I was fortunate enough to have been introduced to sports early in my life. I never understood the esoteric reasons back then, but clearly today, I can draw parallels from the experience that are applied daily in my life today.
At the age of four, my father introduced me to the brutal sport of wrestling. Some of the reasons he forced me to participate are not the same reasons I later found eloquence in the sport, but regardless there are lessons that I incorporate today from that experience.
Being out on that mat - alone, facing a common opponent, forces you to face your fears and grapple like your life depended upon it and if you didn’t persist for the duration of the match, you got your ass kicked. Despite my early struggles and disdain for wrestling (mostly because of the onesie outfit), I eventually discovered proper techniques and adequate strength through persistent training and actually became a decent fighter, and I looked better in my onesie to boot!
Persistence may not predict success, but giving up guarantees failure.
I was homeschooled until 6th grade. When I first entered the public school system in middle school, I actually lived alone with my five older siblings in a small farmhouse in the country four hours away from my parents - for over a year.
We did not have a car and even if we did, none of my older siblings could drive, so we had to take the bus, walk or bicycle everywhere. At the time, I was the starting quarterback for my middle school football team, and if I was to continue participating, I had to find my own way to and from daily practices and games on the weekends. My school was a 45-minute bicycle ride from my house and sometimes games were over an hour away.
Quitting was never an option, I committed to participating otherwise I would have let my teammates and myself down, therefore everyday you would find me bicycling to and from practice on my little KMart dirt bike.
Commitment can be the fuel that focuses our efforts.
Sports, like life, is filled with a variety of people whose upbringing, values and ethics are equally diverse. For some, winning is EVERYTHING, in fact, most coaches teach this principle from an early age and some athletes are even encouraged to win at all costs, even if that means “playing dirty” to win.
I was blessed early on to have coaches that taught us that while winning is more fun than losing, ethical participation, and respect for the game was of utmost importance. It was through sports that I began to understand the parallels of integrity and sportsmanship in life.
Consistency is key, but integrity IS everything.
You have heard that ‘attitude not aptitude will determine your altitude’ and never is that more apparent in sports. Entire industries exist around mental preparation, visualization and attitudinal aptitude for athletes.
Sports taught me the importance of being present and always trying to be positive even in the direst of situations.
I played a variety of positions for my high school football team, I was also the kicker - by default.
We had this annual rivalry game we played with a neighboring school, it was a big deal, one of the oldest rivalries in the nation in fact for high school football.
My school had not won the game in over 10 years. My senior year, we faced off as usual and as the game drew near its conclusion, we were tied 0-0.
With only a few seconds on the clock, we were in the position to go for a touchdown to win or kick a field goal for the same.
Coach called a timeout and as we huddled to discuss our options and strategy, it was determined that we were going to attempt the field goal.
Coach looked me square in the eyes, and said, “Tindall, you got this!”
I've always held a positive outlook on life, I try and find the good in most situations and I always approach every situation as if I am going to win - sports taught me this. I kicked the field goal and for the first time in 10 plus years, we won the game.
Attitude is contagious – be careful what you catch.
I boxed in college. Wasn’t very good, but aside from wrestling as a youth, it was the first individual sport I ever participated in competitively. Prior to that, I was always active in team sports. Through boxing, it made me realize how many lessons I had learned about being part of a team and how integral proper teamwork is for success. You’ve heard the expression, you’re only as strong as your weakest component? Well never is that adage truer than in sports. Effective teamwork requires complete synchronicity with your fellow athletes, anything less, and the weaker cog will quickly be revealed. This underlines the importance of teamwork and support and filling in gaps when and where needed. Everyone in sports and in life and business has a role, some are more equipped than others in some area and identifying and assessing personal strengths and weaknesses is essential for a quality team or organization.
There are people that are organized into teams, and then there are teams of people.
Sports teaches us to trust others and trust ourselves. I work with a small team every day at Fusion, and everyone has specific roles in the company. I trust that when I send someone out for a job or to complete a task that they will perform the job to the best of their ability because I have learned to trust and empower them to be successful. Sports taught me that trusting in my teammate to complete their task enabled me to focus and commit on my own task and conversely empowered them to do theirs just as well.
Life is not an individual sport – trust is a must.
I mentioned above that I was a boxer in college. I wasn’t very good, but I won all of my fights, for a variety of reasons, most of them because of the very principles I have already referenced above, but additionally, through my personal accountability to myself, I learned to prepare and hold myself accountable for my success. Boxing is a long-term process, you have a fight every three months or so, and all the time leading up to that big fight is spent training, preparing, studying your opponent and getting ready. You need personal accountability to properly prepare if you want to be successful.
Be accountable for the life you want – we get what we give.
Here comes another boxing reference. I am a firm believer that we call into our lives what we need most at the very time we most need it. Boxing was just that for me. I have always had a pension for being efficient, but sometimes too efficient - as in instant gratification efficient. Boxing taught me that patience and persistence pay off over the long term as opposed to immediate gain without longevity.
I mentioned I was not a very good boxer, I was fighting guys who had been boxing for years, but I have always had great stamina and I have a mean left hook. Early in my training, my coach Jose used to scream at me to “time your anger”. What he meant by this, was early in the fight I used to go after my opponent swinging wildly and running out of steam early. So he taught me to bide my time in the ring, I learned how to take punches without causing too much personal harm and most importantly force the opponent to wear himself down, then when the timing is right, release my counter-attack and vicious left hook. This is how I won fights, not because I was a better fighter, I just practiced patience and worked with the process of the fight.
Patience provides us with possibilities.
All of us that play sports, train, workout, all got started for various reasons. Some to lose weight, some out of boredom, others like me, forced into the game. Regardless, the reason, it is a passion that sustains us. I continue to train today, play soccer, and still compete at a decently high level in all of it. It’s because sports taught me that being passionate about something is critical to success, otherwise, it just becomes a chore to participate.
Our full potential requires all of our passion.
I have been fortunate enough to have participated in a lot of life already at my young age. I try and do so many things and soak up so much of everything everywhere I go. I have always lived by the motto of having fun with everything. Participating in sports at an early age taught me the importance of having fun, otherwise, it’s hard to dedicate yourself to something you despise.
Fun is sometimes more about the how than the what.
Life is like a game – with a start, a middle, and an end. It is up to each of us how we play it.
If you like this article, would love to hear your experience with sports in the comment below.