One Stride at a Time

Conor - Wilbraham, Massachusetts
Entered on January 13, 2009
Age Group: Under 18

As a young boy I began ice skating. My dad would take me to free skates at a nearby rink and I would push around a miniature chair to help keep my balance. Through these trips to the ice I learned to ice skate, soon after I began playing hockey competitively. Six years after I started skating I made my way onto a travel hockey team, the Holy Name Stars. This was a new experience for me, with games being played on the weekends all throughout New England.

Sports bring out the competitor and beast from within, hockey has revealed many things otherwise unknown about myself. Through team sports comes the necessity for teammates to work together with others to get ahead and succeed. Simply put, I believe sports are a metaphor to life, every activity done with sports is comparable to the battles and activities encountered during the course of life.

The coach of my Holy Name Stars team was Coach Wiles; he had gone through the Coast Guard Academy which helped him with “Whoo-Rah” speeches and motivational tactics. Every year Coach Wiles would choose a theme to help motivate his team. Pat Tillman was a professional football player who wore the number 40 on his jersey; he gave up his luxurious life in America to go fight in the war in Afghanistan. Sadly, Pat was killed in action. As a tribute to Mr. Tillman Coach Wiles had the number 40 put on the back of all of the jerseys that the team would wear to practice. Seeing the 40 on the back of everyone’s jersey provided motivation to all of us during the tough and strenuous aspects of practice. The practice jerseys also served as a reminder that life was not all about sports. Bigger things in life would come and sports would seem unimportant. Although a tough proposal to grasp as adolescents, it was a bold move for Coach Wiles to start interweaving life lessons into the daily practices. This is where I started the belief that the work and leadership habits I developed through sports will be helpful later on.

Vince Lombardi once said “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.” Through sports I have learned a lot about myself as well as the people around me. I have practiced facing adversity ever since I first laced up my skates, overcoming the difficulty of learning to skate and since moving onto the difficulties of competition. The inspiration coming from Pat Tillman, the messages that were directed towards me at a young age have since been cemented in my mind through repetition. Getting up after being knocked down has become not a maybe thing, but an always thing. The small scale battles encountered on the rink can very soon become large scale battles with jobs or other situations. Getting back up, back on my feet is the most important aspect of the battles that I’ve learned from sports.