sports would be way way too long to write about right now.
My parents taught me that all I needed to do to make them proud was make a commitment, work my hardest, and never give up. I've done my best over the years to do just that. When I get to mile 17 of the run next Saturday when it hurts oh so so bad, that is what I'll remember.
Thanks Mom and Dad. This one's for you.