When I was a senior in high school, I made the decision to quit the football team so I could run cross country and further prepare for track season. I wanted to be a college runner, and to be perfectly honest, I never really enjoyed playing football that much anyways. I had actually arrived to this decision a year earlier when I tore my MCL and my coach refused to address my injury appropriately. I thought I was doing the more stand-up kind of thing by telling all of the coaches in person that I would not be returning before the first practice, but as it actually played out, I probably would’ve just been better off not even showing up.
The conversation between myself and the head coach was relatively short, but largely consisted of him telling me I “was making a big mistake” and how the “only other person who had quit his team to pursue another sport didn’t amount to anything, and neither would I.” He then proceeded to lecture me about “putting all of my eggs in one basket,” and made efforts to point out that in his opinion, “I don’t have that many eggs to begin with.” In all honestly, I sort of expected the condescending attitude at the time. Afterwards and as the year progressed, I really cannot say that his persistency in patronizing me by making constant stooping remarks and referring to me as a certain female body part are not unlike his stereotype. However, that is how I feel now, and I can tell you that at the time, I really took a lot of it to heart.
As all mothers will do, after my interaction with my high school coach I was told “he has no idea what he is talking about…” and so on and so on. But she also reminded me that “who cares about how many eggs are in a basket, YOU don’t need to count eggs, your brains are going to take you to college.” Still, no matter how many reasons or ways I tried to convince myself otherwise, I have always believed that deep down, maybe my coach was right… and I am just not good enough to succeed in running, racing, or life for that matter.
Now I am at a point in my life where I am very comfortable with what I have achieved and feel as though I have much to show for my accomplishments. But when an individual in a leadership role, especially someone that you looked up to acts in such as negative and demeaning way, it has lasting effects on a teenager. I doubted my talents and abilities for a long time because of the way I was treated. I have actually drafted several letters in the past addressed to him with the intentions of railing through my accomplishments, but I have never sent any of them.
In endurance racing, many people talk about creating your own mantra that you can focus on when the race becomes difficult as a means of keeping yourself focused. The point is to come up with your own saying or thoughts that provide strength. Its a simple concept, but if the words are meaningful to the person, they can be very effective motivators. This applies to real life as well, as many of my patients create their own mantras: “I will get through this,” “This too shall pass,” “The Lord will carry me through,” and “I can beat this” are all sayings that have been shared with me that help others survive cancer treatments. My wife likes to repeat “Long and strong” as she races, and will repeat this over and over in order to remain just that. I have two different mantras I use, especially in Ironman races, “I have the strength to endure,” and although not very PC, my biggest motivator through the years has been not only a reminder of my past but a driver for success, “Screw you coach, I am not a failure.”
I believe in myself and know that I have proved he was wrong, but that interaction still drives me to excel. I would love it if you could share with me and others what drive’s you by entering it in the comment box below.