When I drive by an empty sports field, walk into a dark, quiet gymnasium, feel the calm of an empty natatorium, or witness the expectant power of a weight room that has not opened, my mind often drifts to the question: How will this space be used to improve athletes? I view the empty sports venue as an artist might view a blank canvas. It is a space that is ready to be used to create a story, express emotions, share a vision, make memories, and hold fans captive to many twists and turns. The empty sports venues, as with the blank canvas, will only portray what the people who use it display. Are we using our sports venues to better our athletes as competitors and people?
The athletes who compete in these sports venues have an opportunity to grow and develop from their experiences. Being an athlete takes discipline, the kind that is learned through intentional development and consistent practice. It takes the ability to focus in the present and not get caught looking into the future. Sports challenge an athlete’s will to succeed, which is enhanced through performing with competitive intensity. Each practice and game is approached with an “Every Day is a Tryout” mentality. From its root level to the professional ranks, sports reward those athletes who act with purpose, own their actions and results, and strive to be their best every single time they compete. When the practice or game is over, an athlete will have experienced the ultimate in competition if they have fully given themselves to the shared experience that is competitive athletics, honoring others with their performance and finding joy in competing.
Coaches have the responsibility to use their blank canvas to facilitate learning. A coach will get an opportunity to challenge an athlete to reach levels of performance that the athlete has no idea exists. Teams are led by coaches to play unselfishly and to find the ultimate joy of supporting, challenging, and working together for a single purpose. Coaches define roles and encourage players to develop in those roles that highlight their strengths and improve their weaknesses. Coaches will leave an imprint on the heart and soul of every athlete they instruct. They will have an impact on the way the athlete uses their sports experiences to positively benefit the future.
Parents get to use the blank canvas of an athletic venue to provide support and encouragement. It starts with fully supporting their athlete’s coaches and teammates. As parents, it is a powerful message when the team’s needs are put ahead of the concerns of your individual athlete. Parents get to encourage their children to dream big and compete to their highest level in the sports they pursue. In this encouragement, parents can remember much can be learned from both winning and losing, success and failure, and good times and trials. All the while, loving your child for who they are as a person, not what they do in a competitive endeavor.
An empty field, a blank canvas……how are we going to use it?