Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Selfishness of the Sport

What sets apart a good athlete from a GREAT athlete?

Everyone can acknowledge the fact that it comes down to more than gear or coaching staff or (on some level) raw talent. A GREAT athlete has something much, much more.

It is my theory that these athletes are born. They are born, not necessarily just within a great gene pool or notable resources, but rather something more involving synapses and a mental capacity for the entire game itself.

This is an area in which I have always struggled. I identify with being an athlete through and through; however, that has never been enough. There has always been a missing electric firing that has kept me at more of a neutral than an acceleration. In high school, I never excelled to my full potential athletically. and I realize that now. Come to think of it, I realized it then too. I was afraid. I seemed to always be afraid. Afraid of being good. Afraid of failing after being good. Afraid of thinking I was good only to fail. Afraid of acting elite, when I was really a bouncy blondish girl from South Denver.

Thus, I never fully succeeded. I never fully pushed myself and I never found that part in my brain that sets elite athletes from the rest of us.

Lately, I have been thinking about this a lot. Comparing those that I know that ARE elite athletes and quietly picking at their brains and analyzing attitudes. In this, I have found that these individuals are, in fact, different than the rest of us, and that difference lies in the ego.

Outwardly, this sounds like a terrible notion. You need to be a selfish, narcissistic person to really succeed? Well folks, this is partly true.

I have never considered myself to be selfish, if anything I have always been consumed with the opposite: trying to do everything for everyone else and, many times, neglecting myself entirely. My personal position on this spectrum can actually be considered quite a detriment to me and has led to many a struggle both internally and externally.

However, in my research of the athlete's brain, it has suddenly become apparent that the more involved you become with the sport, the less involved you become with everything else-- thus becoming more selfish. Let me explain... The more I train, the less I spend those hours with friends and family. The more I desire to train, the less I desire to spend those longing hours with those same friends and family.

Here's another, fairly insignificant, yet noteworthy, example:
Yesterday I got my hair cut. I mean chopped. This occurrence isn't itself a huge deal; however, the timing is. I have been donating my hair for years. Growing and cutting, growing and cutting. It has worked well for me, bringing purpose to my hair and feeling satisfied for the cause. But yesterday, I cut it too soon. I selfishly cut my hair to make my daily routine easier in light of all my swimming. I sacrificed something very meaningful for me in order to pursue something equally meaningful... yet selfish.

I'm not sure what this all means. Am I on the road to becoming a selfish hermit who has self-ostracized from all human contact? I really hope not. Am I on a different, yet more subtle road, one that involves greater success and achievement as I become more competitive in the water?

Regardless, in the end, all of this swimming is really to provide an example to EVERYONE that dreams can be achieved no matter the actual vehicle for it. So, perhaps this selfishness can be counter-balanced...

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