A Letter to the Individuals who are Still Playing the Game

A Championship that Taught me Life’s Greatest Lessons

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Sitting on a slightly, raised, grassy hill only a few feet away from the bright, green turf field, I stared intently at the small, orange ball as it traveled from one side of the field, to the the other. From the place where I was sitting, I could hear the familiar pounding of the Asics turf shoes hammering the rubber pellets into the turf. Twenty-two pairs of cleats stomped the ground, to compete for the possession of the small, round ball. The smacking of the composite sticks hitting the ball, and the blow of the high pitch whistles rang all too familiar songs in my ears.
The place where I was sitting contained a scattered group of fans ranging from students to parents, bundled in East Stroudsburg University colors. The fall air contained a cold, crisp, breeze that blew ever so slightly against my face, sending a familiar chill through out my entire body. The afternoon sun peeked through the towering trees that were planted behind the field. The sun’s rays slightly kissing my body with warmth. Sitting in the fan section, I watched my old field hockey teammates compete on their home field. Man, I miss it, I thought to myself, remembering how it felt to step foot onto the very field I was looking at. Suddenly, a feeling of nostalgia and emptiness washed over me, as a memory from the last time I played flooded my mind.

 

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I took a slow and steady inhale that allowed the cold, crisp air to travel down my chest and into my lungs. I could feel my lungs slowly expanding like a balloon stretches and expands when one places air in it. The crisp air filled every crevice of my lungs causing a burning sensation deep within my chest. I held my breath for a moment causing the burning sensation to become more prominent. I then let out my breath in a big puff ,watching the cold air swarm around my face. I felt the release of my nerves as I quickly exhaled. It was in that moment I felt more alive then I ever have before. I took a look around at the large, empty, green field that was set before me and thought this is it, my last game ever – a championship game. I could feel the sun beating on my face despite the cold, fall day. I could feel the wind brush his hand over my entire body causing a chill to make my arm hairs stand on edge. Deep with in my soul I could feel this game was going to be life changing.

 


Standing on the edge of the field in that moment of time was a metaphor for my final game as an athlete. The edge of that black cement meeting up with the bright green, plastic turf represented the seventy minutes that kept me from either becoming a national champion or a regular college student. It was a defining moment that made me realize all that the sport has provided me with: friendships, a passion for something I love to do, and life’s most prominent messages. In that moment I realized how much love I had for the game, and decided that I was going to exert all the energy I had for the next seventy minutes of my life. Win or lose, I’ll look back and know I put my heart and soul out on that field.


I looked to the right of me at my fellow senior, and captain who displayed a nervous, yet determined facial expression. She looked back at me and slyly stated, “Let’s do this.” I held out my hand and smiled, as she grabbed it I stated back, “Let’s.” I narrowed my eyes, and marched out onto the battle field. I lifted my one foot off of the black cement, and onto the cushy, soft turf. Hand in hand, and side by side, my teammates and I journeyed across the field to place our belongings on the bench that was assigned to us.

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Experts say that mental pictures and videos are moments in our lives that stand out the most to us. They are moments where we feel the utmost joy and happiness, or the most pain and sorrow. As human beings we capture these good and bad experiences as pictures in our brains. We store the most prominent memories so we can look back on them as we grow older and smile at the good, or weep at the bad. We, humans, were created this way to draw upon these stored memories to feel the way we were feeling in the exact moment they happened. The purpose of this design was so that we as individuals can understand that we truly are living this overall great experience of life.
I produced a mental picture of that day that will forever be burned into my memory. With the rap music blaring, my teammates singing at the top of their lungs, some dancing, some banging on lockers, I managed to quiet my mind and take in every little detail that was going on around me. I closed my eyes for a split second and felt the bass of the music rattle my ear drums to the beat of each lyric. My teammate’s voices echoed throughout the entirety of the small, square room, bouncing off of the red lockers and cement walls. Their loud singing, that was more or less like yelling the lyric to each song filled the air with excitement. I inhaled the sweet aroma of shin guards and turf shoes, and with an exhale I opened my eyes. I looked around at the cluster of rambunctious girls that were scattered throughout the small space. Each one had an enthusiastic smile plastered across their face. The theme amongst all of us was evident – this moment would be it- we would either win it all, or lose, but we all, as a team came this far. As I took in the wild scene before me, my lips curled into a blissful smile. The thought, I made it came across my mind.

