This post is dedicated to Kylie, 13 years old from New Jersey, and all the athletes competing this weekend.
At some point, the game will end. The whistle will blow and your work on the field will be done. Maybe you won, maybe you didn’t. I don’t care about that. I don’t care if you saw playing time, or how much. I don’t care if you were the superstar, watergirl, coach, parent, or referee.
I do care about the result, though. The result that shows up in everything you do - how you compete, how you smile, how you cry, how you treat people, how you work, how you engage in the tough conversations, how you handle adversity, how you experience and contribute to the world around you.
The result that matters is the person you become through the toils and spoils of sport, and what becomes possible for you, and the world around you, by virtue of your daily choices.
Sport is a vehicle like a car or a train. It moves you from one place to the next. It’s a tool like a shovel or a chisel to shape yourself. Every experience you have, on and off the field - every interaction, decision, game, drill, and word will take you someplace new. Every moment will shape you.
How it shapes you and where it takes you happens by chance or by choice. I beg you please don’t wish and hope your way through your life. If you want something, work for it. Take whatever box life offers you, make a sturdy ship, set your sails, trust the winds, and trust yourself. Everything you need you already have, you just have to be willing to discover it within you.
Start now, and start small. Make your bed, brush your teeth, hug your mom, say thank you to the janitor at school, ask your dad how his day was. Make someone smile, even if that someone is you.
Decide what success means to you. What does it look like? Feel like? Sound like?
Choose a desired outcome for your sport experience. What do you want from it? What brings you the most joy? Pick a measurable result, like a certain milestone or progress marker, and choose a feeling-based result. Ask yourself this question, when the game is over, how do I want to feel?
I don’t care what outcomes you choose. Everyone's intended outcomes will look very different.
The important thing is that you choose outcomes for yourself from where you are right now. Choose something that lives a little beyond your grasp - something that lights you up and scares you at the same time. Something that seems a little impossible, but you know with work will become entirely probable.
And when that desired outcome becomes reality, when you've gone beyond yourself, start again. Set a new intention, and work into it.
Along the way, listen for the input of others - me, your parents, coaches, teammates. There's value in listening. Do it with an open mind. Remember that ultimately the choice is yours, and yours alone. So from time to time, get quiet, and listen to the beating of your own heart. Look in the mirror, deep in your own eyes, and choose the path that awakens your soul. Your gut will rumble with nerves. Trust that feeling. That's when you know.
Not everyone will understand your choice. That doesn't mean it is wrong. It just means that there is an opportunity to share your perspective and have a conversation. That conversation may be difficult. But it will be worthwhile. Don’t avoid the tough conversations. They will open your eyes, or someone else's to a new perspective. Be honest and respectful, and remember that what matters most is how you have the conversation.
Just like I care about how you have the conversation, I care about how you compete, and how you pursue your desired outcomes. I care that you compete in a way that nurtures the best in you. You will stumble a million times. You’ll stand up, and then stumble again. That’s how babies learn to walk. I care how you respond to the stumbles. That you choose to keep learning. You’ll meet bullies along the way. They will try to push you down, and sometimes you'll push yourself down. I challenge you - don't be a bully, and don't accept bullying from anyone, including yourself.
Prepare yourself in a way that makes winning possible. Do whatever it takes to make that happen, and when it is time to take the field, let go of all expectations and fears. Trust your preparation, play free, show yourself exactly as you are, and trust what comes of that. You won’t always win. Your heart will get broken, and that will hurt. Its okay to hurt, and feel pain. Let the pain break you wide open to new adventures.
I care that you use the work of sport to shape the person you are and continue to become. I care that you trust yourself. I care that you build sustaining habits and undo the destructive ones. I care that you chose to play in a way that lets you give to and serve those around you.
A million people will to support you in all you want to become, but remember they can only support you if you support yourself. Start supporting yourself. Look in the mirror, and choose to support yourself in all you are, and all you want to become.
Discover Within, Expand Beyond,