Ever since I could walk, sports have been an integral part of my life. As a kid growing up, I was undersized and doubted in every sport I played. Kids would crack jokes because I was the shortest kid on the field, or I didn’t throw the fastest pitch. Little did they know, all their teasing was fuel for my competitive fire. I was bound and determined to outwork and out hustle any foe in my path, and earn their respect. I spent countless hours on the diamond, pitch, hardwood, golf course, tennis court, and sandlot, training and competing. There were days when I’d walk away smiling in victory, and there were times when I came away humiliated in defeat. Each experience allowed me to learn a new lesson, and reflect on how my preparation had paid off.
Even though each sport I participated in demanded a different skill set, the principles to become successful were identical across the board – hard work, dedication, communication, sacrifice, attention to detail, trust, resiliency, respect for yourself, your teammate, your opponent, and authority.
I can say with complete confidence that the trials and tribulations I experienced playing sports molded me into the person I am today.
I may get disappointed at times in life, but I never just stay on the canvas, looking up at the lights, and wonder how I’ll go on. I rise from the mat, dust myself off, and wipe my brow as I smile in respect to the blow life landed. The resilient nature sports instilled in me won’t allow me to feel sorry for myself. If there’s still time left on the clock, then there’s no excuse for giving anything but your best effort.
I firmly believe that people like myself, people who grew up playing, training, and competing in sports, are a different breed than your average person. We grew up Sports tough. We grew up accepting the challenge of never settling for mediocre results, and we still don’t accept them. We grew up committing to practice and play in the pouring rain, freezing cold, burning summer heat, and any other conditions mother nature threw at us. We are the warriors who woke up early and stayed late for practice. We believe that it doesn’t matter if you’re down to your last strike, as long as you worked hard and tried your best, anything is possible.
Next to joining the military, growing up sports tough prepares you for just about anything life can throw at you.
“Winners never quit, and quitters never win” is one of the most commonly quoted phrases in sports. It’s said ad nauseam because it’s the gospel truth. The greatest sports figures of our time all faced adversity many times throughout their careers, but they never let that stop them from accomplishing their goals.
If you don’t believe me, take the 1960 U.S. Open for instance. Arnold Palmer faced a 7-shot deficit at the start of the final round. He could’ve easily packed his things and left, and no one would’ve blamed him. Instead, he marched out to the first tee and proceeded to birdie 6 of the first 7 holes. Palmer ended up winning the tournament by two shots over Jack Nicklaus.
If you’re looking for a team triumph that best epitomizes growing up sports tough – look no further then the 2004 Boston Red Sox. As much as it pains me to use them, (since I’m a die-hard Yankees fan) they pulled off the greatest comeback in the history of professional team sports. In the 2004 American League Championship Series, the Red Sox trailed 3-0 in a best of 7 series. No team had ever overcome that deficit to win a series. Yet, they never stopped believing in themselves and swept the final 4 games of the series to advance to the World Series. They also won the World Series that year and ended an 86 drought.
The workforce is dominated by people who grew up sports tough too. The world’s largest car rental company, Enterprise, a multi-billion dollar company, employs thousands of former college athletes. The reason is simple – Enterprise knows these new employees grew up sports tough. Their work ethic, commitment to excellence, communication skills, etc are all top level. They developed these stand out traits by growing up sports tough.
I am 9 days away from turning 30 years old, and without question, growing up sports tough is the best thing that ever happened to me. I don’t know what life has in store for me in my next 30 years, but rest assured, I grew up sports tough, so I’ll be ready for it.