Finding Your Identity

An athlete has three identities. The first one is the most primitive, and relies mostly on instinct. The second one connects the first to the third. The last one is the most complex identity, built through years of hard work and dedication.

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Identity #1
The first identity has the highest sense of entitlement, and lowest sense of work ethic. It bends, or breaks under pressure, and expects things to be given before it’s earned. It is the most primitive type of athlete because it feels natural for them to operate at their own comfort level. What they don’t know, however, is the moment you feel comfortable is the moment you lose. The moment you feel entitled, is the moment the rug is swept from beneath your feet. These types have great potential, and inconsistent signs of greatness. Quite frankly, their greatest enemies are themselves.

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Identity #2
This identity fills in the missing pieces. They are some of the most fierce competitors who use their enemies’ spite to fuel their passion. They have a high sense of work ethic and entitlement. They are the soar losers who hang their heads in defeat, but come out firing the next time they meet. They are prideful beyond belief. Which works in their advantage at times, but against them when others test their ability.

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Identity #3
The final identity is never satisfied with their work, regardless of their talent. To them, pain is a part of commitment, and discomfort is a part of growth. They’re well-rounded, strong-willed, team, and individually oriented. They’re willing to improve on their own, and use their strengths to make their teammates better. To them, the offseason is tougher than the regular season, the fourth quarter seems like the first, and while everyone else would say they’re tired, this identity is just warming up.

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How to find your identity.

By not taking shortcuts.

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Some may say shortcuts are nothing but wrong turns, while others say they’re outright immoral. However, for those who take shortcuts, what’s the use when it brings you from your goals? Completing tasks (at times) seem unnecessary, but it builds character. It teaches you that anything is possible with the right mentality.

It makes you fight when things seem insurmountable, and brings positivity to the most negative situations.

It builds on instinct.
Except, instead of relying on the impulse of avoiding discomfort and accepting defeat, you’ve learned the instinct to survive.

You’ve learned that things aren’t given, they’re earned.

And if you allow yourself to take shortcuts, then you can never feel the entitlement of earning anything, can you?

Play To Your Strengths

PLAYING TO OUR STRENGTHS

When I get introduced to new people, friends mention that I played center for Rowan University. Almost every single time, people say…

“You’re pretty short for center.”

When I played in high school, I’d play anywhere from the point guard, to the center. Every single summer, I’d spend hours and hours shooting jump shots, working on ball handling, quickness, and stamina, and basically did anything possible to turn into a guard. By the time my senior season came around, I felt prepared to play point-center if I had to.

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I was wrong. The moment I was put in as point guard, I knew that I’d never feel comfortable handling the ball again.

I just wasn’t good at it.

But I ignored it.

The universe was telling me to be a forward/center, but my mind was telling me to be a guard. I shot 300 shots each afternoon, ran a few miles a day, and spent countless hours doing ball handling drills, hoping to become a guard.

If there’s anything anything I’ve learned from my four years, it’s to play to my strengths.

One day, I received some great advice from a childhood friend/fellow Prof athlete.

He said, “Whatever you do, play to your strengths. As long as you do that, you’ll be fine.” 

Why do people work on the things they’re not, instead of developing the things that they’re great at? Image

Most things in life operate in team settings. Whether it be your family, work or friends. What we should do is utilize our strengths and focus them toward the team goals.

Every time we go to work, step on the court, or stroll onto the field, we go to war. Our teammates are our soldiers fighting along-side us. Our team is our army. The overall goal: to maximize our abilities as a unit.

The true essence of teamwork.

In war (much like football), if the army sends enforcements toward the left, the right is weakened. If enforcements are sent to the front, the rear is weakened, or vice-versa. But if we focus our enforcements to each side…

Everywhere is weakened. 

But what if we focus on becoming well-rounded? Does it work the same way?

Future employer may ask: Where are your strengths? And inevitably, where are your weaknesses?

It’s important to know your weaknesses as well your strengths.

Everyone has potential in something. And yet, some people are more successful than others. The trend that we’ve found is that  the most successful people are the ones who’ve been able to maximize their strengths. 

