There have been very few Australians who have gone all the way and played in the MLB in the USA. A fellow baseball dad once joked with me saying that being an Aussie baseball player hopeful, travelling to the USA, wanting to be taken seriously by scouts is like an American athlete, who plays cricket and decides to come to Australia and wants to be taken seriously about his cricketing career.
Odds are slim, aren’t they? As much as hope drives us all forward, it can also be a curse as well. But still, hope always drives some to glory who are willing to run through walls.
I talk often with one particular Australian who played in the MLB, Trent Oeltjen, who was signed with the Minnesota Twins, and then went on to play about seven years in the minor leagues before being called up to play in the show with the LA Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks. I asked Trent why he made it and other fellow Australians, who were as talented, if not more talented than him, didn’t make it past College or Rookie League. He said simply,
'I was willing to run through walls to make it.’ He went on further to say, ‘I knew what I wanted. I had my vision, and I was willing to do the hard grind daily.’
The Ability to ‘Run Through Walls’
I’ve only really seen this on the X-Men movies. Do you have to be super human with an ‘X’ in front of your gene pool to be able to do this? Sometimes it seems so. But you don’t have to be an X-Man to run through walls.
In my crazy thinking, I believe everyone is born with the gift to run through walls (figuratively speaking, of course). When we are born, there are no walls. Yes, there could be some positive or negative sub-conscious energy developed from being in the womb, but I’m not going to get into the ‘nature versus nurture’ debate. Yet, I do believe our environment dramatically influences us and we either adapt to or challenge what our environment puts before us.
I have never heard a parent say to a baby: quit trying to walk, you’re never going to get up, you may as well crawl all your life. I have never seen a baby give up trying to walk, despite repeated falling over countless number of times. No parent puts that wall up; no baby is familiar with the failure to walk through the wall. The baby keeps trying and falling until she or he walks. And then reality comes to that child as she or he grows up and the parent’s negative and positive influences start seeping into that child’s thinking. Family, school and society have their say.
Beliefs are instilled and walls are built and believed. This is the way it is and this is the way it will always be.
The child has the gift to get up and walk despite constant failure. There is no imaginary wall. It is instinctive to get up and walk. It is instinctive for us all to hope, want, desire, dream, aspire, get better, be better, leave our mark on the earth in some way – if only through our offspring. At least that way, we can say, I have left the earth in a better place because I have helped my children improve on what I have been. But society builds walls for our children, whether through us or through the physical environment we live in.
Sidney Poitier, in his book ‘The Measure of a Man’, wrote about his friend, Louise, back in the early 1960s when he was mixing with some black rights activists. She said to him:
‘How we see ourselves, how we see each other, should be determined by us and not by people who generally don’t like us…we are going to decide for ourselves what we are and what we are not. Create our own image of ourselves. And nurture it and feel it till it can stand on its own.’
So our children, whether they are athletes or not, whether they are talented at their sport or not, have their own walls they must run through. Children generally figure out where they stand in the pecking order when comparing themselves with other children – especially when it comes to sports. They start building the wall of doubt from an age when they can foresee who is a better athlete. The invisible wall gets built, brick by brick, and at some point they think, but rarely will say, this wall is too high to get over or this wall is too hard to fight through.
All of us at some point have come to a wall and deep down said: this wall is too high, this wall is too hard. Lord forbid we would ever tell anyone this dark secret. These walls are mostly imaginary. These walls can be run through. But something we believed from others or ourselves has convinced us this imaginary wall is too hard and too high.
I go back to what my friend, Trent said: ‘I was willing to run through walls.’ In the ‘Nature Versus Nurture’ debate, some will say it is a gift we are born with and others will argue it is a gift that is developed. The wall says,
“I don’t care who you are. I don’t take any sides, whether you imagine me or not. I’m here for you to define who you are. I’m here for you to run through. I am the wall. Let’s see who is going to win.”
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