I have promised a friend that I will assist him in coaching an all-star team of high school athletes in the sport of lacrosse. I am both excited and terrified at the prospect.
Lacrosse is what I played in high school and college, long before I began searching for deeper levels of contest such as rugby, surfing and mma. Lacrosse allowed me to come to terms with the foundation of my character. It tested me long before I understood under what parameters I was being examined. The sport of lacrosse allowed me to take what my parents had taught me and forge it into my own set of values, rules for conduct and spirit. I still carry these virtues with me today. I still credit the game of lacrosse for showing me what my mother and father had spelled out for me since I was born but which I had to chose, on my own, when it was time.
Now I take this responsibility on my shoulders in an effort to bring it to the next generation. It is not so much a matter of “paying it forward” as it is a sense of necessary duty. This is what scares me. Will I do it right?
When it comes to physical contests (and life) I believe in one thing more than anything else: never quitting. I might slow down, I might puke, I might even get injured, but I believe in always pushing forward for as long as I am able. My body will have to break before my mind does. I practice this is the gym constantly. This mindset is my strength on the rugby pitch; the reason why I can outhit and outplay guys twice my size. I’ve never thought of myself as an athlete, I just despised failure. Not a failure on the scoreboard but failure to live up to, or exceed, my capabilities because I had grown mentally fatigued. I don’t mind getting hurt if I have given everything I have to give.
Most of the kids I coach will quit at some point in their life. It doesn’t make them bad people, it will just always make them wonder, “What could have been…” That’s a heavy load to bear in life. I want to teach these kids not just the game of lacrosse, but what the game can teach you about who you are; about the necessity of walking through life with your head up, even when you get beat on, if you have given all you have to give.
If I can teach them to give it all they’ve got all the time, to grow comfortable being uncomfortable, to reach for those Large, Big Things in their life, to treat mistakes as learning tools instead of failures, to keep going when they feel it’s impossible to take another step, to despise quitting so bad that they would rather puke, suffer injury or die; then, no matter what a scoreboard says, at the end of the day I will have accomplished what I have set out to do: made them realize what it means to be a man of character, that such honesty and virtue is a choice and that it lies within us all.
No big deal, right? Some kids will get it, most, I’m afraid, will not. Some will have it naturally but, if I can reach those kids who are on the fence in terms of this sort of character and show them a way to live life in which the word “regret” will never mean a goddamn thing, then I can sleep well.
We shall see soon enough. Thus far I have lived my life without regret. I plan on continuing this way for as long as I am on this earth. Regret is for pussies. If we persevere when things are at their worst, then what do we ever have to regret? We’re all gonna die some day, might as well go down standing up.
Perhaps Heraclitus said it best circa 500 B.C.: “Out of every 100 men, 10 shouldn’t even be there, 80 are just targets, 9 are the real fighters and we are lucky to have them, ah, but the one, one of them is a warrior… and he will bring the others back.”
I don’t see myself as a warrior but 34 years of battle in some way, shape or form (physical, psychological or both) have shown me that I am, with utmost humility, a fighter. I can live with that.