 

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The day my teammate’s and I won the Division II National Championship was a day that I will never forget. I can still feel the thrill of emotions as the ball smacked the back of the cage. I can hear the high pitch whistle blow a long and steady noise signaling the game has come to a end. I remember filling with excitement as my teammate’s and I sprinted onto the field to tackle one another. Cameras flashed in all of our faces as we collectively lifted the heavy, National Championship trophy high over our heads.
For me, I think what made this day so memorable was the fact that this was how I ended my athletic career. Years of hard work and perseverance led up to this moment- a reward for the countless hours I, as well as my teammate’s put into the sport.

 

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The sport of field hockey, or any team sport for that matter is a sport of camaraderie, diligence, teamwork, perseverance and so much more. The lessons an individual learns by joining a team sport is far beyond what any professor or teacher can teach a person in a classroom. Field hockey has taught me the essence of friendship with my fellow teammates. I learned how to respect individuals for who they are even if they are different from me.The game taught me to always have my fellow mans back in good times and bad. I learned how to show respect for my coaches, or any individuals in a position of authority. Field hockey taught me that my body will be fatigued and may fail itself, yet my mind can push farther than I ever thought I could go. The sport taught me to push through what ever adversary that is thrown my way because I am much stronger than any problem that I face. I became educated in how to properly fuel my body and love it for all that it does and is. Finally, the sport taught me to have faith- faith in a God who listens, faith in my teammate’s, coaches, and finally faith in myself.

 

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So to the individuals who still play the game,

There is a feeling of emptiness that washes over an athlete as he or she lays down their uniform for the very last time. Thoughts of now what? and what’s next? flood to the front of a newly retired athlete’s mind. At first it may feel relieving to be finished with the busy schedules, and constant “go go, go” motions. The newfound freedom to do what you want, when you want to may seem enticing, BUT once the realization of being officially done kicks in, you’ll face emotions of heartbreak, loss, and nostalgia.

An old teammate once told me, finishing a sport a person competes in for a majority of their life is a lot like a really bad break up. I never understood this comparison until I was placed in her shoes. I tried to avoid the pain by joining different clubs and organizations that would distract me while I was still at school. I stayed far away from a field hockey stick or the sport itself to keep me from reminiscing on all the memories I made over the years. This distracted my mind temporarily until I was faced with emotions of incompleteness. The sport made me who I was, and will continue to be a large part of who I am.

So to anyone who is stepping away from the game, prepare yourself for these emotions. Embrace them and know that it is natural to feel the way you feel for something that was apart of you for so long. Reminisce on all the memories you made with your teammates and coaches, for these memories will be near and dear to your heart.

FINALLY, to the individuals who still play,

 

1. Don’t take the small moments for granted.

It is easy to take the bus rides, breakfasts with the team, and pre-game talks for granted. These moments may seem small but they are going to be the big moments you will remember in the long run after you are finished playing. Take in the way it feels to sit on the long bus rides to the far away games. You may hate sitting in a cramped space for hours on end, but think about the memories you made on the bus trips -the songs you sang with the team, the talks, the chants, the funny moments-you’ll miss them all. Remember the atmosphere of the locker room and the excitement you feel leading up to stepping onto the field.

 

2. Respect and value your teammate’s and the relationships you formed with them

I think this is the biggest lesson I have learned by taking a step away from the sport. The individuals that surround you on your team are ones that mold and shape you into the person you will become. Enjoy the memories you form with each member on your team, young and old. These are the people you spend the most time with during your season, and they understand the competitive nature within you. Have fun with each of them, respect their differences, and value the times and memories you will make with them while playing a sport you all love.

 

3. Respect your coaches

Understand that your coaches are doing the best they can to help you to develop into a strong, confident player. Listen to the advice and criticism they may give, they are only trying to help you succeed. Be thankful that they have pushed you to be the athlete, and person you are.

 

4. Just Play

If I could go back in time this is something I would tell myself over and over again. Just Play. Enjoy the sport for exactly what it is – a game that you enjoy to partake in. Do not let the pressure of winning or losing, get to your head. Have confidence in yourself, and in your teammate’s abilities. Enjoy every second of being able to play the sport you love because one day, you will not be able to. Have fun with every moment, and stay positive. When you are finished competing, you’ll remember the moments on the field that shaped you, and the joy you felt by just playing.

