The Heart of the Matter

by Lindsay Baslock
Sports Editor

It all begins at an early age when you find your first love. Your parents enroll you in your first sport. They sign the check, you pick your number and you receive your first jersey. It’s all a bunch of firsts and suddenly you now have obligations and commitments.

Take the game of soccer for example, since most kids play this at a young age, the older you get there are more pressures put on yourself as an athlete. There are always higher levels you could be playing in. There are recreational teams, club teams and even national level teams that are options. At that point, you are responsible for travel costs, equipment costs and the amount of time put into training and making yourself better.

Pele, perhaps the world’s greatest soccer player said, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”

Over the course of your childhood, the game you learned to love becomes more of a job. There is a reason that sports are also called games, it is because they are meant to be fun. But as society has taught us over the last century, sports have become a matter of life and death; blood and sweat.

It may be said that the athletes who have the most talent or have allocated the best resources in today’s day and age are the ones who succeed onto the upper echelons. But there is one stat that no scout can determine in whether a player is “good” enough to play at that next level.

Heart.

Sticking with the theme of soccer, a player may have the stamina to last longer than the allotted 90 minutes of play. They may have the most agile feet on the field with a touch on the ball like Pele. But one thing you cannot measure, even on the field, is the amount of heart they have for the game they play.

There are thousands of kids who grow up wanting and striving to be the best so they can play professionally like their idols. Those who make it are the ones who never stopped training; the ones that put in more time away from practice; the ones that studied the game like it was the secret to life; and the ones who never stopped having fun.

Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney didn’t get to where they are today by merely their time put in on the field. It was the time away from the field that dictated their success. They took those extra free kicks, ran those extra miles and when they should have been done…they did a little more. Sure they hit walls along the way and may have considered quitting. But pushing beyond that temptation has gotten them to the largest stage in the world.

Some may say that these world-class players were just born this way. But I believe it boils down to the age-old question of nurture vs. nature. There are people who are born with more determination than others but the people around us also have a great deal of influence as well.

With a combination of both nurture and nature, athletes are more committed to their game when others around them are as well. For coaches teaching youth sports, it is their obligation to display their love of the game in the kids they coach. The kids will have more fun and continue to love the game for as long as they are able to play.

Pele was right: Success is no accident. For those who are dedicated, they may get to the highest level. But at the end of the day, not all athletes get to play professionally like they may have dreamed. But no coach could be prouder if you become the athlete with the most heart and love for the game. Because no matter how long you are given the gift to play, there will be no greater joy for this part of your life. For the time you do have on whatever surface you play your sport on, do so with the childlike love you developed years ago.