And let’s be honest, when you’re sucky at something that you repeatedly keep going back to (the definition of insanity, I believe), you need all the motivation you can get.It continues to be a matter of compare and contrast for me, looking at my current endeavors against the light of my past. For instance, as a middle school child watching the 1988 USA men’s Olympic volleyball team play and defeat the Soviets for the gold medal, I became enamored with the sport of volleyball in all its incarnations. Within a week, I’d pilfered (with permission) a neighbor’s old ball and had begun self-teaching myself the sport, learning to pass against my Dad’s old wooden shed doors.
Soon I’d be joining in intramurals, building a ramshackle court in my backyard, and joining forces with a good neighbor friend to become a (we thought) formidable two-man team. My afternoons were spent out on the court either playing, enlisting the help of friends left and right, the joy of the game infectious, or, if by myself, working on fundamentals. And those fundamentals were fun, because I knew that focusing on these simple elements was going to make me better the next match, the next set, and that my opponent wasn’t going to be able to keep up.At least that’s what kept me going.
And that process never stopped until life eventually got in the way, marriage and kids and work and all of the responsibilities that come with those things, (rightfully) sapping my time and energies into other areas.But now there’s this derby thing that has stepped into our lives, literally tossing everything on its side. And what I find is that my two worlds end up colliding, the old me wanting to rise up and the current me simply scratching his head trying to figure out which way to go.
See, the old me wants to tap into the sources of inspiration I used to draw from, starting with the love of the game. I loved and still do love the sport of volleyball. It pained me to lay it down but given the greater love I receive from being a devoted husband and father, it was worth it. But derby? Well, I’m sorry kids, while I’m trying my best, I don’t quite love it yet. I see the value and appreciate the challenge but I’m not head over heels in love with this thing yet. I know that’s heresy to some of you but hopefully you can hear where I’m coming from.Aside from the love of the game, I always drew great motivation from the stories of many great athletes across different sports arenas. Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, Michael Jordan and his tales of not making the cut of his high school team, then working hard and coming back to have the amazing career that he did was always a source of encouragement. As a volleyball player, the stories of my two favorite players ever, Sinjin Smith and Karch Kiraly, constantly kept me going back to the court to work on getting better, their humble beach beginnings eventually leading them to bitter rivalries and volleyball glory. And tales of so many other athletes investing and spending time, over against other pursuits, pushed me forward.
The story that I remember more than any other, interestingly enough, is that told of Larry Bird, the Boston Celtics’ great. While most are aware of Bird’s keen scoring presence, defensive ability, and passing prowess, all of which undoubtedly and reportedly saw him spending countless hours in the gym, Bird wasn’t content working on just the “flashy” aspects of the game. One of the drills that he was noted for practicing at one point was in simply having a ball tossed more or less out of bounds, or heading that way, as he would practice diving and passing it back in. A simple, unheralded play but for Bird it was fundamental.
It was his focus on the little things that made him one of the greatest ever to play the game.That dedication and love is what I want to find driving me, not only on through this derby adventure but through all of my life, in particular as a husband and a dad. I want my family to always know that they are the first in my life and that I’m willing to do any and everything, the big and the little, in order to be the best father and the best husband that I can be for them.
And when it comes to derby, I want the same thing. With the hope that the love for the game will eventually come, I want to be the guy who’s willing to stick with the little things, the simple yet important elements what will make me not only a better player but a better teammate and inspiration down the line. I want to be the one out there working my ass off and seeing the results.For me, right now, that means showing up. Some days that’ll be enough. But even more so, it means showing up and delivering, leaving a little bit of myself on the floor each and every time in hopes that the love and passion will come and understanding that nothing worth having ever comes easy.
I’ve just got to find that balance and make it happen.(There's six days left people and if you haven't yet donated, we need your help to Rescue Project Rainbow! Providing a great Christmas for these families raising kids with developmentally disabled children is what's at stake and that's where you come in! Head to the donation site, give a little or a lot, and tell all your friends! Let's make this happen!)