I never understood what I had when I was growing up. I thought that what my brothers and I had, was normal. I realize now, as an adult, it was exceptional.
As a masters athlete I need support. When I see a champion on the top of the podium I know that they are standing on the shoulders of their support networks. Support can come in many forms. I think when I was growing up that the most important support was from my parents. My father is still supporting me today, not only emotionally through encouragement but financially. Because he wants to, and I let him. My mother passed away in 2000, she is still with me always. I try to make my parents proud still. I know that they are.
My wife is the most essential person in my line of my support. Without her support most of what I do would not be possible. She holds me up when I need it. I hold her up when she needs it too. It goes both ways. Since we share everything, then she must share in the victories too. We try to share the journey as well. I train very hard for a very long time for a few minutes of racing each year. I spend a lot of time everyday preparing to train. Clean workout clothes, shopping and food preparation, driving 75 miles each way to the rink in Milwaukee three times a week. The list goes on. Health maintenance, maintaining a home, keeping focus on what is important, God, family, work ,recreation. Maripat helps me keep balanced with all these. She does so much of the behind the scenes work, so I can concentrate on training and competing. Shared goals, balancing of priorities and time, are essential to having support from your spouse.
My coach helps me keep balanced as well between the intense training, recovery and rest. She is also a great friend that I can talk to about anything. She has the technical knowledge and wisdom to apply it to my situation.
I am reminded of the movie “The Rookie”. This movie was on television the other day and I had to sit down to watch it. It has so many important messages. One of the most important part for me was when the Dad, a middle-aged rookie pro-baseball player, was going to call it quits and come home. His wife reminded him of what would his young son think and what would he take away from his action. The Dad then re-thought his decision and decided to stay with the farm team and see where he could go. He wanted to show his son what was important to him. Perseverance, dedication, courage, discipline, goal setting and follow through were some of the qualities that he demonstrated to his son. My kids learn way more from what I do than what I say. This is how my kids can provide me with the motivation I need for my own support.
Fellow Athletes and Training Partners
I need to belong to a tribe of like-minded athletes who train like I do. I am so grateful that I have a great group of Olympians to train and skate with. They help keep me young. I can almost do the volume they do I just need a longer set rest. I try to bring some of my wisdom to the group. I am not their coach but I can listen and help in ways that our coach cannot. What I get out of this group is way more than what I bring, We all share and benefit in the process.
I wish my fellow competitors and peers good luck. I want them to do their best. I try to do my best, and the outcome is, as it should be. The outcome of a race was probably decided months before, based upon workload volume, training, techniques, talent, focus, and a host of other factors. The execution of a race on the spot is important, but being faster than someone who is not at their best is no victory. I compete more against myself than anyone else. So the important point here is that the support of my peers can be very valuable in a number of ways. It is hard to quantify what that support can mean. I am more relaxed and perform more to my capabilities when I am not conflicted. When I have the support of the people around me including my peers then I tend to do better. If I want respect from my peers then I must give respect and earn what they give me.
When I consider that everything I do starts with a thought, then it is important to look at the health of my thought process. My inner thought life is inextricably connected to my outer life. I have a number of resources that I have developed over the years to support my mental state. One the most important things I have learned is that I am not alone in my quest in this life. I have a relationship with a higher power that I call GOD. I believe in an underlying collective unconscious pattern to the universe. In this way I have connected to some men that help me to discover the essence of this connection to all around me so that I do not feel alone. This is very comforting to me as well as provides avenues for knowledge, wisdom, and growth.
I have a whole slew of people who help keep me on track to my goals. They all know my goals and are grateful to help in my endeavors. I enlist their support not just from their professional knowledge but their friendship through a shared vision for the goal of being as healthy as possible. I appreciate all their input on my journey.
Speed skating requires a lot of volunteers to run the competitions. I am very grateful to all the people who donate their time to help in running the sports that I participate in. When I am running a race like a 5K, I thank the volunteers that hand out water, check me in, compile the race data, clean up, etc. These are people who give their time so I can do what I love. I need to recognize their contribution. I also run a competition each year and this is my way of giving back to all those who have helped me.
I need to also enlist the support of my employer. I may need time off for an important competition. I may ask for sponsorship. I need to have a relationship with my employer to be able to ask for what I need. As a result of being a masters athlete I am a better employee. I am better focused, goal oriented, productive, and a good example to others. In my case I have been told I am a credit to my profession. That goes a long way in the benefits section of the relationship with my company and public perception.
What I have described is what we all have to a certain degree. As part of my journey towards a goal is to develop and foster this network. In turn, the network supports me. It usually comes back to me in many ways better than I could have imagined.
I would love to hear stories about your networks of support! Please share your experience so we can all benefit!