It’s been over 20 years since I gave up the crazy life that involved training every day and competing in tournaments across the country, but there are many lessons that have stayed with me all these years and helped me in my adult life. Here are my top 5:
1. Respect Your Body– As an athlete you are trained to exercise regularly, eat well and sleep at least 7 hours a day. If you want your body to last, you have to maintain in properly. It is no accident that my size has not varied greatly all these years, and it has everything to do with discipline. You have to take care of yourself, even long after you retire from sports.
2. Embrace Delayed Gratification– No one is an overnight success in the world of sports. It takes a lot of discipline and training to become an elite competitor. Especially in an age where everyone expects instant gratification, I believe it is key to develop this life-skill because the fact is any major accomplishment has to be earned over time.
3. Criticism Isn’t A Bad Thing– Any decent coach is always going to point out areas where you can improve. Over the years, I learned to appreciate that only those that really care about my success are willing to provide feedback, both good and bad. I also developed the ability to voice my own constructive criticism, and little did any of us know back then how well this would serve me years later in attempting to revamp the field of family law.
4. Play– We definitely work hard in sports, but we also play a lot. After all, none of the athletes I ever encountered pursued a sport they did not enjoy. We are a passionate bunch– it is about doing something you love, and doing it well while having fun. If you cannot find time to play, then what is the point???
5. Life Goes On– We all know that you win some, you lose some, and this lesson is very apparent in sports. You can taste sweet victory one day, and suffer a crushing defeat the next. You can be at the top of your game one week, and next thing you know you get injured. We are all taught to work through the pain, and that without pain there is no gain. And should you choose to opt out, life does go on without you because there will always be more players to take part in the games.
In then end, I am eternally grateful for all the lessons I learned as a gymnast, and I can see how they continue to come in handy every day, even though I am not a professional athlete. Through sports you learn about the unpredictable nature of life, the fragility of the human condition, and the importance of perseverance. Hopefully by encouraging our kids to pursue sports, the same will be true for future generations.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.