Did I miss the opportunity?
I wasn’t an athlete. There, I admit it. It’s a little embarrassing, given what I do and what I want to do now…
As life would have it, I chose a profession that damn near requires you to have been an athletes at some point in your high school or collegiate career to be ‘successful’ and seen as a legit contender in the interview process.
I was raised in the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Why is this important? Well, we kept the Sabbath - the time between sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday - as a holy day that meant we didn’t watch TV, we went to church, we spent time with family, etc and that definitely meant we did NOT play team sports on Saturdays (we didn’t even go to friends’ birthday parties or the grocery store).
I went into homeschooling from 6th grade to my Junior year of high school. During that time I spent 3-4 days a week on the mountain, snowboarding. That was the extent of my ‘sporting career’. But those days on the mountain made me feel free, alive and gave me a motivation to get better. I wanted to be seen as a really really darn good rider. That meant spending your day collecting bruises, running into rails, getting tangled in your own mistakes, spending more and more time suspended in the air mentally preparing in milliseconds to crash and roll or to ride out the landing with your heart pounding. It meant going home and running in the snow, eating what fuel’d me, and even trying desperately to conquer visualization while laying in bed the night before the early morning drive to the mountain because you’re just too damn excited to sleep.
When I got to our local public school my Junior year (I wish I’d never gone to that public school, looking back continuing homeschooling would have been preferred), it was too late to try out for any sport. The school was very cliquish. If you weren’t on the teams from middle school til now, you weren’t getting on the team. Nevermind that I was extremely introverted (as if I’m not now), scared shitless of other’s views of me and a little socially awkward. The thought of learning a sport and looking a fool at practice and the potential of rejection was not my idea of ‘living’.
Looking back, do I wish I’d tried out, at least? FUCK YEA. But in that time, it was not who I was. I was a loner sport ‘athlete’. But I was not considered an athlete.
I am now a strength coach. I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science, have my CSCS and work mainly with general population mainly because, in my opinion, I’m able to make the ‘science’ accessible for them. I don’t use big words, I don’t do weird idiotic shit in the weight room, or think this is the only thing this person in front of me has going on in their life. Side note - when I first started training, I used to get so irritated by clients who had kids because they’d be late for sessions or too tired to train hard. Now I have kids and holy wow do I get it… I get it. But I’m not a former scholastic athlete and that makes it really tough to get into the areas I’d really like to be in. Many colleges want you to have that past experience on a team. It’s a unique experience that really isn’t comparable to any other experience, IMO. It has to do with your ability to be coached, to put yourself IN the team and not in front of, to be part of a collective who share a goal that requires everyone to do their part. Even as an athlete in a sport like track and field, skiing, you're part of a team. You're just not using your team for your own win. But you still have to be coachable, involved, present and moving forward despite adversity.
So, do you have to be an athlete in your past to be a good strength coach? I don’t know. Like I said, it adds a layer of experience that you can’t accumulate after the time frame.
What I do know is that if you want something you’ll find a way to do it. I may never see the inside of a collegiate weight room as a coach. But if I let that deter me from learning about performance, or becoming a better coach, or ‘athlete’ I’ll let myself down twice fold.
Maybe I don’t have the opportunities now (I’ll let you guess my age based on my gray hair #reoch), but the potential opportunities or lack of past opportunities should not determine your ability to shed light on other’s abilities, and opportunities.
What can you share based on YOUR OWN background?
For me, it’s more than relating to the team experience. It’s about sharing with and helping others conquer their fears in the arena of sport and performance….
Use YOUR experiences to help others succeed in THEIR experiences and you’ll find - maybe- that your past experiences are unique to your mission and goals.
As I watch my kiddo playing soccer on a team, I feel things. His first practice with this team, he walked away and into the car crying. He felt he wasn’t good enough, he wasn’t part of the team and he was embarrassed, scared and begged me not to make him go back. Now, his team are some of his best friends. It actually hurt my heart to take him back to practice the next day. But, based on my own past, I knew it was a fear he needed to face and far better to do it at the age of 10 than almost 40. He may never be the best player on the team or make the cut at the collegiate level - hell he may decide after this season he wants to play something totally different. But he knows now he can do hard things. He’ll do it again and again. Had I let him give up after that first practice, he wouldn’t have the friendships of these teammates, he wouldn’t be learning to be coachable and not take criticism so personally (something it’s taken me years to get drilled into my head) but instead use it to get better.
I wasn’t an athlete. My kids aren’t exactly athletes. But there are a fuck ton of lessons to be learned from both sides of the athletic spectrum if we can be fluid in how we use our past experiences to create our abilities to help others currently and in the future.