The thin veneer between total success and abject failure is a scary concept. It’s also a motivating factor in the quest to accomplish and realize personal dreams. Given the highly competitive nature of individualized sport and the human want to conform and belong, what drives a person to “risk it all” when there are safer options both financially and career wise? The answer is rather simple and corny; love.
One question continues to follow me where ever I go; “why didn’t you play football?” I’ve often contemplated that question and must admit to it arousing my curiosity for what could have been given the physical talents I’ve been blessed with (I’m 192cms, 95kgs, can run 100 metres under 11 seconds and jump both high and far). Having sat in on discussions with AFL recruiters (through my brother’s draft process) and general AFL musings, those sorts of measurables are the things that make mobile big men like Brendon Goddard (St.Kilda), Adam Goodes (Sydney Swans) and Matthew Pavlich (Fremantle) hot commodities in their field and financially well rewarded for their contributions. These three players are the very best at what they do. One was a former AFL Draft Number 1 pick, the other a premiership player and two time Brownlow medalist and the other a 6 time All Australian. Once more, the question “why didn’t you play football?” Love. I love Australian Rules Football. I love Track & Field more.
Everyone involved with Track & Field will tell you it’s a unique. Endless hours of dedication in the sole pursuit of one goal. Improvement. The scope of improvement and level of success is determined by natural talent and the application of work ethic. The elation felt by an Olympic Gold medalist is exactly the same as an under 7 running a personal best in a 60 metre sprint. The disappoint of injury and not performing to expectation is the same for the elite athlete as it is for the ice-cream-less under 7 after spending a hot day at Little Athletics. A good friend of mine tagged a Facebook photo of herself at competition as “Athletics:my love hate relationship.” For a sport that demands so much commitment for fleeting moments of reward, there is a large degree of truth in her words. Script writers searching for new material or concepts should park themselves on the home straight during athletics training sessions.
I’m constantly reminded by the iron willed, effervescent, philosophical and abstract thinker – champion Australian 400 metre hurdler Tristan Thomas that Track & Field is the sport of kings and for those fully committed to “the cause”. Tristan is an exceptionally talented athlete with a incomparable work ethic. I’d rather lock myself in a room full of NRL supporters and argue with them why the AFL is a superior competition than endure the pain of running 200 metre repetitions with Tristan. His want to maximize performance in every rep of every training session is something that’s left an indelible impression on me during my time as a Australian Institute of Sport athlete between 2005 and 2008. It’s unfortunate for the domestic and international athletics scenes that Tristan has been battling achilles issues for the past couple of seasons, robbing Australia of a possible gold medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. In a recent diary entry, one of Tristan’s comments struck a chord with me; “An extension of this concept is a piece of advice I received recently from a wise friend who taught me that no matter what cards life deals you, it is still you that determines how you choose to feel about them.” (Get on over and have a read of his diary entries @ http://bit.ly/aXVuKn). What Tristan has applied to his situation in Track & Field is reflective of the way I believe attitudes should apply to wider exploits. Perception is attitude and attitude can be acted upon.
The application of perception and attitude in daily life is a topic that interests me. Dennis S. Brown said it best – “The only difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude!” The easiest thing in the world is to give up or to not try. Very little is accomplished by resting on laurels. It’s my belief that a person’s attitude toward failing, making mistakes or dealing with worst case scenarios is what defines them opposed to the rainbow period of success or good times. Michael Jordan (yeah the guy who slam dunked from the free throw line and stared in the Hollywood epic Space Jam) once said “I failed over and over again in my life and that is why I will succeed.” That’s a powerful comment when you realize you fail more than you succeed. Experience is a term we use to basket our failures together. It’s also an important tool that helps people to succeed.
Track & Field has been with civilization since the dawn of time. Running is a fundamental skill in most land based sports. Speed or quickness are highly sought after and the ability to do something faster and better can be the difference between success or failure. Mankind has been throwing spears at game and each other for thousands of years. Quarterbacks throw the pigskin at near on 70 miles an hour and pitchers throw 100 miles an hour in baseball. Volleyballers spike the ball at skyscraper heights and basketballers slum dunk from ridiculous positions showing vertical leaping prowess. Whilst it might be the simplest or most mundane of movements, athletics functions in most of your favourite sports.
Earlier the notion of love was raised. Track & Field has seen some truly remarkable athletes. Jessie Owens single handedly smacked Hitler’s Ayran Race ideal in the mouth. Between 1977 and 1987 Edwin Moses went undefeated for 122 consecutive races. Haile Gebrselassie held world records from two miles to the marathon. Paavo Nurmi dominated distance running like like nobody before him. Flo-Jo smashed world records in outrageous costumes. Michael Johnson owned the 200-400 and ran world records like they were out of fashion for near on 10 years. Cathy Freeman carried the burden and hopes of 20 million people in Sydney 2000. Truth be known I could write an entire blog piece on the stars and illustrious company kept in the Track & Field Hall of Fame. One thing would have been common amongst all these stars. The love for Track & Field.
Track & Field has directed many lessons, both positive and negative in my direction whilst introducing me to some of the finest, peculiar and captivating people one could hope to meet. It’s provided me with the opportunity to travel domestically and internationally in the pursuit of sporting growth and excellence. It’s taught me the values of discipline, respect and how they can best serve me in my daily pursuits. It’s also taught me the importance of structure, systems and the importance of networks. Even though it appears that I’m the person competing, there’s a network of people around you who have invested their time, expertise and lives into you. Relationships are the core of any good network and strong networks benefit everyone.
When I am asked “why didn’t you play football” my answer is simple. Nothing can replace the simple joy of finishing first and beating someone of your own accord.
Good luck to the Australian Flame at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India. I’m sure they’ll do Australia proud.