There is one aspect of risk in the world of sports that might be underrated or less analyzed, but it certainly plays a large role in defining the journey of an athelte. Simply put, it is the risk of losing. Athletes are fuelled by the desire to win. It's why we work hard, make sacrifices, and push ourselves to the max. It's because we know that the thrill of winning will make it all worth it. As we all know though, one can't experience only victory in the course of an athletic journey.
|So many emotions in one picture|
As September rolled around, I knew I had a decision to make. Fall/winter hockey was about to get going and my team was going to come calling soon. They are an incredible group of women and I couldn't imagine not playing hockey with them. As much as the wounds were still fresh, I paid my fees like everyone else and showed up for the first game. If felt strangely foreign to put on my gear and even more foreign to step into the net. As it worked out, we got outshot by a wide margin in that game and we lost it 4-1. As I got into the car after the game, my dad, who had decided to join me, looked at me anxiously. He was afraid this latest lost was the last straw for me. My first words to him after getting in to the car? "Dad, I freaking love this sport. How could I ever have imagined not playing!?" Just like that the love was back.
Losing is inevitable. It is heartbreaking, but it is inevitable. It is also necessary. In an interview after winning the 2011-2012 NBA Championship, LeBron James described how his team's heartbreaking loss the year before had helped pave the way for the win this year.
"It took me to go all the way to the top and then hit rock bottom, basically, to realize what I needed to do as a professional athlete and as a person," James said. "... I got back to being myself. Last year, I tried to prove something to everybody, and I played with a lot of hate. And that's not the way I play the game of basketball. I play with a lot of love, a lot of passion, and that's what I got back to this year."
Sports have a way of bringing us back down to our core basics. Just when we're getting a bit cocky or just when we're starting to play for the wrong reasons or with the wrong attitude, events will transpire to remind us of why we're here. When you have your heart broken by a sport but you decide to go back and do it all over again, knowing that there's a risk of the same heartbreak all over again, that's when you know you love the sport. In my case, that knowledge alone has helped me heal and it has given me something to be thankful for. Through this loss I was humbled. I also stopped playing the game for others. I stopped worrying about awards, stats, compliments, and accolades. Through this gutting loss I became a better player, a better teammate, and a better person. Only after nearly walking away from the sport can I now say that I have experienced hockey from all 360°. It took 11 years but I have now experienced winning, losing, and downright collapsing. One thing I know for sure: my worst day as a hockey player was still a great day. It's a day I wouldn't change or take back. I was playing a great sport with people I love. And knowing that heartbreak could happen all over again? Let's just say that I'm willing to take the risk!