When I think back at what got me interested in sports, there's one answer that's always first in my mind: my dad. I remember as a kid playing a board game with him and having a game on in the background, and I'd sometimes get bored. I would wonder how he could sit there and watch it for so long, especially during football season.
But now I understand, and ironically I probably watch even more so than him now.
With time my process of exposure and connection to the sports world came fully and enthusiastically through my dad. I was always a competitor growing up. There wasn't anything that I didn't want to be the best at or win, and I'm still like that to this day. But winning wasn't enough.
If I won something but had a sub-par effort, I felt not as good. My dad taught me through sports that always trying as hard as you can, no matter what the score, the sport, or the part of life, is always the best thing to do, because in doing so you can ensure that you never have to look back and wonder on what might have been.
This stuck with me through my growing years, and it helped me immensely. I was always a small, skinny kid, so I never really had a size advantage on anyone in athletics. But my drive and dedication was my equalizer.
Whether it was a pickup game with some friends or inter mural sports, I made myself a contributor and could take over the game seemingly by sheer power of will and boundless energy.
It became apparent to me in high school that I could well enough compete on a competitive HSAA level, but I had another opponent standing in my way. Since I was 11, I've been suffering from full blown Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
I've really had a form of it all my life, but from that point onward to the present it has been a different species entirely.
I spent hours analyzing and contemplating what the specs could be on walls, and wondering if I hit them, even though in reality I was likely two feet or more away. I would spend hours in the bathroom cleaning up after a bowel movement, and in the mandatory shower that followed.
Everything became a chore, washing my hands, brushing my teeth, flossing, going to the grocery store, the school day, everything.
The OCD took a toll on me, and I barely managed to get through the school day and have a minimal social life. There was no way I would be able to handle the complications that athletic involvement would bring. As the OCD progressed, it bothered me to sweat and be outside, so that further hampered my chances of being able to play a sport.
However it was at this point in my life that I learned my most valuable lessons from sports. My mom is also afflicted with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, so she always knew what I was going through and understood fully.
When I first got real bad though, my dad struggled to understand, as he had never had experience with anything like it before. I struggled to explain how it wasn't my fault, and that I couldn't control the things I was compelled to do.
Through the years, my dad has learned about the disease, and he is now understanding and fully supportive, and I respect him tremendously for that. As he learned about the disease, he used the same lessons from sports to try and help me through.
He gave me inspiration and hope before I would have to go into the bathroom, and though it might be hell, I always went in and came out giving everything I had to fight.
It was probably a year or two before I started high school when I first took an interest in golf. My dad always loved playing and watching the sport, and it looked like a great game, so I began learning from him.
We would go to the driving range and hit hundreds of balls to perfect my swing, and go to the practice green to develop the skill of green reading. When we went on the course it was even better. I always had a blast, from driving the ball, to chipping and putting, and even the cart rides were awesome.
It was on the golf course that my dad taught me another life lesson. No matter how many bad balls you hit, if you keep trying you'll eventually hit that one, outstanding shot, and it makes all the work, all the effort, all the struggles worth it.
At the time it was frustrating, but by the time I hit my first straight, long drive, I knew what he was talking about. I applied it to all aspects of my game, and I eventually developed an outstanding short game through tremendous practice and repetition.
Another great lesson was always taking everything one shot at a time. Don't think about everything you have to do, just think about the current situation, and live for the moment. It may sound simple, but if you're not used to it it will take some getting used to.
This is probably the one thing that I would say more people need to do more of. So many times people in sports and out ruin themselves by biting off more than they can chew, and trying to think about and manage too many things.
Since my early golf days, many aspects of my OCD have grown better, but unfortunately I'm now unable to remain outside for much longer than 10 minute periods of time, so golf, as well as any other sports, is out for me as far as a playable sport.
However, I use those lessons that my dad taught me through sports and golf to this day, and I know that they have helped me become a better person.
I use them to fight the OCD of course, and though it has been hell, this experience has made me tougher and an outstanding performer under pressure. I use them when practicing the trumpet, and I have become an outstanding player in audition and solo situations.
I'm now a junior at the University of Notre Dame, and I use them in academic preparation, and I've become excellent in testing and other pressure situations. Whenever I achieve something in any of these areas, I smile and remember where these qualities originated, and I remember hitting those game-winning shots and clutch drives down the fairway.
I have not abandoned sports though; I have become an avid spectator of many sports, and I fully appreciate the effort and the dedication that I see in athletes of all sports. I enjoy and share time with my dad through watching these events, particularly golf, football, and hockey, and to me watching sports with my dad is one of the best and most enjoyable things in life for me.
That, and of course playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour, or Madden NFL Football. I've taken my competitiveness to a new level with those games.
I know I've had some tough times to deal with in my life, but I fully enjoy and appreciate the life I've been given. I have my dad to thank for that, for teaching me to appreciate the little things and the good times.
Thank you dad, and happy Father's Day. Because of you, no matter where I am, what the odds, or what I'm doing, I'll always go out swinging.