Up until about a year and a half ago, competitive sports controlled my life. I began playing sports when I was six, and tried everything from tennis to volleyball, but when I started high school I decided to stick with track and field.
My ultimate goal was to be a college athlete, so I was always the first one to arrive for practice and the last one to leave. My best event was the Discus and I had my eyes set on breaking the school record of 129’ 10” before I left. I became so focused on breaking the record that I started training and practicing year round, even though track was only a spring sport.
When my senior year ended, I fell short of the record by less than four feet. As disappointed as I was with the result, I chose to compete at ISU as a walk on because track was what I knew. I didn’t know how to function without having to practice every day.
After a year of competing at the collegiate level, I was completely burned out. The sport that used to be my driving force was now the thorn in my side. I dreaded practice and didn’t enjoy being on the travelling team anymore, so I quit the team. At the time I thought it was the best decision, but what I didn’t take into account was how used to being busy all the time I had become.
After a couple weeks I began to regret my decision. I was so accustomed to filling every minute of my day with something to keep me busy that I didn’t know how to handle free time.
Normally I had my days planned out in 15 minute increments, with every block of time filled, whether it was reading a few pages of a textbook or inhaling lunch before class.
The busy lifestyle I had adapted to was turning out to be a weakness, not a strength. I couldn’t keep myself busy enough and was always dissatisfied.
I realized that this was the disadvantage of competitive sports. Kids who start playing at a young age are programmed to be busy all the time, and while there are benefits (ie. time management skills), this lifestyle can also be harmful. The need to always be busy causes kids - and people - to be unable to relax.
I am still struggling with this today. To take the place of track, I became as involved on campus as I could. On top of school I work and am involved in multiple clubs and intramural teams. The habit of always being busy is forever ingrained in my brain, although I try daily to relax and be a little more open to spontaneity.
Despite all this, I do not regret being as involved in sports as I was. The cliché life lessons from being an athlete are true - I did learn discipline, time management, and perseverance from my near 15 years of experience, but the need to always be busy could have a far bigger impact on my life than everything else I learned.