-advice from a washed up athlete

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God bless,
L.Blum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breakthrough the Pain

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Embrace the Rain

“When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person that walked in that’s what the storm is all about” – HARUKI Murakami

 

I sit at my dining room table hunched over with tired eyes and a warm blanket draped around my shoulders. If you know me, you would know that the first thing I enjoy when I wake up is a nice brewed, hot cup of coffee. Cupping my frigid hands tightly around my blue mug, I allow the smell of my steamy, hot cup of “Joe” to bring me back to life from the sleeping dead.
Since I am not a morning person, it usually takes me a solid half hour to fully wake up my mind and body before I can move on with my day’s planned activities. I slumped my tired body onto the wooden dining room chair, and peered out of the large window to the right of me. I usually gaze out of the window in a zombie like fashion taking in the hustle and bustle going on in the world outside of my quiet, sleepy bubble. The activity of others somewhat inspires me to wake up and participate in life for the day.
The view outside my window on normal day contains several students walking to and from class, cars zooming by, and adults going for brisk walks around the neighborhood. I can mostly hear everything that occurs outside of my quaint, college house. I hear the laughing and talking of students in groups, or individuals talking on the phone to a friend or parent as they stroll on the sidewalk. Usually, the sun is shining reflecting off trees and cars as much activity occurs outside of this large window of mine.
Today, the world holds a ghost like scene. The only noises are the pitter patter of rain slightly knocking on the sidewalks, trees and houses of East Stroudsburg. All is quiet and grey; the sky is dark and gloomy.
Naturally, with any rainy day comes rainy attitudes, and I can be the first one to attest to this. Waking up was harder than usual, and I had not one ounce of motivation to do all the activities I was required to do. Sitting in my chair, peering out of the window into the dreaded, wet, outside world listening to the constant flow of rain falling from the sky slightly relaxed me a bit. Listening to the slight tapping of droplets against the window eased me as a thought came into my head.
Sometimes the rain can be beautiful.
Watching the way the rain danced off of trees, sidewalks, and streets, drenching, no cleansing everything in its sight gave me peace and hope for some reason. I sat dry like a desert wrapped in warmth as I marveled at this new found beauty. The rain brought me peace, clarity and closure.

 

 

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I sat and thought for a moment.
How often do I wish dark, rainy days didn’t exist? The answer is a lot. I much rather have a day with the sun kissing my face and the sky bright, clear and blue above me. Who wouldn’t prefer this?

 
Scientifically speaking the rain is needed for growth, and life. Without rain, nothing would grow, thrive and survive.
In the same way rain is needed for the environment to survive, we too need the “rain” and “storms” of life to help us grow and thrive.
If we do not go through these stormy moments of life there would be no sunny, happy days. The rain, if we allow it, can cleanse us causing us to change into beautiful beings.
I think all of us could use a little reminder that even though rejection and bad situations may occur, it is in the pain of these situations that transform us into the individuals we are supposed to become.

 

 

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This is something that I have come to learn over the course of this entire year. Both this semester and last have been two of the hardest semesters I have had yet throughout the duration of my college career. Everything about this last year has been hard, from my school work, to my extra activities outside of classes, and finally in my personal life. There have been plenty of times in this last year that I have had my head, face first in a pillow crying hysterically over some aspect of my life. You know the really ugly type of cries? The ones where you can barely breathe and they leave you exhausted from the amount of energy you dispose? Yeah… I have had a record amount of them this year.
BUT, what I have learned from these moments of complete weakness was that those moments served their purpose. The questioning, thinking, and doubting during the times where I have completely broken down in turn strengthened me. They have cleansed me from the inside out. Sure, what I was going through did not make any sense at the time, but standing back and looking at those moments of weakness has shown me that the situations that caused those breakdowns were needed to make me stronger. They helped me to rebuild myself back up piece by piece even stronger than before that situation and that breakdown occurred.
So why must the rain fall so hard that it creates such a gloomy, yucky day? Why must pain, rejection, and hurt even exist in our lives?
I believe everything that happens in our lives transform us into the people we are meant to become. Every bad situation that occurs does indeed make us stronger and wiser and put us on the pathway to life that we are supposed to be living if we allow it to. Pain creates growth, and life.
Every sting that comes from rejection is teaching us that we do indeed need pain, and hurt just as much as we need joy and happiness to feel alive.

 

There is beauty in the pain we feel that comes from rejection. This pain puts pressure and stress on our bodies which in turn forces a transformation of some kind. Pain caused by rejection molds individuals and allows each person who feels it to piece themselves back together in their own way, separately from all of those who have hurt them.

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It is a wonderfully, creative and liberating process when we allow the pain or storms to transform us into the people we are meant to become.

 

That is why the rain is beautiful. The rain removes all the dirt and grime in our lives to make room for a beautiful, thriving individual.

So readers, instead of hating the storm, embrace the rain as well as the pain. Accept it, and let it cleanse you. Relax and listen to the pitter patter, as we all know after a storm, a beautiful rainbow shines through the clouds.

 

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God bless,
L.Blum