Growing up as a competitive athlete changes the way you interact with the world and the world of sport. Passion for sport can change your life and impact your positively, forever, but this is not without its shadow effects. Not only do you refine your physique but your mental strength is honed as well. When we grow older, no longer a rubber band with the almost limitless capacity to stretch and grown our capabilities, we begin to shift our state of mind. As we turn to academics, work, relationships the band does not snap but it lapses. It is hard to retain your strength when distractions arise and the focus shifts away from the all-consuming pursuit of perfection in your sport. However, it is too hard to stop. We are drawn to things we excel at, the determination to improve persists and outside pressure from family teammates and coaches begins solely to rest on oneself. I put more pressure on myself to be a better climber now than I ever did in my youth, guess what? I was better when I was younger. The determination to remain an athlete is a hard one to break. The word athlete elicits awe-inspiring expectations. When this is part and parcel to our identity it is even hard to pick up a new sport without striving to be as equally engaged and respected as an athlete in this activity Again, we push pressure and pressure pushes back. We injure ourselves more easily and yet, keep pressing the start button on new challenges and adventures.
Hobbyist, a word with such negative connotation to the athlete. We loathe them, creeping into our sport, lacking the persistence and tenacity to fully commit. But maybe the hobbyist has it right. Perhaps finding the balance between new pursuits and old passions can be interwoven into a new phase a life. We trade our athlete identity for one more forgiving. A softer side of what was once all-consuming and in this, we can round out the corners of our personality. To check only the athlete box is a very unforgiving position to put oneself in. When I decided that I was not a climber but that climbing was an important part of my life, it felt like a step into something unknown. This had been who I was for most of my life. It is not time to move on but it is time to refocus, expand the definition of me to encompass more parts of what makes me, me. Searching for what makes you, you is not one thing, one sport, one passion. We are all part athlete, part hobbyist dabbling in new things, part student of a new school. My new position is to do things where I am smiling and/or learning something new.
This is a simple criterion to put you in the right place, continuing old sports and picking up new ones as well. If one of the two conditions are not met and you are finding yourself physically and emotionally exhausted, stop. And it is really hard to tell an athlete to stop, but stop we must to ultimately keep going, preserving our elasticity.