I didn’t have many friends growing up, but I always got picked first for teams. When PE or practice came, I was of a choice, selected group. I think that built-in wantedness is a big reason a large number of athletes have a touch of social impedance.
They don’t know what it is to meet people just to meet people. They meet people because they too made the team. They have a coach that structures how they will work together. They share a common goal. THEY PLAY. People come to them because of a game, not because of who they are.
|photo credit: blog.foodnetwork.com|
I got invited to sleepovers because I played sports. I went away to camp because I played basketball. I first left the country because I played rugby. I did all these exciting things, and I was very aware why they happened to me. I never kept in touch with the people I shared these experiences with. I always went back to the game, prepping for possible further opportunities in the future.
You are welcome with open arms when you can play and play well. You will do almost anything to stay a part of the sporting community. You will play in pain, spend more time and money than you’ve got, and sign everything and everyone else away like Ariel, longing to stay a part of their world.
When all of your social skills are built upon a talent, you don’t know where to go or how to be once it wanes. You have learned and been reinforced that people want to be around you because you’re an athlete. For what other reason would anyone want you around?
When the athlete does go as everyone must, no one comes with. Their biggest fears are realized. They get sad, very sad, and contemplate returning. They know full well that isn’t what they need, but they toy with the idea. They go watch a game or two, but the few minutes of ex-teammate time they get doesn’t seem worth it. They know what is on the players minds because it was for so long on theirs. How did I play, how can I get better at this game, and who should I invest in to help me?
The aging athlete knows none of these questions are answered by them.
Bumped down to spectators, they become ordinary. Less than.
Eventually they recognize that this commonness can last. And that there is common all around them. And that this common is just what they need. They become curious and open and seek out another tribe. What they find is a group outside of uniform, who make room at the table before knowing what they can do.
It is within this simple, unheralded humanity that they come to understand that they are enough, simply because of being. And they happily conclude that everybody else is too.