Racing to The Rocking Chair!
Racing to The Rocking Chair....
In the wonderful text book ‘Coaching Mental Excellence’ by Vernacchia, McGuire and Cook, the authors explain that “sport and sport participation are highly valued in our society”. They go on to say that “to be identified as an athlete or as being athletic, is a prized and coveted aspiration of many persons”.
I agree entirely with their summations and in fact take it perhaps a stage further. I believe that to be an athlete is to be “ in the game “ on the inside looking out, rather than on the outside looking in, it is the opportunity to play an active role versus being a spectator in the biggest mystery series of all…..life itself !
You may well know by now that much must have happened in my own running journey in the six years from 1990 to 1996. It was in this time span that the ‘Rocking Chair’ became the ongoing symbol and reminder of what I was striving for on a daily basis. It really served as the beacon that lit up the path to my running goals each and every day and to that end, continues to do so today.
For the youngsters out there in particular, be advised that being an athlete is a conscious choice, a declaration of intent of your purpose and direction in life. Indeed a premeditated choice toward a specific lifestyle. By lifestyle I mean that you must, as I do, think of yourself as an athlete at all times, it is the very identity that reflects who you are. It affects a great many things such as, the friends you keep, the places you go, the food you eat, the fluids you drink and spatially, where you choose to be in relation to all that surrounds you on this planet.
The process of being the complete athlete encompasses so much but I want to start with failure. Failure and more succinctly how we deal with failure is at the very essence of being an athlete. There are issues with dealing with success that we will look at in a later blog but of much greater complexity and frequency is the issue of failure.
After all in America’s pastime, future Hall Of Fame players have to deal with failure approximately seven out of ten times. Not only might we fail as an athlete, we indeed, must fail. If we do not, then we are not doing our job properly within our chosen sport. It is out of this failure that the opportunity for success is born. It is from this failure that errors on many levels can be identified, corrected and improved upon for the short, mid and long term future.
I ask this question many times of new athletes that I begin working with. “ What does practice make:? The answer is always the same, “ Perfect coach, practice makes perfect” …. To which I reply, “ No, practice makes permanent, perfect practice makes perfect ! “
An expression that I detest is “ Ahh, yes, he is terrific at what he does, he has over twenty years experience “ …. How is that relevant? There is no correlation between terrific and twenty years if the person in question has been repeating the same mistakes time and time again in that time span. Aspiring to do things in proper sequence, with proper function and as close to perfect as one can possibly achieve is the constant duty of the athlete.
Scientists have known for many years that as human beings we only use a fraction of our brain capacity during our lifetime. Nowadays with twenty-first century technology and resulting conveniences, society as a whole has become a great deal softer than that of our forefathers. Remember the old days when if you did not like the current channel on your television you simply stood up, walked over to the television and changed the channel. Now if you don’t like the channel but you cannot find the remote, you spend twenty minutes wasting your time searching for the remote instead of just walking over and changing the channel. Of course with so many channels on the satellite or cable service, that is not so easy now. The point being though, that we no longer deal with the cause, we deal with the symptom. The remote is a symptom of modern convenience.
We have become completely reliant on these modern day marvels. Another example is the person that drives to the health club (presumably to work out), it’s 5pm, the club is very busy, yet, they choose to sit and wait for a parking space to become vacant that is in close proximity to the club, instead of parking at the far end of the lot, maybe two hundred meters from the entrance. Wouldn’t want to actually exert any extra since they are only there to work out !
No in today’s modern society, we have become soft and we have become resistant to change. This is unfortunate as they are two of the anti-attributes required to be an athlete. We must be tough, mentally and physically and we must be open to change.
Learning to embrace change is the first step in overcoming our fear of failing. Being that change by its very definition invites the prospect of failing, it is much easier for many to strive to keep things the same; to remain cozy where they are, to avoid stretching their boundaries and to accept their limitations.
Once out of high school or perhaps college there are very few avenues chosen by people in general that require a simultaneous stretching of one’s physical and mental boundaries.
This simultaneous challenge to both mind and body is a very basic human instinct that in today’s fast paced, instant gratification society, full of misinformation, is all too easily lost, to the detriment of all that do so.
Becoming an athlete means a willingness to accept change in your life. It takes mental fortitude to get out of the door to train, it takes physical strength to complete the session. Human beings are creatures of habit for the most part. We generally do not react well to change unless we predispose ourselves to accepting the concept of change. By definition, training as an athlete is change….changing of the mind and changing of the body. In completing the session, we achieve increased psychological strength, thus allowing us to endure greater amounts of physical stress in future training sessions.
Why such a preoccupation with the concept of change? Earlier in this passage, I referred to ‘ the biggest mystery series of all…..life itself !’ Life – Athlete – Athlete –Life. Racing to ‘The Rocking Chair’ for me symbolizes everything that is positive about approaching your life in the manner of an athlete. For me it also reflects the direct correlation between being an athlete and life itself, namely change, or more specifically the intent or willingness to deal with the unknown.
In the aforementioned Coaching Mental Excellence’ the authors further make the point that being an athlete is the “ opportunity to step into the unknown and to stretch one’s self beyond presumed limits “.
This approach to life as an athlete (or from an athletic perspective) if handled correctly, affords one the potential to achieve a very stable platform from which to navigate this uncertain and tumultuous journey.
The rocking chair figuratively is the concept of reflecting back on one's choices and actions as in a 'flashback' movie reflecting on did we take the DNA we are given (and have no control over) and without fear, extract every ounce of juice out of the orange, did we take our journey as far as we could possibly go, without fear and without regret and if the answer is yes, then we can gently rock in that rocking chair with a wry smile and peace in our heart !
Walk in peace and let the good times roll !
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