Some people are blessed with lives full ofaccomplishment and joy. Others simply live, doing only what is needed. They maypossess ability, but the drive is not there. I used to be pessimistic, but theloss of playing football made me realize the real extent of my athleticabilities.
You might wonder how someone becomes more productive when heloses a beloved part of his life. The answer is motivation. Losing one's dreammakes him find a substitute.
I lost football. To some, that may seem apetty loss, but it affected me in a special way. I loved the game so much thatevery night I dreamed about playing. My love grew with every game I played, butthat love came crashing down the day I lost my game.
I'd gone to thedoctor for my routine pre-season physical and he asked if I had any diseases orongoing medical problems. I hesitated before answering with the words thatchanged my life: "I have a blood disease that prevents my blood fromclotting."
A few weeks later football started and the coachapproached me with a letter from my doctor saying I should not play any contactsports due to the high risk of injury. I tried to plead my case, but it didn'twork. Coach told me to clean out my locker and hand in my pads.
I stormedthrough the locker room as my anger grew. By the time my parents arrived to driveme home, my eyes dripped with tears. I thought my life could not go on, butsometimes good things come in mysterious ways.
A few weeks later, I satdown with my parents to try to find an activity that could take my mind offlosing football. A few odd ideas flew around until one of my mom's suggestionscaught my attention: competitive swimming.
The following week I joinedthe school's swim club. At first I felt intimidated, seeing everyone swimmingfaster than fish, but this dissolved the second I hit the water. I started outpretty rocky, but worked hard. The coaches placed me in the lowest squad;children age seven and eight swam past me as I struggled through the water. Soonthough, the children began to fall behind me, and I moved on to the nextsquad.
I went into the next group with the basic ability to swim, butwithout speed. My technique needed work, and my conditioning also needed toimprove. The group pushed me in both ways until I was a respectable swimmer. OnceI could keep up with this squad, the coaches moved me up again.
The newgroup pushed me even more. I discovered that if I wanted to succeed, I needed towork harder than ever.
Needless to say, I went places. I practiced on thissquad for two years and then moved on to high-school swimming. I surprised myselfand my school by qualifying for states in my first meet. The season fell intoplace as I continued to dominate in all my meets. With an eighth-place finish atstates in the 100 butterfly, I ended my season.
The next year the amazingpart of my career began. I swam with three other men and broke the school recordin the 200-yard freestyle relay. We participated in states, achieving arespectable fifth place. I also took fourth in the 100 fly to round out myswimming career.
The loss of football made me compete in another sport.The moment I lost football, I found my true talent. The loss allowed me to loveanother sport even more than I had loved football. Through loss, we can actuallygain.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.