Transitions: Part #1 Choosing A Path
That word transition freaks me out a little bit. It elicits a mental picture of looming change, and change can be scary. It’s not literally frightening but the idea of changing something drastic requires trust in your preparation, trust in the process, and trust in yourself and your team.
Take for instance sports; take a moment to yourself and think about how often a transition occurs throughout an athletic event. Center-to-quarterback exchange, a pitcher's throw rebounding off a hitter's bat, a relay team, executing a blind exchange handoff. Transitions happen frequently, some more obvious and others more subtle, regardless, change is an inevitable result of said transition.
My life has been marked by very specific transitions. My decision to quit hockey and soccer and pursue track and field for instance. Certainly not a momentous, earth shattering decision, but for me and my existence, it figuratively and literally changed my life.
I was a multi-faceted athlete growing up. I played everything, and developed an extreme, often volatile sense of competitiveness. I often struggled to keep up with my hectic, multi-sport schedule, and realized that I had begun spreading myself way too thin, leading to exhaustion and often poor athletic performance. I'm not sure what my driving force was back then, I suppose it was to prove to whomever, my teammates, my parents, my coaches, myself, that I was some sort of renaissance man, that I could do it all. When in reality I had become a Jack-of-All trades and master of none. I knew deep down that that type of rigorous schedule was unsustainable, but it wasn't until the summer of 2001 when I saw that being a "God gifted" athlete wasn't enough and wasn’t going to hack-it any longer.
At 16 years old I was selected to represent my home province of Prince Edward Island, at the quadrennial multi-sport competition, the Canada Summer Games in London, Ontario. Now I had experienced some success nationally prior to that event, but never amongst that caliber of competition and certainly not against older athletes. Needless to the say the meet didn't go very well, in fact it was an embarrassment. I can still recall that feeling I experienced. You know the one, its deep, deep down inside the pit of your stomach. It’s a combination of shame and stone-cold reality. In a nutshell, I did nothing to improve the image of PEI athletics, if anything I only helped to perpetuate the already lowly existence it had been cultivating for decades. You see, PEI is tiny, literally; Its small in stature, in population and in mentality. Islanders had experienced beat down after beat down by the more affluent, bigger, stronger provinces for what seems millennia. I supposed my finish in London, Ontario wasn't that big of a deal, its was expected. That sentiment was palpable. Islanders are merely in it for the "experience" not in it to compete. Sounds pathetic, eh?
When I returned home, I had one of "those" talks with my father Neal, who has never held his opinion to himself, particularly when it came to how his son performed athletically. The conversation quickly escalated in to a screaming match, and it resulted in the conclusion that my effort, preparation and approach to sport was all wrong. At that juncture of my life, it wasn't cute anymore to be a do-it-all athlete. The only athletes taken seriously were the ones who focused their efforts much more acutely.
I sat on that idea some time, I pondered the idea, but nothing really materialized. Come fall, I was playing soccer for my high school team and playing Bantam AAA hockey for my club team, the North River Flames. Regardless of the success or failures of that fall/winter, I couldn't shake that Canada Games experience from my subconscious. Deep down, that embarrassment lingered, and soccer nor hockey was doing anything to mitigate that sensation.
I sat in my room one night and pondered the idea of pursuing track and field exclusively and that thought terrified me. How would I go about doing such a thing, I mean the Island didn't even have a running track to train or compete on, it was literally still in the stone age. Our only "track" was an old, disheveled gravel abomination behind my high school, or a retrofitted railroad track turned walking path, aptly named "Rails to Trails". It wasn’t realistic, it wasn’t logical, it was selfish and it was stupid. But, on the flip-side it was ambitious, it was original, it was dangerous and it was mine, my decision. Something that I hadn’t really ever encountered in my life up to that point.
I agonized, tossed and turned, asked for advice, ignored the noise and came to a decision: That was going to quit soccer and hockey to pursue track and field…what had I gotten myself in to?
Tune in next time for Part #2: Entering the Abyss