Training For “The 10”

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.


2 responses to “Training For “The 10”

  1. Inspiration or Bullying

    If the penultimate value of what you do is the resolute determination to risk crushing your body in the pursuit of physical and emotional stamina, your life goals are so pathetically shallow, that you should envy every child that quits your team. You are a pathetic jock, NOT someone to admire; your parents should be ashamed they taught you that, and now you are determined to pass along their infantile romantic fantasies of glory . . . the LAST thing a child needs to learn from a coach, is the determination to ignore their bodies’ warnings of over use, at least in the pursuit of some stupid little ball in a stupid little game, all the while fantasizing they are some sort of warrior. I’d rather hear how you inspired those kids to know they are worth something, not for their physical exploits, but because of ANY of what they pursue, with determination, grit and effort.
    Demanding effort without judgement is misbegotten bullying, not coaching. The real hero you admire is the single mom, who goes to work every day, comes home to her kids tells them she loves them, and how proud she is of just who they are, and makes them dinner , and maybe mows the lawn on the weekend . . . she IS the example of the warrior you crave to be. Your Heraclitus was the true pussy, refusing to take the position his family and life offered him, ending up as some spoiled vegan bum, wandering in the mountains babbling incomprehensible, misanthropic epithets, until he died, alone, and was buried ignomineously, in the market. Some hero, some warrior.

  2. Perhaps, in this pedantic rant, our friend, um, Anonymous, has taken a few things out of context:
    1. First and most importantly, just because an athlete would rather puke, injure himself or die than quit doesn’t mean we would let him. I mean, are you even serious here?
    2. This is an elite lacrosse team. We are looking for high-level athletes and their skill sets mean very little if they are not fit, i.e. cannot play four quarters of our “stupid game with the stupid ball.” If you are unfit you will get injured or get your teammates injured. If we took everybody, challenging none of our athletes to go beyond their perceived limitations mentally and physically, we would not be elite we would be mediocre. This is how we get things in life like the light bulb and freedom of speech.
    3. Nowhere, in any of this, did I say that what is performed on a field is the penultimate of anything. In fact, our goal is the exact opposite, we hope our athletes apply what they learn in the game to the much more important things such as family, work and the difficult choices most of them will be faced with from time to time in life.
    4. OF COURSE any pursuit, as long as it isn’t criminal, that engages the virtues of “determination, grit and effort” are worthwhile. That’s exactly what I’m saying you Anonymous twit. Determination, grit and effort are the results of NOT quitting when things are difficult. Perseverance is the result of mental fortitude, which can be forged in any number of capacities. INCLUDING playing a stupid game with a stupid ball.
    5. As for the off-color remarks about Heraclitus, whom I am by no means a superfan of you are a typing oxymoron in action: How can one be spoiled when REFUSING his Mommy and Daddy’s (and Life’s) offered position? How can one be incomprehensible and yet have one’s epithets be labeled misanthropic? How can one live the life of one’s choosing and still be called a bum? Is it because he was a vegan I guess? I wasn’t aware vegans were bums. How can one be ignominous and still be read 25oo years later? And, both Heraclitus, nor myself, ever claimed to be a warrior.
    5. We demand effort WITH judgment so I guess we are not misbegotten bullies. That’s what coaching is: we JUDGE the effort and then we correct it or applaud it. That’s how athletes get better at achieving their goals on the field. And then hopefully translate those lessons into their lives OFF the field.
    6. Their are many heroes in this world, including Single Moms, and, most likely, Single Dads I would imagine. Playing a game has never made anyone a hero and there are many, many ways in life to judge that warrior spirit. I’m just not talking about any of them here.
    7. By the way, Anonymous, isn’t it the mark of a bully to push, shove and be grossly inaccurate and perverse in order to get what you want? Or does THAT just have to be physical? You, Anonymous, are an arrogant, disenchanted, cowardly ninny. What virtue did you ever quit on that made your life better?

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