For anyone that has frequented my blog, you know that one of my favorite topics to editorialize is sports. As a high school athlete who considers field hockey and lacrosse to be high up on her priority list (after grades, SAT scores, and college research of course), I believe it to be natural and expected that I would have so many opinions on the matter. I've voiced everything from my thoughts on pursuing post high school athletics, to my lack of free time due in large part to sports, to my opinions on new state laws restricting Pre season practice time. I hope that I haven't exhausted the topic, because now I would like to share some thoughts about high school athletics, and all sports in general, that dig a little deeper than the surface.
Recently, my high school field hockey team faced some adversity. After losing more games than expected, we collectively decided that it was our mental toughness, and not our lack of physical ability that was holding us back from experiencing the success we had anticipated in Pre season. We didn't believe enough in ourselves to fulfill our capabilities and we were starting to develop habits of negative thinking.
We tried everything, from goal setting to incentives for playing well. We talked out our feelings and thoughts and urged each other to maintain positivity on and off the field. But after a while I realized that turning our varsity field hockey team into a daily counseling session was not a solution to the problem.
I had an epiphany; anyone can set goals and talk about what they want to do or what they'll try to do all day long. But if they don't dig deeper, if they don't find their purpose for doing what they're doing, where's the motivation? Where's the drive? What makes you dig deep within yourself and ingrain the idea in yourself that no matter what and against all odds you absolutely must do something?
So I posed the question to my teammates: Why do you play? What makes you come out here every single day and do what we do? After hours upon hours and laps upon laps around the track, what makes you keep coming back? What makes you give up so many other things to be right here, right now? This question was met with blank stares and racing minds. Not one of my fifteen teammates had an answer for me.
I wasn't surprised. Had the same question been posed to me in such a manner, I, too would be speechless. Why do we play? It's fun sometimes, but certainly not most of the time. None of us hope to go on to play professionally. None of us even really play competitively outside of school. Do we play because we have for a few years and feel obligated to stick with it? Do we play to stay in shape? For our parents? Because we have friends on the team? I wasn't sure what my answer was or what the answer of my teammates would be. It made me wonder what other people, outside of my team would say to the question: Why?
Seeing as my theory about needing purpose to fuel motivation is applicable in all aspects of life, I decided to ask some people why they do what they do.
I asked a friend why do you play soccer?
"You don't have to abide by typical social rules. On the field, all that matters is raw power, skill, and tactical knowledge."
I asked my guitar teacher, why do you play music?
"It allows me to express my emotions without using words."
I asked one of my coaches, why do you coach?
"I coach for the love of the sport, and the passion of teaching."
I asked my former english teacher, why do you teach?
"I teach because I want to affect some kind of change in the world by helping shape students into who they will become as individuals and as the future of our nation."
And then I turned back to myself. Even though I know that I would not have been able to answer my own question under the circumstances in which I asked my teammates, I have given myself time to think about it. Why do I play field hockey?
I don't play for fun; more often than not I find myself wishing I were doing anything but practicing. I don't play for my parents; they would support me no matter what sport or activity I participated in. I don't play to stay in shape; I'm certain that I would maintain my fitness even if I wasn't a field hockey player. I don't play because I have friends on the team; it makes it more of an enjoyable experience but I would still see them all around school or on the weekends.
At first thought, I decided that I did play because I felt obligated to. I've played for years and coming into my junior year, I felt a responsibility to my coaches and teammates to return to the team. Plus I had never really quit anything in my life before and didn't want to start. But this answer didn't sit well with me. So I kept thinking.
I thought about being in the games and how it felt. I thought about those couple of moments that happen right after I've done something right. Everyone has them. For that one brief instance in time, you feel as though you are on top of the world and in that moment, there are no doubts in your mind and there is no question about why you do what you do.
I know that one single moment, or even a few brief moments don't make it all worth it. Those couple of seconds can't possibly make up for the days, weeks, or often years that you have spent pursuing your job or activity or passion. But that one moment does make the promise that one day, you can look back and you will be able to string all the special moments together and that then, it will be worth it.
I suppose that this theory accounts for my purpose in more aspects of my life than sports. It's why I spend hours researching, interviewing, and brainstorming to write a blog that I have no idea if anyone reads. It's why I keep myself awake at night reading textbooks covering subjects that I don't really care much about. It's why I fight for some friendships that I could just let go.
But deep down, I know that somewhere, someday I will be a different person than I am now. My priorities will be different and my list of life experiences will be longer. And I will look back on my life now with no regrets and with the knowledge that I gave everything I had to the things that I truly cared about. And that's what motivates me.