Sunday, May 22, 2011

Athletes Are Not Born, They Are Made

Hi All!  After a long haitus for training for Wildflower, I'm happy to be writing again.  This piece is an article published earlier this year for a now-defunct website.  Happily, it's still my work!  So here you go.

 “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent…Persistence and determination alone are omnipresent.” – Calvin Coolidge
Amber started playing tennis when she was 5 years old.  Her mom signed her up one summer to see if she’d like it, and she loved it.  She liked hitting the ball, and loved when it went whish!, right past her opponent’s ankles.  Amber played with friends and was good.  Really good.  They could never beat her.  When she was in high school, she stopped growing, reaching her final unfortunate height of 5’ 4”.  She tried out for the high school tennis team and made it.  Though her coach saw real talent, he told her, “Listen.  College recruiters aren’t going to take you.  You’re too short.”  Amber continued to play, keeping her coach’s warning in mind.  When she arrived at college, she walked on to the tennis team.  The coach chuckled when he saw her on the first day.  She stood 8” shorter than most of the other women!  Undeterred, Amber worked the hardest, never complained, and when her teammate ripped a hamstring, Amber jumped at the chance to prove herself.  She dazzled her team with her speed, accuracy, and power against her 5’ 11” opponent.  In one match, Amber proved that all the natural ability in the world didn’t compare to hard work and determination.
Amber’s story mirrors the stories of hundreds, possibly thousands, of athletes who love a sport their body was not designed to play.  David Eckstein, short stop on two World Series winning baseball teams, was a walk-on in college.  Upon winning his second World Series in 2006, teammates awarded him the World Series MVP.  Eckstein believes in hard work, persistence, and determination.  Tony LaRussa says of Eckstein, “He’s the toughest guy I’ve ever seen in a uniform.”  While short stops are usually big, tall, and fast, Eckstein stands 5’7” and weighs a mere 165 lbs.  John Stockton, considered by many to be the greatest point guard to ever play the game of basketball, stood 6” shorter than the average NBA player.  His colleagues praise his hard work, ability to inspire others, loyalty and ability to compete.  Jim Abbot, former pitcher for the Anaheim Angels, was born without a right hand.  Spud Webb won the NBA Slam Dunk contest in 1986 despite being the shortest player to sign up.  He is the 3rd shortest NBA player of all time.
These are only a few examples of athletes who prove daily that their unfortunate height, weight, bone structure or muscle chemistry mean nothing when compared with what they believe of themselves.  The old-fashioned idea that your future in sports is predetermined is over!  Your biology is not your destiny.  Your will and your drive determine your fate.  Basketball player Kevin Durant said, “Hard work beats talent, when talent don’t work hard.”  You may find that you have to run one more speed drill than your long-legged team mates to take a second off of your lap.  You may need to study your sport outside of practice to find out what made Mary Lou Retton or Martina Navritalova so unbeatable.  You might watch the underwater cam of Michael Phelps’ performance in Beijing over and over and over to mimic exactly what he does with his hands.  Never forget, though, that your success is inseparable from your will.  Your achievement in sport originates not from your muscles or bones, but from your heart and mind.  Greek Olympic weight lifter Pyrros Dimas sums up the idea in three words, “Impossible is nothing.”  When you believe that you control your destiny, everything is possible.
Ernst, Bill.  “David Eckstein: Big League Star With Small Town Values”. Seminole Magazine. http://www.seminolemagazine.com/DavidcksteinB07webed.htm (Jan. 11, 2010)
“John Stockton – Quintessential Point Guard”. Ringsurf.com. http://www.ringsurf.com/online/2197-john_stockton_point_guard.html (Jan. 12, 2010)
“Top 10 Shortest NBA Basketball Players”.  TopTenz.net. http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-shortest-nba-players.php (Jan. 11, 2010)

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