To The Youth Athlete I Was, And The Adult Athlete I'll Never Be

To The Youth Athlete I Was, And The Adult Athlete I'll Never Be

It's amazing how much your passion grows when fulfilling it is no longer an option.
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It’s hard for people that have never fallen in love with a sport to understand the loss when it comes time to find new passions. But everyone can understand the pain of losing something they adore and the never-ending need to explore the “what ifs” and the “I would haves.” As a previous youth, high school and collegiate athlete, it hasn’t been an easy transition into a life without a team, a coach, a practice schedule, and pregame jitters. So, I’ve decided to write a letter to my past and the future I never had to help both myself in coping and athletes or passionates everywhere who are in need of a little inspiration.

To My 14-year-old Self,

If only you knew the way things would play out. Trust me, you wouldn’t be dreading practice or arguing with your dad about how a high school social life is more important than a sport. You’d be working your butt off knowing that the competitive edge and team environment would once be gone without your say or acknowledgment. You should be enjoying practice instead of wishing you could go hang out at Starbucks or spending the evening at the movies.

Looking back on it in a few years, some of those practices will be the best times of your life. Love your teammates: cherish their friendship and their talents. They are your rocks and the only friends who will understand the demand of the sport and the pressure of getting a scholarship. There will come a day when no matter how badly you want to, no matter how hard you work, no matter how many braces you wear, you won’t be able to play anymore. And trust me, it’s going to hurt. It’s going to hurt very badly.

You’re going to want to visit every doctor in the country to reverse the damage that has been done, but it’s just not possible. Every night, you will go to bed wishing you still had your talents and a coach that appreciated them. You’re going to miss the soreness after a long tournament weekend, and you’re going to ache to feel the sensation of pride when your team wins an important game.

The field is a sanctuary—you’ll understand that once life actually begins to get stressful. You’ll need your safe zone and a scapegoat but you won’t have one. I wish you would put more time into one-on-one training and focus more heavily being a better player than you were yesterday. More than anything, I want you to cherish it more. I want you to love it more than anything else in the world. Make smart decisions. When it comes time to rehab, don’t skip it or make excuses for slacking off. I can promise you that one day you will regret every moment you took this sport and the talents you were given for granted. There’s a huge chance that if you work to the best of your abilities, you won’t have to write this letter in six years.

To the Athlete I Could Have Been,

For lack of a better phrase, I hate you. I’m jealous, angry and heartbroken that I’m not in your position. You have no idea how lucky you are to have your health and the ability to do what you love. Do you appreciate it? Do you work every single day to reach your full potential? I sure do hope so. Life isn’t always so fair. It’s a rollercoaster of unexpected turns and flips. You never know what could happen or how quickly it all could be taken away.

Be proactive. Take the necessary precautions to preserve your body. I hope you play every single day like it could be your last time on the field. I hope every sprint is faster than your last, every pass is more accurate than your previous and every decision is for the greater interest of your team. When you have the chance to go on an extra run or do an extra set of squats, do them. It’s amazing how much you want to work out and exert energy the second that you are no longer able to without pain or injuries. Most importantly, I hope you never lose the passion you have for the sport.

Today, without the ability to play, my passion is stronger than ever. I think once you mature and understand the blessing of being an athlete and having something like that to believe in and work for, the love for the game is at its peak. There’s nothing worse than being incapable of channeling that love and adoration for something I once didn’t appreciate. That’s what kills me most.

I wish more than anything in this world that I could be you. I’d give up all the free time, the hours of sleep and the social life for just one more minute on the field. Don’t give up on it. Work for as long as you can. Because once that chapter of your life is gone, there’s no turning back the pages.

Sincerely,

Gina

Your future and present self with four ACL surgeries, one meniscus surgery and 0 more days of playing the beautiful game.

Cover Image Credit: Lifetouch

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If You've Ever Been Called Overly-Emotional Or Too Sensitive, This Is For You

Despite what they have told you, it's a gift.
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Emotional: a word used often nowadays to insult someone for their sensitivity towards a multitude of things.

If you cry happy tears, you're emotional. If you express (even if it's in a healthy way) that something is bothering you, you're sensitive. If your hormones are in a funk and you just happen to be sad one day, you're emotional AND sensitive.

Let me tell you something that goes against everything people have probably ever told you. Being emotional and being sensitive are very, very good things. It's a gift. Your ability to empathize, sympathize, and sensitize yourself to your own situation and to others' situations is a true gift that many people don't possess, therefore many people do not understand.

Never let someone's negativity toward this gift of yours get you down. We are all guilty of bashing something that is unfamiliar to us: something that is different. But take pride in knowing God granted this special gift to you because He believes you will use it to make a difference someday, somehow.

