I woke up early this morning having the most random flashback sort of dream.
I remember the moment and the feeling like it was yesterday. It was a game early on in our high school basketball season - freshman year and I was on fire! I hit several beautiful shots from the outside during that game. I was confident and proud of myself for holding my own on a very talented and athletic team.
The cruddy part is that this memory is quickly followed by another. A couple of games later, I road the bench until five seconds were left in the game. Yes, five seconds and my coach put me in the game. I remember the robotic feeling of following directions from my coach because that is what you are suppose to do. However, the stronger memory is the feelings I had in side - anger, frustration, sadness, embarrassment. I remember wanting to be defiant and say no. What happened between those two games was even more frustrating. After that first awesome game, my coach used me as an example of someone who worked hard and wasn't afraid to take the shot, etc. However, his actions the next week were much of the opposite when I was placed on 3 string.
Here came the first lesson of life - the game of politics. My coach was a good coach (in my heart I do believe that) and he did feel the need to explain his actions to me. In a matter of very few words, he said, "I know you should be on at least second string, but I was told this is how to make the line up. Maybe it will change." And that was it. I nodded, fought back the tears and returned to practice.
This is when I learned my second lesson in life - fulfilling the shoes others have placed you in. I played like the third string. Never quit and never gave up, but I held back. There have been times in life where I wondered, what if someone just told me I could do it and pushed me a little harder and gave me more encouragement and gave me a chance. The truth is I did have all of that. I had parents that were the perfect balance: A mom that listened to my frustrations and let me cry it out and work through the feelings and a father that said OK, now what. You can do this. You are strong and talented. Show them. Get aggressive and work for it. I also had former coaches and teachers that would check in and give me words of encouragement. It was there, but I wasn't ready to accept it, listen to it or work for it. (Maybe that is the third lesson. When you are ready and truly ready, you will take the steps.)
So began the journey of losing that athlete inside. The person I was and knew was lost and right in the middle of those awesomely awkward teenage years. I joke about the college freshman err 15, 20, maybe 25 but truth is that all started before college. It started when sports ended. it was a good 4-6 year journey until I found that athlete again. Little experiences later in college slowly adding up to show me what an adult athletic lifestyle could be - Roller blading, walking, biking, weight training, hiking, adult leagues and fitness races and competitions of all types- all exist and are fun! All for the fun of staying active and healthy inside and out.
This experience and reflection has taught me something very powerful and meaningful and brings me to my point of sharing my story with you. As we raise the future generation of kids, we have the power, tools, and knowledge to show them that health and fitness is about more than just sports and there are so many sports out there. The options have grown exponentially! That feeling they get being active and competing in a sport as a kid is very similar to that feeling you get after completing a great workout as an adult. It feels good to move and challenge the body.
Wether we have a super athlete, a child not even interested in sports, or child somewhere in between let's teach them that health and fitness is so much more than sports. Let's teach them different ways to move their body for strength and health. In order for them to see that, we as adults and parents need to continue to do that. Show them what it looks like to live an active and healthy lifestyle so if they get lost or frustrated at some point they can view the big picture. Take your little athletes and non-athletes and show them why it feels so good to raise the heart rate. Allow them to experience what health and fitness really is!
We have an eight year old that has shown interest in running. He would have never been exposed to this interest at a young age if he didn't see his parents running and competing in races and competitions - biking, triathlons, running, crossfit. The best part is he has seen us do it and has seen us experience our own highs and lows - moments we had to walk, moments it hurt and we struggled, but kept going, rare occasions of getting a medal for placing but many more that we did not even come close and were just happy to finish. He is going to experience his own ups and downs as we did growing up, but hopefully, the bigger picture of health is being shown to him so when he is ready he can navigate those obstacles and come out strong and healthy.
There is so much out there to keep us strong and healthy. Find what you love and use it as your vehicle. Most important, give your children the same tools to do so as they grow up and navigate this healthy game of life!