An Uphill Battle – Part 1

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Chapter Intro

My high school career is a mess of moments in time. Moments characterized with embarrassment, and growth. Love and friendship. Angsty feelings sharpened by hormonal craziness. School activities and forced family fun. Mentorship and triumph bracketed by challenges and failures.

If I look back I can see how the culmination of high school combined with the friends and mentors I interacted with, not only created my worldly perspectives but also shaped how I viewed myself.

The  activities I participated in became more than just something I did. They either became an outlet or a hobby. Band turned out to be somewhat of both. A personal outlet and a hobby that made me feel good. Soccer on the other hand began to wane and became something that I enjoyed outside the arena of competition. When it came to running, there is no doubt in my mind it was much more than an interest, but a passion. It was physically and mentally challenging and turned out to be the main catalyst for a lot of growth during high school.

The classes I took, the activities I participated in, and the sports I signed up for were all battlefields for my young mind and body to be challenged on, but I don’t think I would have been successful without the friends, family and mentorship. Actually I don’t think anyone who’s created a reasonably good life can say they succeeded because they did everything on their own. From my perspective, the most successful people always had help from someone. Mine came from a lot of different people, not just one.

I realized while writing this that friends, family, and mentors all have a single commonality. Sports and activities. I wouldn’t have been challenged in the ways I was if I hadn’t physically and mentally been forced to grow. It’s true that school was a challenge, but only to a point. It’s true that band was challenging physically and mentally but my interest in it waned. Only when I stepped onto a track or cross country path was I truly pushed mentally and physically. I remember many times while running how connections would be made from earlier in the day. A fight I had with my parents would become clear, or I knew how to decipher the feelings in my body.

Growth in high school would have been dwarfed had it not been connected with sports, and had sports not been connected to friends, family and mentorship I again would only have partial results.

So come along and let’s walk through a few defining stories that help explain my connections between friends, family, sports and mentorship and how it influence me to grow and thrive.

Defining Moments Part 1

Soccer, Marching, and XC?

Movement and I are one in the same. As long as I can remember, and my parents can confirm this, I’ve been on the move. Moving around the house, squirming in my chair, bouncing my leg up and down rapidly while I sit. It doesn’t matter, I’m usually moving.

At one point in school I remember hearing about ‘learning types’. One of which included a description very much like me.

I’m what you would call a kinesthetic learner. I learn and remember best when using my body. It’s no wonder I enjoy anything involving movement.

As I got more and more into running I eventually realized that when we as people move more and use logic less, our thoughts and ideas come more easily and more clearly. I have many examples of times when I have a problem that I need to think through, and instead of sitting quietly in front of the tv I start walking or running. It’s then and only then that the wheels in my brain start to turn. I’m able to clarify whatever problem I have and later I can further decipher and clarify what went through my mind. My body is the one thing I continue to listen and take advice from.

High school turned out to be one big lesson. A big lesson in how to grow up. Funny enough my freshman year of high school pounded that first lesson into my head. I had an idea that I wouldn’t let my past struggle with school take hold. So naturally I was up for a challenge. I wanted to play soccer, play in the marching band, run track and try to make it through school, which I found difficult from day one.

In high school marching band started and soccer camp both started in the summer. I was pumped about it because that meant I got to hang out at my new school a little early and get into top shape for the upcoming season.

I wasn’t disappointed, every day was new, kinda crazy, challenging, but eventually got easier.

The summer season came to a close, and my heart sank. School finally reared its ugly head and my happy-go-lucky attitude seemed to dissipate instantly.

Yep, school is gross. The problem, surprisingly, didn’t turn out to be the classwork. It ended up being the competing responsibility of soccer vs. marching band outside of school.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t readily sign up for marching band. In order to take band class in high school I was required to do marching band, usually not a problem, but I wasn’t just playing my instrument!

I remember conversations between my soccer coach and I. He was pretty tame about the whole thing. Never seemed to mind if I was a little late for practice.

My band instructor on the other hand, Mr. Hagan, was close to threatening my life with a trumpet if I didn’t show up.

He was, and probably still is, a very passionate man when it comes to music. He was one of my first mentors, even if he was a bit on the crazy side. Still love that man to this day, even if he was only around for my first year.

He taught me a lot about deliberate practice. He played the trombone and would usually end up playing along with us. Constantly pushing us to be better at reading the music. Pusing us to clear up our sound. He was looking at the small things we did wrong in order to make us better. I found it inspiring and invigorating to be around him.

When he left, it changed music for me. The passion seemed to leave the school with him.

Summer slowly turned cold and fall creeped in. Other fall sports had started popping up and one in particular caught my eye.

I noticed a few of my friends from the middle school track program running around the soccer fields. When they ran by they yelled out to me and asked if I wanted to join.

Obviously I had practice but I was curious about what they were doing. Apparently our high school had a little known cross country running program run by coach J. Although I immediately expressed disgust at the thought of running 3 ½ miles as a race I was also endlessly intrigued by the challenge of it.

I turned back to practice and let the thought go. I had soccer and band practice to worry about.

As our fall season continued our last soccer game of the season came up. For whatever reason there was a band practice that night and Mr. Hagan, again, made it very clear I was NOT to miss practice. It was getting toward the end of marching band season and he needed everyone at every practice.

Thankfully my mother took an interest in creating an environment of success, aka she took pity on me and volunteered to shepherd me from one field to the other.

The day was hot, and the sun was strong but as night fell a cold chill set in. Fall was officially on it’s way to Lewiston Maine.

The soccer field was lit up and our game was ending. I was excited. I had made up my mind that this would be the last game I would ever play. Through my struggle in the first few months, trying to make it from one practice to the other, one game to the next. I decided that I simply wasn’t interested enough in soccer to continue.

I enjoyed playing my instrument too much, but naturally, I wanted to stay on the move. I planned to join the cross country team next year. The thought of that kind of challenge interested me and I wanted to see how well I could do.

I flashed back to Field day for a moment, remembering just how far I had come.

The final whistle blew and the game was over. I already knew I was late for practice. I could hear our band playing in the distance, but thankfully my ride was waiting for me, hot sandwich in hand. Love hot food on a cold night.

We rushed over to practice arriving about 30 minutes late. I got a verbal lashing for it but I didn’t particularly care. I was somewhere I wanted to be. I fell in line, feeling slightly nauseous from eating too quickly, and began to play.

I learned through experiences like this to always keep the promises I make to others, even if it isn’t easy. I did my best not to complain and thanks to my parents, teacher, and coach I didn’t miss any games, practices or competitions. We worked around the planned schedule and I was able to participate in soccer and marching band.

The result of this experience actually helped me clarify a pathway forward. I learned through the extra pressure that I didn’t want to continue playing soccer. I wanted to run more than kick a ball.

I learned the value of deliberate practice. The act of focusing on a few things until I got them correct, and then practicing some more until I was good at them. And again, and again, and again until I was great!

I can’t imagine what life would be like without this particular experience. Sure I didn’t get straight A’s and I struggled a bit in school, but by learning how to handle multiple responsibilities at a time I paid more attention to what I had to do. I was forced to make decisions and communicate. I had to be more independent, responsible, and own up to the consequences of my actions.

Those months helped to define me as a growing young man, and helped to set the pace of my high school career.


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