This gift of yours was meant to be utilized. It would not be a part of you if you were not meant to use it. Because of this gift, you will change someone's life someday. You might be the only person that takes a little extra time to listen to someone's struggle when the rest of the world turns their backs.

In a world where a six-figure income is a significant determinant in the career someone pursues, you might be one of the few who decides to donate your time for no income at all. You might be the first friend someone thinks to call when they get good news, simply because they know you will be happy for them. You might be an incredible mother who takes too much time to nurture and raise beautiful children who will one day change the world.

To feel everything with every single part of your being is a truly wonderful thing. You love harder. You smile bigger. You feel more. What a beautiful thing! Could you imagine being the opposite of these things? Insensitive and emotionless?? Both are unhealthy, both aren't nearly as satisfying, and neither will get you anywhere worth going in life.

Imagine how much richer your life is because you love other's so hard. It might mean more heartache, but the reward is always worth the risk. Imagine how much richer your life is because you are overly appreciative of the beauty a simple sunset brings. Imagine how much richer your life is because you can be moved to tears by the lessons of someone else's story.

Embrace every part of who you are and be just that 100%. There will be people who criticize you for the size of your heart. Feel sorry for them. There are people who are dishonest. There are people who are manipulative. There are people who are downright malicious. And the one thing people say to put you down is "you feel too much." Hmm...

Sounds like more of a compliment to me. Just sayin'.

Cover Image Credit: We Heart It

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Andy Ruiz Jr. May Not Look Like The Typical Boxer, But It Doesn't Make His Victory Any Less Deserved

Andy Ruiz Jr. just proved that dreams can come true.

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On June 1, boxing fans witnessed something special as Andy 'Destroyer' Ruiz Jr. defeated Anthony Joshua via TKO after going seven rounds in the ring at Madison Square Garden in New York City to become the first ever Mexican-American heavyweight champion of the world. Ruiz Jr. (33-1) was a heavy underdog (+1100) heading into the match-up with Joshua (22-1) but ultimately flipped the script to hand the British fighter his first professional loss ever. Surely the fight will go down as one of the greatest moments in sports history.

Some members of the media and fans have been quick to label the fight as a 'fluke' and 'rigged' which in the end is no surprise to me. That always happens in the sports world. Many did not believe we would get this result yet failed to remember the one rule of sports -- expect the unexpected. Over the past week, I've been coming to the defense of Ruiz Jr. in the wake of others choosing to call him a joke.

I was shocked and surprised to hear two of my favorite sports analysts, Stephen A. Smith and Shannon Sharpe, make fun of Ruiz Jr. and frame him as just a guy that looked like 'Butterbean.' When I viewed their tweets on social media it honestly made me upset. Sure, Ruiz Jr. may not have fit the mold of what a professional boxer should look like, but they simply should not have just judged a book by its cover.

Personally, I thought it was disrespectful for Smith and Sharpe to throw shade at Ruiz Jr. in the way they did. I felt like they should have done a better job of acknowledging the winner considering the result of the match. Yet choosing to bash someone because of their physical composition appeared like a low blow. The very foundation of sports allows people of all shapes, sizes, genders, races, and backgrounds to compete -- that's why most people follow them in the first place.

Smith was open behind his reasoning for his tweets in which I'd like to shed some light on. Smith was upset about how boxing time after time contains elements of corruption with fans having to wait years until promoters schedule big fights. He along with other followers of the sport were looking forward to the highly anticipated yet potential future match-up between Joshua and fellow heavyweight Deontay Wilder. Smith believes that by Ruiz Jr. beating Joshua it essentially diminished the chances of that fight ever happening with the same amount of buildup, but that still doesn't provide any excuse for mocking the new heavyweight champ.

Ruiz Jr. was there for a reason and ultimately seized the opportunity that was right in front of him -- that's not his fault for getting the job done. Just because someone doesn't look like the part doesn't mean they don't possess the same qualities and characteristics as their counterparts. The following pair of videos display the amount of talent Ruiz Jr. does have in the ring. Even fellow boxer Canelo Alvarez and former UFC lightweight/featherweight champion Conor McGregor acknowledge that and have come out to say something on their behalf.

Unfortunately, I don't expect much to change because most will stand their ground and continue to behave the same way. All I'm saying is I did not enjoy some of the top figures within sports media stereotyping Ruiz Jr. based on his looks. I would think that we would be better than that and recognize that anyone can accomplish something great in this world. It all just starts with a simple dream.

I understand and respect other people's takes on this subject, maybe I'm looking into things deeper than what they are, but it struck a chord with me and I felt the need to say something about it.

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