by Calli Townsend
After losing his game, I heard him say, “We’ll get better for next time.”
He was a young ball player who had just lost in a District tournament. As I walked past him, I smiled to myself. What determination.
He wasn’t off sulking. He wasn’t pouting or complaining about a bad call. He walked away ready to get better for the next season, and I love that.
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Sport is one of the greatest teachers. No matter which sport a kid plays, every athlete will learn something valuable that will translate to other parts of life.
For me, I think the greatest lessons I ever learned as an athlete were persistence and discipline. And now that I’m “retired,” I need to learn these lessons again.
It has been so hard for me to exercise. I jogged two miles today and wondered how I ever used to do four-mile workouts up a hill. I even used to run twice a day, but now twice a week is an accomplishment.
The discipline and persistence I learned as a collegiate runner has translated well into my professional career, however, which is great. It just seems to have maxed out with writing.
I honestly didn’t think it would be that hard. But I think I took for granted how motivating it was to be on a team working toward a goal. Motivation is a hard thing to learn and perhaps even harder to maintain.
I’m not saying playing a sport is the only way for kids to learn it, but it’s definitely one of the best ways. It puts them on a team, with mentors and coaches, it gives them a community and accountability, and it gives them a goal.
Being and staying motivated is difficult. It requires seeing the end goal, working through the hard parts, and persisting after a set back. It’s not all that fun.
But sports are fun. They’re cool. And the hard parts that discourage us seem a little less challenging when we’re doing something we enjoy, and it’s even easier when we’re doing it with a team. A team of like minded people can accomplish incredible things, individually and collectively.
I’ve found the best kind of communities are filled with people working toward something. It spurs everyone on to be better and do more. I’m so thankful for the communities I’ve been able to be a part of.
Whether it was in the office of my college newspaper, on the track with my training group, or in a Bible study with friends, being surrounded by people looking to produce good work, become better athletes, and grow closer to God encouraged me to do the same.
One of my favorite authors, Andy Andrews, wrote, “If I associate with chickens, I will learn to scratch at the ground and squabble over crumbs. If I associate with eagles, I will learn to soar to great heights.”
When we’re surrounded by motivated people, we can’t help but become better. We will soar to great heights.
And I think for kids, sports are such an awesome way to find this kind of community — the eagles, if you will. There are few kids who will create their own training plans or practice for hours at a time by themselves. Some will and they’ll lead their teams and help motivate the others, but for most kids, they have the potential, they just need a group to help them find it.
I hope that kid will lead his teammates and encourage them to keep going. And I hope many kids join that team, or one of the hundreds of other teams like that in the area. I know sports aren’t everything, and I’m glad they’re not, but they sure are something special and they can motivate and teach us to do things we never thought we could.
And as kids join these teams, I hope the motivation they find will lead to many lessons that stick with them all throughout life. I hope we all can find similar communities that challenge and support us in our pursuit of being better.