Sometimes it’s enough to just know something with your heart. But sometimes knowing the whys behind it can put your mind at ease too. After graduating and making the bitter-sweet transition away from the university track world, I found myself with a lot of questions, including wondering about the continuing role of athletics in my life. Despite my love for the sport and the right feeling it gives me, I found myself wondering why, out of all the other things in the world that I love doing, I should focus my energy on track?
The simple yet surprisingly meaningful answer is, “because I can”. I wrongfully assumed that being a full time athlete meant being so at the exclusion of being other things. Seeing that written down, it’s apparent that the prospect is a foolish one. We can, and actually should be and do everything we desire. Personally I have found sparks of concentrated interest in art, nature, science, space, flying, and others…heck I could throw in cow milking, if I were to so desire! No two things are mutually exclusive unless we believe they are. I was initially afraid of committing to track because I thought it meant closing other doors I really wanted to explore. But it doesn’t! I can achieve my goals in track while doing everything that I love, so I do.
Another answer: I’ve come to realize that it’s the emotions that are important, not necessarily the means we find to experience them. For example, I think a major reason that I enjoy track is because of the feeling of accomplishment I get when I master a skill, finish a tough workout on top, or achieve a new personal best. Realizing that the accomplishment is what is truly meaningful to me, adds even more meaning to the means of achieving that accomplishment (WOW that’s a lot of ‘mean’s, I like it!).
So the feeling of accomplishment gives athletics added value to me, but I also recently realized that the potential for philanthropy is huge as an athlete, and also a personal draw for me to athletics. I really can’t put my finger on why sport is so valuable in society; why athletes are such widely regarded role models. Any ideas? Is it the commitment to something, specifically a dream? Is it being involved in the thrill of competition? Does it remind people of their desire to move and be free and fit? Regardless, athletes are held in high esteem and are often given the opportunity to offer whatever insights they have discovered to many, many people. For instance Andre Agassi describes the school he has founded, the passion he has for assisting others, and the influence over people that was provided to him for being a great athlete in his sport in his startling autobiography Open. It really gave me an idea of where an athletic career could turn. Many athletes are involved in foundations and organizations and are really using their notoriety to make differences.
Another amazing example of athletes doing big things is Athletes for Hope (coincidently, of which Andre Agassi is a founder). I have yet to really dig into it, but the misison of the group of professional athletes involved is to “educate, encourage and assist athletes in their efforts to contribute to community and charitable causes, to increase public awareness of those efforts, and to inspire others to do the same”. I’m excited to learn more!
Philanthropy is important to a lot of athletes, and the fact that something about it strikes a chord with me gives athletics even that much more meaning to me. I not only strive to achieve the goals I set for myself, I strive also to accomplish big things so as to gain a platform from which to give back to a huge degree.
And just to inspire any people reading, athletes and non-athletes alike, here are some wise words from Steve Nash:
“Athletes are not obligated to give back. PEOPLE are obligated to give back.” 🙂