New Year, New Me?
The holidays came and went, time with friends and family were spent. We all counted down 10,9,8,7 ….. And all of a sudden the roar of HAPPY NEW YEAR was chanted in households all over the world! Welcome to 2022!
The beginning of the year has different levels of significance for all of us. A time for reflection. A time for change. A fresh start. Some committed to resolutions, others created vision boards for the future and left 2021 behind them. Many set goals and plan to knock them out of the park.
But, isn’t every hour, day, week or month an opportunity to do that?
If I am speaking honestly I’ve never been too gung ho about resolutions. I believe they can be positive and people are well intentioned in setting them, but that they ironically have the potential to be unrealistic and more harmful than helpful.
I believe that change takes time. It takes consistent effort and dedication. Small choices and decisions that turn into habits. Which is why I resonate with this quote from a speech given by US Navy Admiral William H McRaven.
Firstly, this speech is astounding and I encourage you all to listen to the entire thing. But here are the coles notes: McRaven explains that making your bed is the first task of the day. Doing so instills a feeling of pride and encourages you to then complete another task, and another. He preaches that in order to do the big things well you need to first do the little things right.
It seems so simple, but I believe what McRaven is saying applies to any change, choice or resolution you commit to. It’s having the mindset to do one more task, rep, sprint or drill. To have consistent effort and dedication to your craft. The mindset of “starting with making your bed” is the one I believe all elite athletes have.
As all of you know, Lead Thru Sport encourages, supports and celebrates women in sport regardless of what level or type of activity they participate in. But recently the question of “what defines an elite athlete?” has been front of mind.
For those of you who aren’t aware, recent COVID restrictions have caused many athletes to press pause on both training and competing. The Ontario Government made adjustments in early January to the COVID-19 restrictions across the province. The province's university and collegiate athletic programs were told that they are not considered to have "elite amateur" status and that they must immediately press pause on all training and competition.
The question is not whether implementing restrictions was right or wrong, but rather what defines an “Elite Athlete”?
As most of you know, I played varsity basketball for Queen’s. We trained over 24 hours a week and essentially planned the entirety of our university lives around being high performance athletes. Arguably synonymous with “elite”.
Getting school work done ahead of time and my team leading the way by holding the highest GPA. Sacrificing nights out and social time to practice, get rest or prepare. Eating properly, getting sleep, taking ice baths and going to athletic therapy. Watching film, studying plays and working on mental fortitude. Essentially doing everything possible to perform at our best come game night.
Would you consider that elite?
Well, unfortunately for almost 10,000 athletes, the Government of Ontario does not. You can read more about the return to play guidelines here which includes all the leagues permitted to play at this time.
Putting myself in their shoes, I thought - how can we define elite? Maybe, despite my personal bias and opinion, their decision made sense. There has to be a line drawn somewhere. Professional athletes are compensated for their performance, Olympic athletes represent their country and carry sponsorships, maybe varsity athletes who participate for the love of the game aren’t elite afterall. The emphasis on student before athlete (in student-athlete) communicates that sport is a secondary priority. For an outsider then, maybe this is where you draw the line - in this case with good intention of keeping these individuals safe and healthy.
Understandably so, most people did not see it this way and there was an uproar in the OUA. Current and retired athletes sharing the hashtag #OUAisELITE across social media platforms to show their support and disagreement with the current categorization.
Student-athletes in the OUA do exactly what McRaven stated above would change the world. They wake up everyday and make their bed. Not literally, well maybe some do, but rather symbolically. They put in small deposits upon every sunrise. In the weight room, therapy room, classroom and community. On the court, field and ice. The dedication, commitment, perseverance and resilience that I have witnessed from OUA athletes is top notch. If that isn’t elite then I truly do not know what is.
Varsity sport is for most people the highest level of athletics they will ever participate in. It is inherently elite and I hope in the future, everybody, even government officials can see it that way.
Written by: Sarah Saftich
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