This week's post is a special one - it's the first guest post I've had! It comes courtesy of my good friend/amazing human being/brother in lifting, Chris Mullins. Aside from being one of the most knowledgeable strength and conditioning coaches I've ever met, Chris is an accomplished run coach and one heck of a good golfer.
Chris writes today about the detriments of defining yourself by one sport or activity. This topic hits home for me as I defined myself purely as a baseball player for many years. Even though I was involved in other activities, if I couldn't play baseball - like my injury-plagued sophomore year of college - then I had no identity. I eventually found my niche but not without years of searching. (<----thanks for your patience, Mom and Dad!)
Chris' words are refreshing and offer a great perspective - I wish I could've read them years ago. So with that, take it away Chris!
Once upon a time, there was a superstar two-sport athlete named Vincent Edward Jackson—or “Bo” for short. Bo was a Heisman Trophy winner, which is awarded each year to the most outstanding college football player in all the land (we shall call this land “’Merica”). He was drafted in football—as the #1 pick in 1986—as well as baseball. He initially chose baseball, but a year later decided to play football as well. According to legend, it was to be a hobby. Imagine, professional football… a hobby. (*foreshadowing alert*)
Bo was the only athlete to be chosen to an All Star team in two professional sports. He racked up highlight reel plays in both sports. On the gridiron, he displayed amazing power and speed, trampling anyone who dare try to take him down.
On the diamond, he chased down fly balls with ease, threw out runners with a canon of an arm, and hit laser beam home runs.
He was also quite possibly the greatest video game athlete of all time.
Bo’s career was cut short by a devastating hip injury—one that occurred because he was essentially too powerful for his own body. Only Bo could dislocate a hip trying to break a tackle. He attempted a triumphant comeback, and did eventually make it back to baseball. But the surgically-repaired Bo was just not the same athlete, so he decided to call it a career after just 8 short years of baseball and 4 of football.
Bo is one of my most admired athletes of all time, but not only because of his legendary athletic talent (or his aforementioned video game prowess). You see, Bo knows life. And Bo knows how to bounce back.
Bo was confident, but there’s no “Bo” in boast. Wait, I want to start over…
There’s no “Bo” in arrogant. If you watched the ESPN 30 for 30 on Bo (and if you haven’t, do yourself a favor… even if you aren’t a sports fan.), you’ll see a man who not only knows his talents in sports, but also knows that those talents not define him. Rather, they are a set of character traits that carry over to virtually all aspects of his life.
When Bo got hurt, he probably went through something similar to the five stages of grief, which are—if I recall from the psychology school I didn’t go to—denial, anger, bargaining…um… hunger… and winning?
That may not be right… Anyway, Bo loved playing football and baseball, and he probably would have loved for his career to continue longer than it did (and man, what if…). But it didn’t. And his life does. If there’s one thing about Bo that I took away from watching his 30 for 30 is that he is a talented and confident person first, and a former star athlete second. He knew his life would bounce back. So he brushed himself off, went back to school to complete his Bachelor of Science in Family and Child Development, became a successful family man and businessman, has had small roles in various TV shows, and has had a pretty damn successful life outside of sports. This is something we can all learn from His Bo-ness.
I wrote this post with runners in mind, but it could really apply to any one who challenges their physical boundaries. Over the past 6 years, I have worked with a lot of people who call themselves “runners.” Many of those people have said “I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t run.” To me, that’s sad. Especially since 80% of runners experience some kind of injury (a startling and revealing number that is probably higher, and a topic for another time). I used to be one of those people. Now, if someone asks, “are you a runner?” I simply respond, “I run.” I do a lot of things. I lift, cook, golf, run, play basketball, read. Heck, sometimes if I’m really bored you might find me gardening:
I’m not saying there’s no room to be passionate about something, nor am I referring to specialization. But when your life revolves around one activity so much that you can’t bear the thought of being with out it (cough, runners, cough), maybe it’s time to take a page from the Bo Jackson playbook and pick up some new hobbies... like playing in the NFL, perhaps.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to hit the basketball court to fulfill my latest hobby… rapping about playing basketball.
For any additional questions or comments, feel free to email Chris directly: chris (at) thetrainingroomboston.com