“Do good things.”
Last Friday I stood before a group of young athletes from my alma mater and was asked if I had any words of wisdom, inspiration or advice for their time as student-athletes. They were me twenty, ahem nineteen, years ago.
I remember talking and I remember thinking that I had so much to tell them and so much to say, but instead the overwhelming feeling of gratitude and nostalgia got the best of me and so I babbled and kept repeating this phrase:
“Do good things.”
I know they have all moved on but if I ever get another chance to say something, I will say this:
“Wow, you guys! What an amazing time in your lives. These next few years that you will spend as a student-athlete will prime you for so much after you graduate and even beyond into your careers, marriages and mothering years.
You might not know it now because you have probably been playing club for at least the past four years and you have always been surrounded by people who have worked hard (or harder than you), have pushed you and have expected your best effort on a regular basis. You have expected the same from yourself.
You have coaches now who believe in you (or not), assistant coaches who balance out the intensity of your head coach, trainers who tape your ankles, get bags of ice for shoulders, knees, hands, whatever, and stretch out all those sore and aching muscles. And – oh my gosh – did you guys just cool down with yoga!? So stinkin’ cool.
Strength and Conditioning coaches who work hard to get you stronger and faster. Administrators and support staff that make sure you get registered for classes, make the grade and graduate. Not just as a statistic, but because THEY ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT YOU – although a recent HBO series might suggest otherwise for some sports, but for the vast majority this is true, both my husband and I can attest to this, thank you very much HBO.
(Okay, I wouldn’t say that last part about HBO, but it’s true.)
Everyone you are surrounded by right now, today wants the same thing as you do: to win.
Some day that system of intense and concentrated support will be gone. The actual physical people will be gone, but the lessons they leave behind will last for a lifetime. You are learning things today that you will need in years to come.
Things like: you are all winners. You have amazing talent and gifts to offer. You can and will win despite setbacks. You will beat odds, overcome challenges, push yourself, get down on yourself and bounce back.
You can DO GOOD THINGS (ah, there it is) because you have already done GOOD THINGS – a lot of them. Give back to your community, serve others, encourage young athletes, sign autographs, take pictures and tell them that they too can DO GOOD THINGS.
The four or five years you have as a student-athlete will set up how you transition after your time is done. I will not lie, the transition is a little tricky. It is a big adjustment.
But remember, you did all of these hard things once and you can do them again…”
Okay, so the coach may have cut me off half way through that but that is what I would have said.
On a day to day basis, I don’t think much about “my former life.” I am consumed with raising my children and working to keep my family healthy and happy. It is work. But when I get a chance to step back into that life even just for a moment, I feel overwhelmed by the things I got to experience, the places I got to go and the people I got to meet. I am overwhelmed by the fact that I did good things then and that is exactly what I want to spend my life doing now.
*I imagine this is also true for anyone who has spent time as a musician, artist, devoted to ministry, businessman/woman, coach, mother-turned-empty-nester, someone in recovery for drug/alcohol addiction (you beat odds every day!), etc. It’s not just sports, our previous experiences shape our future behaviors. If you have done something difficult or overcome an obstacle or challenge, you can do it again. Because you already have.