Set the Bar High and See What Happens

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” – Michelangelo

There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who step up and those who fold.

“Sport is a metaphor for life”  is an adage that rings true for me. That is one of the several reasons why I strongly advocate the IOC’s Sport for All program. I believe that everyone can benefit not just from the fun and fitness one can get from sports but also in the life lessons that can be drawn from them.

I have been told quite a few times by well-meaning people that I should not set the same expectations from sports club members that I would from elite athletes (i.e. national team members). It is as if I am not aware of the differences when I have been a product of both. I started out from a club team before I became part of the national team. And I went back to being a part of clubs in at least two different sports since I retired. All these in a span of over twenty years. So, yes, I should know better than to expect club athletes to deliver the same performance as national athletes do. After all, the latter spend more hours training. They follow programs specifically designed by high level coaches, trainers, psychologists, and other support personnel. Even my hardest training days at the club do not compare to a typical day of training with the national team.

Despite the glaring differences, however, I also know from experience that club teams can be a vast resource of talents. Clubs are among the focus areas of grassroots sports development. It would be a disservice to athletes at this level for club leaders to set the bar low citing the same reason I often hear.

Among the most memorable people I met in sports are some of my teammates in the club team at the university. The women’s team was just formed then so we relied not just on the men’s team captain but also in the other male teammates to help us with training. It was an experience not for the fainthearted. We were constantly challenged, shouted at, and sometimes insulted. And yet, the women’s team held on. We rose up to the challenges instead of folding up. I have never been prouder of our team then. And we grew stronger largely because we were constantly pushed past our limits by certain individuals from the men’s team who would make the meanest marine drill sergeant proud. It was the attitude I developed during the years of training with the club that helped me pass the grueling try-outs for the women’s national team.

Being in a club team does not mean you have to limit yourself only to what some people’s idea of what training in that level should be. While it is true that training programs have to be tailored to the fitness level and skills of members at any given time, it is not bad to dig much deeper and aim for something greater from yourself. At the very least, developing mental strength is one thing athletes can do across all levels of their chosen sports or martial arts.

If there is something I usually expect from my club teammates, it would be to break down stereotypes. There is no better place to begin than at the grassroots — the clubs. Do not let other people’s limited experience hold you back from exploring what you can achieve if you stretch yourself past what you believe you can do.


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