Sport, no matter what it is, can really define a person and make a clear pathway in life for them. A lot of the time we hear about the rags-to-riches success stories and how driven these characters were in achieving their ambitions of making it to the top. For me, coming from an amateur career in sport, that pathway can still be achieved and it doesn’t necessarily mean that a person must reach the summit to gain a sense of satisfaction and achievement. Sport is powerful and it’s probably one of the most powerful guide’s that anyone can have in their life.
What was the reason that I immersed myself in sport from such a young age? A quite simple one – I grew up in a housing estate where we had a green directly outside our front door. My two older brothers were constantly playing sport on it, from soccer, hurling, Gaelic football to the housing estate favourite of Kerbsy. We even threw tennis into the mix from time to time especially when Wimbledon was on.
Being the youngest boy in the house, the spark had been ignited by my elder siblings. It was natural for me to follow in their footsteps and play too. Most of the time it was soccer that we played but the fact that we were active was so important. I was an energetic kid and all I ever wanted to do was to play sport. Thankfully, I didn’t have the distraction of game consoles the way the kids have now. I was never really into gadgets anyway. By playing all kinds of sport each day, this really helped to develop me and to make me a stronger character. Not only was I improving in the sport I was playing on that particular day but my overall awareness as well as many other things were improving too. Things that would benefit me in my playing career and in life.
I was a shy kid, believe it or not, and to this day I still have inhibitions but I certainly have gained a lot of confidence from being involved in sport that it helps me cope with them. The confidence was gained through being involved in a team environment almost all my life and it is an important asset to have in any walk of life. I talk about confidence and not arrogance while I’m sure I have been called the latter often enough with an expletive or two added for good measure.
Another valuable lesson that I have learnt from being involved in sport is to show and respect others. I’m not going to be ignorant and say that I have always respected everyone that I have come across, particularly on a football field as that simply is not the truth, but in general I would like to think that most people I have come across in life have found me to be respectful.
Sport teaches you this, for sure. I play a bit of golf from time to time but the sports that I personally have thrived in have been in a team environment; an environment where there are many different personalities but generally an environment where there is a focus on an end goal with specific targets to meet. This helped motivate me and in turn I could help to motivate my team-mates because we all shared the same vision.
Motivation certainly did not always come easy to me. I have no doubt that this is something that I learnt a lot about from the teams that I was involved with and the players and management teams that I soldiered with. I believe there are three main ingredients required when looking to motivate your team-mates: the first is that you must show total commitment to the team cause and be a team player; the second is to communicate your instruction in a positive manner – you don’t necessarily need to be a strong communicator for this to have the desired effect; the third one, and for me personally it’s the most important one, is to back up your own message to your team-mates with performances. These are three critical tools one must possess to motivate anyone and I would not have learnt them without sport in my life.
I always found that sport could be a great stress reliever too. It’s a great way to enjoy something in the moment and to leave any stress-related issues aside while competing. I’ve had and still have stress in my life. Not too many people don’t. Because of the power and the friendships I have gained through sport, I always felt that I could confide in someone. This is a strong message that must be made clear to everyone, even those not involved in sport. In times of need, there is always someone that you can speak to. I for one am always here for anyone that feels they need to speak to anyone. Sport and life has taught me that.
The effect that sport and the ability to exercise anyone’s mind is so powerful. Powerful beyond belief. Get involved. Give it a go.