May 4

An Open Letter to New Athletes

Dear New Athletes,

You are about to start one of the most demanding–and possibly one of the most fun–activities you will ever attempt in your life: playing sports.

“How hard can it be?” you ask.

Trust me. It’s harder than you would expect, but lucky for you, I have some advice.

Try everything. The world of sports offers endless opportunities for young athletes. Who knows? You might be the star soccer player. How about the best swimmer? What about tennis, softball, baseball, golf, hockey, basketball, lacrosse, football, gymnastics, or volleyball? The best athletes play multiple sports, and if you try different sports, you will probably find something you like a lot. I’ve played several different sports, and I’ve finally found the ones I love, which couldn’t have been done if I didn’t experiment with my options.

Don’t get discouraged. During your sports career, you will make mistakes. I’m sorry if you were planning to go through life and never mess up at anything, but here’s the truth: nobody is perfect. Professional athletes can make mistakes just as often as amateurs can. And that’s okay. Mistakes are how we learn, how we grow, how we become better at the things we do. You might have coaches or even teammates who don’t see things that way, but don’t get down about it. Nobody does everything right. You are not the only one who makes mistakes.

Speaking of coaches, you should listen to yours. They are there to help you. They give their time to come to practice and help you get better, and –most of the time– they know what they’re talking about. If your coaches give you instructions, follow them. If they give you advice, take it and apply it to your playing. It will help you get better. I promise. I’ve had many a coach in my days of playing softball and basketball, and I know that they sincerely want to help you improve your game.

My final piece of advice for any of you daring to enter the world of playing sports: have fun. I know, you’ve heard that one a million times, but it’s true. If you can’t have fun, then there’s no point in doing what you’re doing. If you aren’t enjoying playing your sport, you’re doing something wrong. Make friends on your team, and sports will become that much more fun.The kids on your team may become some of your life long friends. I’ve made friends from different school districts and different cities, all through the sports I’ve played.

So there you have it. Your guide to surviving the crazy world we call playing sports. Maybe I’ll see you when you go pro.