Taking A Step Back From My Sport Allowed Me To Be Able To Work On These 3 Things

Taking A Step Back From My Sport Allowed Me To Be Able To Work On These 3 Things

Sometimes you need time away to appreciate the things you love.

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Since the age of nine, horses have been my whole life. Before college, I never had your typical teenage experience. My weekends were spent driving two hours one way to train with a top show barn. My mom and I lived out of our suitcases during the summers, traveling from one show to the next.

The only glimpse of the senior prom I got was through Snapchat's my friends sent of them having the time of their life, while I was going to bed at nine to make sure I had plenty of sleep to compete the next day. I even graduated early to go work for a show barn in Florida for five months. I missed out on a lot, but it never felt that way because of how passionate I was about the sport. I was all in, I loved the thrill of competing, the early mornings, the long days, and most of all: the horses. If you would have told me that I would be here writing about feeling burned out a year ago, I would have laughed.

Going away to college and having to put a bit of pause on my athletic career allowed me to take a step back, breathe, and realize there is so much more than horse shows and blue ribbons to this world. If I could instill a piece of wisdom to my younger self it would be that taking a step back at times is the best thing you can do for yourself. Here is what I learned:

1. Mental health

As many of you know, the pressure of succeeding can put a toll on anyone. I have always been extremely hard on myself, but when I was showing almost every weekend I really started to notice that I would feel upset more than I felt happy. I could win the class but still, come out of the ring criticizing myself over every little thing that went wrong. Because of this, I went into the ring nervous and doubtful. It wasn't fun anymore.

After taking a step back, I have realized that there will always be ups and downs in any sport. I now go into the ring much more confident and I come out smiling- even when it didn't go as planned. There will always be another chance.

2. Physical health

Like any sport, riding takes a toll on your body. After working in Florida for five months, riding up to 12 horses a day, I really felt like something was wrong with my back. However, I pushed through the pain, convincing myself of the quote "no pain no gain". I continued to ignore it, until one day it was unbearable.

I went to the doctor and sure enough, I had herniated my L5 disc. He told us this was completely preventable if I would have rested or taken an hour out of my day to ice and stretch when the pain started. After months of healing and being on a first name basis with my chiropractor, I have realized just how important it is to put my wellness first.

3. Relationships

Taking a step back has also allowed me to develop better relationships with myself, family, and friends. Before, I had such a narrow mind frame and would allow my performance to dictate how I treated people that day. Now after a rough day, I am much better at putting it behind me and not dwelling on it.

I have also realized that I need time to just be "still". Practicing yoga, or meditating for five minutes has made a world of a difference in my relationship with myself (yes, that is a thing).

While packing up to go to school this past August, knowing I would be taking a step back from the sport I love, I felt as though I would never ride as well as I did when it consumed my whole life. But I couldn't have been more wrong. I am now going into the show ring with a clear mind and leaving with a smile on my face.

To my surprise, it has been more than me starting to have fun again- I am riding better, and getting more consistent results than I had before. So, to all those athletes out there that fear to take a step back from their own sport, I am here to tell you that it may just be the best thing you can do for your performance and yourself...

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To The Coach Who Ruined The Game For Me

We can't blame you completely, but no one has ever stood up to you before.
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I know you never gave it a second thought, the idea that you're the reason I and many others, never went any farther in our athletic careers.

I know you didn’t sincerely care about our mental health, as long as we were physically healthy and our bodies were working enough to play. It’s obvious your calling wasn’t coaching and you weren’t meant to work with young adults, some who look to you as a parent figure or a confidant.

I also know that if we were to express our concerns about the empty feeling we began to feel when we stepped onto the court, you wouldn’t have taken the conversation seriously because it wasn’t your problem.

I know we can't blame you completely, no one has ever stood up to you before. No one said anything when girls would spend their time in the locker room crying because of something that was said or when half the team considered quitting because it was just too much.

We can't get mad at the obvious favoritism because that’s how sports are played.

Politics plays a huge role and if you want playing time, you have to know who to befriend. We CAN get mad at the obvious mistreatment, the empty threats, the verbal abuse, “it's not what you say, its how you say it.”

We can get mad because a sport that we loved so deeply and had such passion for, was taken away from us single-handedly by an adult who does not care. I know a paycheck meant more to you than our wellbeing, and I know in a few years you probably won’t even remember who we are, but we will always remember.

