I have been underestimated on many occasions due to my background of being a professional athlete. This apparently meant that I have lived a privileged life and knew nothing of hardship, loss, disappointment and pain. It was almost as though people thought I lived a luxurious lifestyle. All they heard was that I was travelling from one city to another each week to compete, but going behind the scenes, it tells a very different story.
In my opinion, a professional athlete has to endure a great deal from a very young age, particularly those who have reached the highest level in their respective sport. Imagine being ‘tested’ for faster times, more repetitions of a particular activity, better precision and refining your technique on a daily basis. There is nowhere to hide, because you cannot escape the truth that lies within a video recording or a time that is below your personal best. The professional athlete learns very quickly that failure and success is part of everyday life. The only thing you can do is accept that fact (which builds resilience and forms the basis of having good sportsmanship), and take ownership over your actions. This then allows you to focus your mind on the job at hand, which is simply being better at your craft. No compromises. No excuses. After all, a slump in form means that its time for you to pay a visit to the sidelines for a duration of time that you have no control over. All you can do is keep showing up and persevere with the hope that you will get that phone call, offering you a position back on the field/team again. And for those professional athletes that compete in an individual sport, any slump in form will result in you simply drifting further and further away from the pack within a few short months. The road ahead seems ever so daunting.
Imagine facing all of the above realities from the age of say 5 or 6 and throughout your adolescence, simply by being exposed to sport at a professional level. The lessons learned can be carried on throughout the rest of your life. There is certainly nothing luxurious about it. I hope that the next time you come across a former professional athlete, the word ‘resilient’ comes to mind as opposed to ‘privileged’.