For all we know, we may have all the skills in the world to become great at something we are truly gifted in. If we deny ourselves of this possibility, it means that we are less concerned with our strengths, and more concerned with concealing our weaknesses. 

Playing to your strengths means that you know what you are, and you know what you aren’t. And if we focus on being good at everything, we won’t become great at anything.

So stop with trying to be great at everything. It’s impossible, and foolish. Try to find what you love, and know your weaknesses just as well as you know your strengths.

If you stay within yourself, it makes things much easier.

Yes, it’s great to be a well-rounded person, but…

When we put our weaknesses above our strengths, our strengths become nothing but great potential.

Message to the Division III Athlete

Last night I found some time to go to Rowan’s Rec Center to play basketball, and it reminded me how great of an experience it was to play for Rowan’s Men’s team the past three years. For anyone who hasn’t seen me play, I never had the most talent or athletic ability on the court, but I hustled my heart out. Being the shortest center in the NJAC at 6’2″, this is what I had to do to earn my spot. Going into some games, my goal was to wear down my opponents, get some easy lay-ups, and win the match-up battle. By my senior year (thanks to my great teammates), I was able to average over 10 points per game, 5 rebounds per game, and ended the season with the highest field goal percentage in the league. This is a modest stat line, indeed, but an over-achievement in my eyes. If there were a picture to describe who I was as a player, this is it.

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I was a mean, gritty, defensive-minded player. I played an ugly, physical game, and built a competitive edge off effort alone.

But now my basketball career is over. An anticipated shift of lifestyle has occurred- from a sports career, into a professional career. Instead of filling up a stat sheet, I’m filling out applications. Instead of lacing up my Nike’s, I’m lacing up a pair of dress shoes. The basketball uniform- once called my “warpaint”- has been passed on to new talent.

The new warpaint is my suit & tie.

Last week, I was having my resume reviewed by an older, more experienced friend before I tested the free agency market called a job search. And though I’ve spent 23 years of my life playing basketball, he told me to take off “Division III Athlete” from my leadership section.

“It demeans my integrity,” he says.

“You’d have to at least be a Division I Athlete,” he says

One second…

What does it mean to be a Division III Athlete? To me, it means a lot of things.

1. Division III athletes are some of the most passionate, hard working athletes in college sports. Being a Division III athlete means that there are no extrinsic rewards for playing your sport. Besides going into coaching, most Division III Athletes have no career in sport after college. We take on the responsibility only because we want to. We play our sport because we love the competition, and we love our game. We are willing to go through a sleep-deprived college career if it means that we can compete a few hours a day.

2. Being a division III athlete means that we are responsible, dedicated, and well-rounded. Most people will think that our responsibilities as an athlete go like this: Family, school, sports, maybe a part-time job, and finally, friends…

Not so.

Taking on a sport at a Division III school is a tall order. Current and past student-athletes could agree that their schedule revolves around their sport. Athletes are responsible to dedicate copious amounts of time- in-season, and throughout the off-season- on developing their skills as individuals, and as teammates. Meanwhile, athletes must juggle these responsibilities with the most important reason they’re in college. Schoolwork.

Instead of sacrificing one thing over another, athletes simply find a way to make it all work. Many of us hit the books hard, play our sport hard, work hard at our part-time jobs, and party pretty hard too (when the 48 hour rule doesn’t apply). Hiring ex-athletes means that your company can benefit from a long list of transitive skills such as: teamwork, hard-work, dedication, strategic thinking, multitasking, prioritization, and many more.

3. Finally, being a Division III athlete means that we refuse to give up our position. In any sport, it is important to never give up your position- whether it means your proximity on the field/court/ice, or position on the team. If someone beats you to a position, it means that they wanted it more. If you lose, it means that the opponents either work harder, or more effectively to win. To the Division III athlete, winning isn’t important because it shows that they are better than the opponent. Instead, it shows that they’ve done something that the opponent couldn’t accomplish. This does not make one person “better” than the other. Instead, it means that you fought harder. Your ran faster. You made that final push and imposed your will more effectively. You shut the door on them.

Yes, being a Division III athlete means many things. And if someone tries to convince you otherwise…

They just don’t get it.