Learning to Punt

I’ve recently had cause to reflect on my participation in sports. Turns out I’ve been competing in sports for over thirty years and coaching for twenty. I come from a sports-oriented family, so I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise. Once I even heard my gratdfather mentioned on a local sports radio show. The topic was “greatest clutch players.” An old-timer called in and nominated my gradfather, who had been a local champion handball player. The caller said that if money was on the line, no one could match my Pop Pop. 🙂

Anyway, in all that time, I think the number one lesson I’ve learned is that an athlete must be adaptable. And that adaptability can be a great asset in one’s everyday life.

To me, a true athlete is a well-rounded person. For example, I never understood when people only trained for a narrow portion of their sport (i.e. a swimmer who didn’t also weight train or a runner who didn’t also stretch). It’s easy to see WHY people don’t also weight train or stretch or what-have-you. Those things are hard and take more time. And sometimes life gets in the way of your workout plans and you just can’t fit it in.

In general, though, I think stretching and strengthening and running and whatevering all have to go together. Teaching your body (and your mind, for that matter) different skills gives you a bigger toolbox for sports and for life. When we have to practice our balance and our coordination and our agility, we discover our strengths and our weaknesses. And we teach ourselves how to focus and have discipline.

It’s a bit of cliche to say that sports are a metaphor for life, but that doesn’t make it any less true. In all those thirty years, I’ve run, paddled, lifted, yoga-ed, jumped, and swum. I’ve raced distances from 50 meters to 50 kilometers. I’ve competed in long jump and hurdles, and I’ve done marathons. I’ve taught aerobics, coached weekend warriors, and competed internationally. These things don’t make me any better than anyone else; I think they just mean I’m pretty experienced in adapting to different demands of life.

And so, when my four-year-old wakes up at 4:15 a.m. and tells me that he prefers to be called Hugo now, I can sigh a little, but realize that I’m perfectly capable of punting. My plans for the day will have to wait.

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