Many people question whether playing sports is worth it. Of course it is. The sporting life prepares people for life. I know my baseball career helped me achieve one of the things on my bucket list.
I have run and finished eight marathons. I know, "You are happy for me!" I am patting myself on the back as I write. But seriously, I know my baseball career was mediocre at the major league level, at best. But I am convinced that my baseball career is the reason I could run that effing far, now. Nothing is better preparation for what goes into running a marathon than the trials of playing sports. Trekking the 26.2 miles of a marathon takes every bit of the lessons I learned on my big league journey. There are many ups and downs with both. Coping with adversity in my baseball career helped me finish the races. The lessons of sport help people keep on keeping on and get to the finish line.
The early years of a baseball career and preparing for a marathon are all about the dream to make the big leagues and to finish the race. I began dreaming at a young age of making the major leagues. After my playing days, I wondered what running a marathon was like. It helps to have many years of dreaming as motivation to train for such challenges. Dreams get in your heart and soul, which is the only way one has a chance of making them come true.
Next, it is about the detailed daily training. There is no substitute for putting one foot ahead of the other no matter what obstacles come before you. One learns that it is doing the little things that keep you on track towards your goals. Finally, all the practice develops the feeling of trust and optimism. No matter how many zero hit games, defensive errors, and sacrifice comes, one believes that in the end, it will all be worthwhile. Sure, self-doubt creeps in from time to time, but the believer and athlete in you help keep you focused.
Following are descriptions of running a marathon and how my baseball career helped along the way
Early Miles (1 5): Adrenaline Rush and Patience
To be among 30,000 runners, who are as excited as you are to begin, is a powerful rush. You must be careful that the excitement doesn't do you in. Your training has taught you that if you go out too fast, you will never finish. You start out believing you have to run 26.2 miles, but you soon realize that you have to travel much further. Many people are in your way, and the path is not a straight line.
Lesson from Baseball Career: The road to success is never direct, many things get in your way. I learned to be prepared to veer right, left, around and sometimes through to achieve your goals. Success comes from making adjustments.
Late Early Miles (6 10): Exhilaration
The congestion is starting to thin out some, and you settle in at a comfortable pace. The body feels ready, and the mind is saying, "This is the day; I will run my personal best, and this marathon will be like a walk in the park."
Lesson from baseball career: Never get too high or too low. Sports are a humbling experience. Confidence and enthusiasm are indispensable attributes, but only when grounded in reality. There is a long way to go; overconfidence and false hope are never good.
Middle miles (11 16): Reality
The adrenaline and exhilaration have worn off and reality sets in. Been running for a couple of hours and there is still a couple to go. You begin to understand just how far a mile is. Every time I see a mile marker, your mind says that you have run at least two or three more miles. No, the marker shows it has been just one since the previous mile. You want to swear, but you do not have any extra energy to waste. The whole body begins to feel the pain, and it starts to affect the mind. You try to convince yourself that you do not have to run twenty-six miles, you have to run one mile, twenty-six times. Yeah - right.
Lesson from baseball career: The journey to reach your goals is physically long and mentally painful. You begin to wonder if you will ever make it. The further you go, you realize that it is as much about the mind as it is about the body. Your deep down belief that things work out for the best keeps you going.
Late Middle miles (17 22) Grinding
Your whole body screams. You cannot allow yourself to listen as the mind pleads with you, "It's Ok to stop and walk for a while." Every ounce of the athletic spirit is necessary, now. The best part of being an athlete - the mind goes into the "not finishing is not an option mode."
Lesson from baseball career: It is all about moving up one level at a time and playing to improve, not to prove something. When things get tough - keep moving and do not walk, someone will pass you. "Settling," at the most desperate times, makes finishing impossible.
Finishing Miles (23 26.2) Sprint to the Finish
The mind starts considering a finishing kick, but the body says, "No, not today." My mind wanders to the winner and the great marathon stars. They have run 26.2 miles, showered, had lunch, watched a movie, and I am still on the course. That is amazing and a little embarrassing all in one. If you tell me they can hit a major league fastball too, I quit.
Lesson from baseball career: There is always someone better than you, but it is the journey that counts. It seems to come so easy for the stars, but I know they worked just as hard or harder than me. They deserve all the attention, but finishing is good, too. Reaching the end of a dream is about doing your best and being satisfied.
Finish Line Sweet Smell of Success
Relief is close, I can see the finish line. The mind and body are both shouting now, "Why didn't I train harder?"
Baseball career lesson: Much time and sacrifice went into reaching the dream. Was it all worth it? Of course, no matter the outcome. If I could do it all over, I would do some things different, but it seemed like my best at the time.
Post-Race The Moral of the Story
Immediately after the finish, I am thinking, "This is it, my last marathon. I will never do one again. "But, a few hours after, when some of the pain eases, I start to think different. "The journey was fun, maybe I'll do it again next year."
Final lesson: "Running the race with perseverance" is the goal. Getting back up is what makes an athlete. Life is short - go for it, regrets are no fun. Yes, the life lessons from playing sports are well worth it.
After playing major league baseball, Jack Perconte has taught baseball and softball since 1988 and offered valuable coaching training too. He has helped numerous youth players reach their potential, as well as having helped parents and coaches navigate their way through the challenging world of youth sports. Jack is one of the leading authorities in the areas of youth baseball training and coaching training advice.All Jack Perconte articles are used with copyright permission.
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