Hey everybody, I know it’s been awhile since I wrote, this internship has basically owned my life the last 9 weeks. I’ve only recently had a bit of a life outside of this, mainly via ultimate frisbee. Given that, I’ve been learning quite a bit about the art of coaching and have been getting a lot of coaching experience here at EXOS (formerly Athletes’ Performance) where I do sport performance coaching for athletes. I’ve also gotten myself into amazing shape. I haven’t hit any maxes but from my working loads, I’m the strongest I’ve ever been, I look good, and I’ve put on a few pounds of muscle and at my heaviest. I’ve also been playing some pretty good ultimate frisbee this month around some good competition. Even with that, I have much room for improvement. I plan to play fall league back in Austin unless I decide I have time to play for U Texas. Even with that being said, working with elite athletes and competing against those much more athletic than I almost put me to the throes of jealousy. It can be demoralizing if you’re not aware of your strengths and weaknesses in the grand scheme of things. I will share a few specific instances of such low moments as well as the consistent messages in the rebound of it, we are all different and have various skills, abilities, and interests.
In high school, I was a rather decent 300m hurdler. Props were in abundance being a short guy who raced the hurdles well. My last race of high school I missed qualifying for states because I tripped over a couple of hurdles badly and came in 4th, but still ran my best time at state qualifiers. I always took pride in being somewhat fast and strong although short lightweight. My world was slightly shaken when I joined my college track team my sophomore year and I had a teammate who was about my same height and weight but was much faster and stronger than I. He was one of the best sprinters in our conference (DII), he is a powerlifter now and was crazy strong then, and had a much better physique. I joined having put on 13lbs as all I did my freshman year was eat and occasionally exercise. I was like, “Damn, I wanna be like him when I grow up hahaha” (joking). Over the years I started to grow resentful of myself as I became upset with my talent not being up to par. Aiming to dig myself out of this hole full of self-pity and resentment, I reflected on our relationship. He was extremely humble about his abilities, encouraged me about the activities I did on campus, and he never rubbed my bad college track career in the face of my desire to coach. I came to realize it was all me making this “problem” that I had with myself. Keeping this in mind, I realized how foolish it was of me to feel resentful of myself and envious of someone who lifted my spirits. Never disregard the things you do well for others, good people will never forget you for it.
Last summer I, again, climbed into my soapbox. I was at USA Track and Field Junior Olympics in Houston TX, as a young hurdler I had been coaching for 3 years qualified to race. I had been having a conversation with my mother to catch up on my summer and somehow the conversation drifted to ultimate frisbee. I was playing in a summer league in Austin TX and feeling some (likely self-induced) pressure to be the superstar, which I was not. For the most part, ultimate frisbee is played by mostly white people (in the US) with a far second place crowd of Indian people. Black people haven’t gotten into the sport as much (I’ve been trying hard to push friends into it) and I tend to feel pressure to be the most athletic person on the field as there’s disproportionate number of blacks as superior athletes in the NFL, NBA, athletics (track), etc. With that comes a stereotype, especially because I am faster than many people I play with. Although one can only assume pride as many great athletes worldwide are from the African Diaspora, it becomes annoying when people are expecting me at 5’4” with a very modest vertical, to out jump someone who is 6’1” fairly athletic, regardless of ethnicity. I told my mother I was starting to upset with my body about not being the most talented player and that I felt an odd pressure from all my white teammates (and opponents) that I should be more of a playmaker. My mom’s advice totaled into telling me not to worry about anybody else’s expectation other than my own and to be the best athlete I can be. She commented on how long I had been playing and my actual skill level. I began to understand that I had only been consistently playing for about 3-4 months and was going through a “learning how to properly play” slump and I easily could’ve been overthinking this. I got upset over my month-long slump where I was in bad positions and playing poor defense as I was trying to understand the game better. Outside of that, I still played very well and contributed a lot. We ended up winning the league and the only game we lost was that week I was in Houston. Know your worth and be proud of it, and if something’s a problem to you, check and make sure it actually is a problem.
My last example of my needing to get over myself occurred during my internship at EXOS. One of the interns was my size and strong as hell; I mean, he deadlifts almost twice as much as me, throws around weight on the squat and bench that I was trying to get my max to! I started to feel pressure (from myself) that I NEEDED to be much stronger than I was and lift more. Quite frankly once I got out of my brief soapbox, I realized, he is a competitive powerlifter and he loves lifting weights much more than I do (I’m a on the field/track lover). I later had a “man in the mirror” conversation I realized, he many times complimented my speed and movement efficiency, including while I was giving former and potential NFL players problems in ultimate frisbee at work. I again had to tell myself to stop creating issues for myself because someone always will be better than you at something and you’ll always be better than another at another task. We must learn to grow and celebrate our strengths while accepting and improving our weaknesses.
Self-acceptance is something many people struggle with as we all have things about ourselves that we wish we could do better. Embrace being uniquely you as there is nothing in the world quite like you, quirks and all. I hope you’ve well received the theme of this article, don’t become so enthralled with the qualities of others that you begin to belittle and resent yourself. We are all different and there surely is something about you that others embrace. Most importantly, you are enough and worthy, simply because you are you! Learn and grow yourself daily! Any comments or stories, share below!