There is something very primitive about our desire to play, play often and play well. It is hard wired into our DNA. For many sports people life will never be quite as exciting, nor as motivating as their sporting days. We would like to think getting married, becoming parents, settling down into a sensible job would do it, but for many it just doesn’t.
There is something magical about the fluidity of movement through time and space. It is a sweet reward after a skill has been practiced to exhaustion, to then execute it to perfection. It is the strength and control over one’s body to be able to move with speed and grace, to feel every fiber of one’s limbs working in harmony. Goals that are scored, are just a measure of this movement, but it is the movement itself that is so intoxicating. It may be a pleasure to watch, but the real pleasure is in the doing.
There is something universally beautiful about connecting with other like-minded people of different colours from different continents, who share the silent joy of what it is to be a sportsperson. A shared bond built on mutual respect and admiration where religion and politics are of little importance. Who understand what it really means to say “I felt good today”. Which usually means “I felt bloody fantastic”. That elusive feeling we are always chasing, a natural high that has been earned through years of immersing oneself in deliberate, hard practice. A feeling that can’t be bought or substituted.
What our young athletes need to know is that this opportunity is a limited one, so don’t mess it up. Don’t throw away your athletic ability because training is hard. The reward only comes with effort. Don’t forgo playing sport because you have to study. Being active improves one’s academic performance. Don’t dumb down your effort because you think talented kids don’t have to try. There is no such thing as talent without trying.
Take this time that is given to you and play, play and play. The skills you acquire through your youth will be with you for life. The strength and control you gain through training will allow you to master any sport you choose to work at. The tenacity to try your best while facing possible failure will make you strong. It isn’t all about winning or losing, it is about finding the gifts which lay hidden inside you. If you are brave enough to explore, and only then, will you find the secrets locked into your DNA.