We will remember how excited we used to get on game days and how passionate we were when we played. How we wanted to continue on with our athletic careers to the next level when playing was actually fun. We will also always remember the sly remarks, the obvious dislike from the one person who was supposed to support and encourage us.

We will always remember the day things began to change and our love for the game started to fade.

I hope that one day, for the sake of the young athletes who still have a passion for what they do, you change.

I hope those same athletes walk into practice excited for the day, to get better and improve, instead of walking in with anxiety and worrying about how much trouble they would get into that day. I hope those athletes play their game and don’t hold back when doing it, instead of playing safe, too afraid to get pulled and benched the rest of the season.

I hope they form an incredible bond with you, the kind of bond they tell their future children about, “That’s the coach who made a difference for me when I was growing up, she’s the reason I continued to play.”

I don’t blame you for everything that happened, we all made choices. I just hope that one day, you realize that what you're doing isn’t working. I hope you realize that before any more athletes get to the point of hating the game they once loved.

To the coach that ruined the game for me, I hope you change.

Cover Image Credit: Author's photo

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The Anaheim Ducks Are In A World Of Pain

The Ducks have now lost 19 out of their last 21 games amidst a multitude of problems and a rebuild may be at its beginning stages after Randy Carlyle's firing from head coach.

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On December 17, 2018, the Anaheim Ducks had just defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road 4-2, and sat in a playoff spot with a 19-11-5 record, good for 43 points and 2nd in the Pacific Division. Since then, the Ducks have lost 19 out of their last 21 games, going 2-15-4 during that stretch, now sitting at 21-26-9 and 51 points on February 12th, eight points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. After their last loss, head coach Randy Carlyle was finally axed and general manager Bob Murray stepped in as the interim coach. Many issues exist currently and for the foreseeable future in Anaheim, which could see its first sustained rebuild since the early 2000s, where the team missed the playoffs three years in a row.

One of the Ducks' bigger issues is the lack of goal scoring throughout the lineup. The leading player in goals is forward Jakob Silfverberg, with 12 in 47 games played. That's not enough for a team that is 56 games into the season. The overall points production is quite anemic too. Captain and center Ryan Getzlaf leads the club with 36 points in 50 games, and he is the only player with more than 30 points to this date.

Injuries are also factoring into the equation: center Adam Henrique and defenseman Brandon Montour are the only Ducks to have played in every game this season, with players such as forwards in Silfverberg, Getzlaf, Rickard Rakell, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler, and Ondrej Kase as well as defensemen Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm, and goaltender Ryan Miller all spending at least five games on the injured reserve.

With so many players in and out of the lineup, not to mention that most of the fill-ins are inexperienced at the NHL level, it is hard to develop any sort of chemistry for an extended period of time. Goaltender John Gibson has been unable to maintain grade A performance in net, as his save percentage is now at 0.914, below where he started the season. With all of this considered, the Ducks have a tough future ahead when considering their salary cap situation.

Perry and Getzlaf, both of who will turn 34 in May, have a cap hit of $8.625 and $8.25 million for the next two years after the 2018-19 season, while Kesler, who turns 35 in August, makes $6.825 million for the next 3 years after this season concludes. Perry has only played in five games this year due to injuries, Getzlaf's production is declining and not up to par with how much he is paid, and Kesler has only six points in 48 games, and he also only played in 44 games last season due to injuries, scoring just 14 points.

These expensive contracts are untradeable unless they attach a younger asset in a trade, like prospects Sam Steel, Max Jones, Maxim Comtois, or Troy Terry. It is possible that Kesler and/or Perry will be bought out of their contracts in the offseason, meaning they will save money against the salary cap for the remainder of those contract years, but will have portions of that contract counting against the cap for a few years more.

Despite these bad contracts which currently prevent the Ducks from signing more than one big free agent, the aforementioned prospects will most likely see more substantial time in Anaheim next season, which could boost the club, but it is unlikely that any of them take the league by storm to make the Ducks a contender again. For this to happen, young forwards like Rakell, Kase, and Daniel Sprong will have to exceed expectations, while the defensive core will also need to step it up compared to their performance this, which makes them look overpaid.

As it stands, the Ducks are 4th in the 2019 NHL Draft Lottery and could see a highly touted prospect come to Anaheim next year, but the current roster and prospect core will need bounce back seasons or the management group will be forced to blow up much of the roster, which would almost guarantee missing the playoffs again.

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