Sunday, November 13, 2011

High school sports

High school in general is a point in life where kids begin to learn and develop qualities that will help them later on in life. Within high school, there are different parts that teach you different things. You've got your classes you go to every day that are divided into different subjects to teach you the basics of that subject and to develop your problem-solving skills on different ways. Then there is sports, my favorite aspect of high school. Different sports need their players to meet certain physical and mental characteristics, therefore developing different traits necessary for life. My high school offers many different sports, all the main ones such as football and baseball for the boys, and volleyball and soccer for the girls, as well as a bunch of others, such as tennis, badminton, wrestling, basketball, and my favorite, cross country.
            "Four fifty-nine! Four fifty-nine! You are looking great bud, keep it up!" A coach from another team called out to his runner as we finished the first loop and passed the first mile marker. We were about one-third of the way  through with the race, as this particular course is a 5k, five kilometers or about 3.1 miles, and I was already breathing heavily, a little too heavily to be completely honest. Despite the rapidly increasing breathing rate and the longer, more calm breaths being replaced by shorter gasps, I kept close with the pack. There was one guy from Del Campo who had gotten out to a big lead and had distanced himself from the rest of us, but the next fifteen people were all within ten seconds of each other. We neared the turn to go into the loop again for the second time and I was hurting. My legs ached, my lungs burned, and I started to drop a little bit, four spots to be exact. I fell from 10th to 14th, the back of the pack we had formed. My confidence was fading fast, and as the other runners passed by, I couldn't help thinking back to that rather fast start I had and second guessing it. My mind began to spin and all the things a runner is not supposed to worry about during a race came flooding in. The thought of letting my team down if I fell off from the pack, letting myself down, and every pain felt a million times worse. As we went up and over the first of many hills in that loop I heard my coach, "You need to move up, Jordan. We need you right now! Don't let them get away! Move!" I began to think about everything I had done to prepare for this particular race, the seven months of exhausting training I had done to do well here. I began to pick up speed and I passed a guy going over a hill. The pack had stretched out so I had a little more ground to make up than I would have liked, but I began to move up. The finish line was about 800 meters away and I knew I had to get at least one more guy. I shot passed him and ended up finishing just good enough; good enough to be the first person my coach has ever had qualify to race at the State meet.
            Cross country has taught me many different things. I run myself to exhaustion every day, just so I can do it again the next day, and the next day, and then in the upcoming race. It's voluntarily putting yourself through pain just because. It teaches its participants mental toughness and determination, the will to never let yourself give up, no matter the pain you are in. The previously mentioned race is an example of these traits put on display. I was hurting in every muscle I have in my legs, yet I pushed on. My lungs burned from the shortage of oxygen getting to them, yet I pushed on. I had an abdominal hernia, so every step I took resulted in my receiving a little jolt of pain in my abs, yet I pushed on. I pushed on because my mind has been molded to deal with pain, to accept it as a matter of life and move on because if you don't, there is zero chance that you will have even a smidgen of success in the sport of cross country.
            There are more sports than just cross country, as you know, which is where other traits are acquired. Now I don't have a story for football as I did for cross country because I do not play football, but unlike cross country where the concept of mental toughness overrides all others, the game of football requires mainly physical toughness. In football, players run down the field as fast as they can to hit another player as hard as they can. For sixty straight minutes, players mash into each other, seeing who can hit the hardest the longest because whoever that is, whichever team is the most physically fit will usually end up winning the game.
            Another sport that contributes a different trait is tennis. Tennis is not about toughness, mentally or physically, it is about being smart. Just because you can hit a tennis ball harder than your opponent does not mean you will beat them. In tennis you must know when it would be better to smash or to go for a finesse shot into a corner where your opponent cannot reach. You must know when to come up right next to the net to try shorten your opponent's reaction time and when to stay back and let them come to you. 
            The developing of greater reactions and greater reaction speed can be credited to baseball. How long do you have to react when a guy throws you a 90 mph fastball? What makes it even tougher is that you do not know whether it's going to be a fastball or a curveball or a changeup or anything else. You have to read it out of the pitcher's hand and immediately react to what is coming.
            Every trait a sport helps you develop can be used later on in life. When you and your spouse are going through that fight that may lead to a divorce, mental toughness comes into play. That physical toughness comes in handy when you are redecorating your house to make it safer for the baby that is on its way. When you meet that "carpet cleaner" who says he'll clean your carpets for free, those street smarts will kick in and save you from losing all you've got. and who knows what's going to happen when you're driving down the street in the pouring rain and you can't see more than ten feet in front of you; that's where reactions come in. All sports benefit you in some way or another down the road, so get out there and participate.

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