One Athlete's Mind
A friend of mine pointed out this article, so I thought I’d take some time to read it. When I finished reading the article, my first thought was how great it is to see someone explaining what it means to be a full time athlete, both the good and the bad. This made me feel pretty good about what I do, and the path that I have chosen for myself.
But then I started reading the comments. I went from day dreaming about being an athlete at the Vancouver Olympics and hearing the millions of cheering Canadians, to wondering where all that positivity had gone. As someone who has just recently (within the last few years) decided to put my education on hold to pursue my dreams of Olympic excellence, I must say that some of the things these people are saying really sting.
I think by the time people have graduated from high school, everyone has had a dream in mind for one thing they want to accomplish before they die. For some people, that dream might be to become a doctor/lawyer/police officer/what have you. And good on them! They know that with a lot of hard work, they can make that dream a reality, become whatever it is they wanted to become, and live their lives with the feeling of utmost fulfillment.
But what about someone who’s dream is to stand on top of an Olympic podium? This dream means just as much to that athlete, maybe even more, as it did to the last person when they decided they wanted to become a doctor. Why should the athlete have to give up on his/her dream, just because it isn’t a means of making money?
Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, but here is the decision I was faced with upon graduating from high school. I could go away to school, give up on my dreams of competing in the Olympics, and pick a random career that I thought might interest me. While I may have given up on my lifetime dream, at least I could move on knowing that in a few years I’ll be making money and be able to live my life comfortably, even if I don’t enjoy whatever it is that I am doing.
Or, I could go the other way. I could choose to take a chance, pursue my dream that I’ve been thinking about for over half my life, despite not knowing things like whether or not I’ll make it, how I’ll afford it, how I’ll cope with the life of being a 24/7 athlete. Now that I’m into my third year of being a full time athlete, I can say with the utmost confidence that I made the right decision for myself, even if it is a little scary at times.
This is the part of being an amateur athlete that I think a lot of people don’t understand. When most people think about amateur athletes, all they see is someone training in whatever sport they do, trying to get super fit/skilled. They don’t think about what the athlete does outside of training, and the obstacles that they face. At least when a person goes away to school, they can get a bank loan to pay their tuition, because they know that once they get their degree, they’ll be able to pay it back. For most Canadian amateur athletes, loans are really not an option, and there is no sense of financial security until they reach the top level of international competition (if they even make it there). And then on top of that, in order to get to that level, the athlete has to monitor everything they do, and make sure that everything they do is done for the purpose of getting faster/better at their sport. So that doesn’t just mean do all of the training and then go home and forget about the sport until the next workout. That means doing the training, eating the right foods, doing everything in your power to help your body recover, and keeping your sponsors up to date on what you’re doing, because without them, you’d be in school pursuing some other goal that you really don’t care about.
I realize I may have gotten a little off topic, but these are just the thoughts that this article and its comments provoked from me.
This is definitely the most personal/thoughtful post I’ve done in a while, so I hope you enjoyed it, and that it helped you to get a better idea of what it is that I do.
Until next time,
Jordan Cascagnette, Student-Athlete, Ski Coach