Heart of A Champion III
Human beings are not equipped to make sense of ourselves.
If you look deep within for your worth and value, you’ll likely be confused. We are defined, not by what we do, but by whom we are loved – but it’s the loving relationships outside of
- They enable you to push through the emotional pain barrier
- They help you find freedom, even in the midst of intense competition
- They enable you to be healthy and whole and give your all, even with all the risks involved
But, how do you find that? For some athletes, it means connecting to a higher power, to spirituality. That’s why I am an Olympic chaplain. I help people connect in the Christian tradition. There are other traditions, of course, and personal beliefs that are just as valid. I encourage you to explore what spirituality means to you.
Do you have a mentor?
Some athletes turn to a mentor. Is there someone in your circle who you trust, who loves you for you, who doesn’t care whether you win or not? Do you invest time into that relationship?
Your mentor could be someone in your sport who knows what you are going through and who is willing to share their hard-won wisdom so that you can have a better journey. Do you have somebody like that in your life?
If you don’t, bear in mind that there are people who will work with you to help you free yourself, to stop listening to the lies and to shut down the internal dialogue perpetuated by those lies. Shame is the scourge of competitive sport. You may have been shamed by others and you’ve internalized it. It happens to lots of folks. It’s what happened to Andre Agassi. None of us are exempt. A counselor can be very effective in helping you understand what healthy feelings and attitudes are.
Are your relationships healthy?
Here’s an analogy: in nature, eagles and sparrows don’t mate. Similarly, healthy people are not attracted to unhealthy people. Like is attracted to like. As you begin to learn the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships – guess what’s going to happen? You’re going to realize that some of your friends are healthy, good-for-you friends, and others are not.
If you don’t do the hard work on yourself to become healthy, you’re just going to end up attracted to someone who’s also unhealthy, which will then perpetuate your own unhealthiness, and so on. The good news is – you don’t have to do that. As you begin to cultivate healthy relationships, you will be setting yourself up for one of the most beautiful things in life, which is having a healthy relationship with a lifetime partner.
The two keys to healthy relationships
Healthy relationships have two simple keys: giving and forgiving on one hand and gratitude on the other. Sounds pretty straightforward, right?
Newsflash: if you give everything in a relationship you’re going to give both good and bad. It’s a package deal. The other person will have to be healthy enough to learn to overlook your shortcomings – and vice versa. Forgiveness is the key – because we all fall short. And gratitude, well, let’s say I have a canker sore in my mouth and I eat cake, will it taste good? No.
If shame and bitterness, anger and fear are what’s driving you to excellence in sport, no matter how many good things you achieve it will taste bitter because of the bitterness in your life. I always encourage athletes to end their day by writing down five things they are grateful for. Five simple things to remind you how sweet life can be. If you cultivate an “attitude of gratitude”, you will enjoy the journey. You will realize it’s the process—and not the product—that fuels your joy.
It’s like going back to when you were 10 years old and you and your best friend raced to the end of the block and back. It mattered who won because you gave everything to beat your best friend – but it also didn’t matter who won because, bottom line, you were doing something you loved with someone you loved to be with. That’s the attitude you want to have at your most important competition. That’s the joy of sport. You focus on feeling alive as your body moves through time and space and when the result comes, it’s just a bonus.
“You’re going to realize that some of your friends are healthy, good-for-you friends, and others are not.“
We will always be here, watching and rooting that you find hope—not only in your sport, but in your life—that you find love here, and elsewhere.
Andre Agassi started off his career at seven years old, having been shamed into tennis. Throughout his book, his mantra is “I hate tennis but I’m trapped here by my dad”. As an adult, he enters into a relationship with a high-profile person, but it wasn’t about love and his life goes from bad to worse. Chaos.
Then, he marries Steffi Graf—an equal, if not his superior in his sport—and she gives him, for the first time, real, consistent, unconditional love, and it changes him. He was known in his college years as a rebellious punk and the whole time he’s competing he says he hates the sport. Now, he is a well-respected senior statesman in tennis. He ends his book by talking about a time that he and Steffi decided to play a round of tennis at a public a court in Las Vegas, just for the heck of it. It starts to rain but they keep on playing, and people start to gather as the word on social media leaks out. Suddenly, the stands are filled with people watching them play and they are completely oblivious. He ends his book by saying “I serve, Steffi returns, and then she gives that Steffi wave—as if she was swatting a mosquito—that means she’s done. It’s time to pick up our child at school. Not yet, I tell her. She stops, looks at me, then she laughs. ‘Okay’, she says, backpedaling to the baseline. It makes no sense, but it’s who I am, and she understands that we have things to do. Wonderful things. She can’t wait to get started and neither can I, but I also can’t help it. I want to play just a while longer.”
We’re rooting for you here at Hope Sports, for you to recover your hold on and increase your love of the sport and your privilege to use that sport to bless, enhance, and enable other people to feel alive too. We will always be here, watching and rooting that you find hope—not only in your sport, but in your life—that you find love here, and elsewhere. When you do, be sure to pass that love on to others.
Thank you for being with us and being part of our family.
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