Defined as steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles or discouragement.
My first encounter with organized scholastic sports came as I entered my sophomore year in high school. Trying out for the junior varsity basketball team taught me a life lesson. I learned at that young impressionable age that the emerging athlete inside me would have struggles, both physically and mentally. I would have to tap into a quality that was (already unknowingly) ingrained in my heart and soul that (when summoned) could pull out the beautiful thoughts to overcome the ugly fire of self-doubt.
I had two weeks to practice my dribble, foul-shot and passing skills. Rumor had it that coach had one rule that she would not slack on, a rule that would determine if you were on the court playing or cheering from the stands. She required each and every player that wanted to be on her team to finish a mile run in ten minutes or less, without walking. I really wanted on the team.
I was not a runner at the time and this limit proved to be a challenge for me. I tried over and over to meet the cut-off but was either disqualified for walking or not meeting the time. I started to let the self-doubt creep in to my thoughts. “You can’t do this. You are not going to make this team and you will look stupid in front of your friends. Just quit and call it a day.” Negative talk is ugly. If left alone, it can fester and wreak havoc on your self-esteem. For an athlete, it can stop you before you even start.
The assistant coach walked up to me and reminded me that I was the only one that needed to complete the requirement. I shared with her that I didn’t think that I could do it. Salty tears began to roll down my face as I felt defeated. The coach looked at me and said “I know you can do it. How about I run it with you?” I was not used to hearing encouraging words.
I remember it being a damp, grey day. It had just finished raining and smell of dirt and grass hung in the air. We stepped on to the track and I tightened my laces. I took two deep breaths to stretch my lungs and rid myself of the butterflies that fluttered in my gut.
We began the run and after the first lap, coach started to put distance between us. Thoughts filled my head; ‘great, just great. Now I am going to fail with coach, the one person who is putting faith in my completing this. I am going to let her down.’ I began to slow, but something would not let my legs stop. They kept moving.
What my coach had figured out after watching me attempt this umpteen times, was that I needed a carrot; something ahead of me to chase. As my mind raced with all the reasons I would fail, my steps striking the track were turning over, faster.
I ran along the soft curve of the white lane line, searching for the finish. Coach was already there and she was cheering me on. “Come on! Finish Strong!” echoed off the metal bleachers. I heard a slight ‘click’ as I ran past her and in a few strides, stopped and bent over, resting my hands on top of my knees.
Coach’s shoes stopped next to mine. Then a hand gently placed on my heaving back. “Look at this!” she said as a stop watch floated into view. “Do you see that?!”
The clock read: 08:59:12.
A slow smirk grew from the corner of my mouth.
“I’ve never seen someone try as hard as you. You just keep at it until you get it. Your greatest gift as an athlete is your perseverance. Never, ever lose that. Congrats and welcome to the team. I knew you could do it.”
The athlete in me was born. I learned that perseverance is the beautiful result of putting ugly self-doubt to rest.
I can do whatever I put my mind to.
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