When late March rolls around, it's difficult to imagine that every Major League Baseball team is about to play, at the least, a 162-game season. Yet, come October and the crowning of a World Series Champion, I always find myself asking, “Where did that season go?!”
As I reflect on this train of thought, I can’t help but compare it to the timeline of young athletes beginning their sporting careers. Let me explain…
For many young athletes, it's daunting to imagine the lengthy timeline one must endure to experience high-level athletic success. After all, a new athlete must learn the game, practice relentlessly, and participate in many games/matches. Altogether the process can take years and years.
But, just like how the MLB season is long on paper yet seems to start and finish in the blink of an eye, a young athlete’s journey can feel just as quick.
Each athlete’s journey and each MLB season consists of unique chapters that, when strung together, make time fly by. The start of the MLB season marks a time when morale is high, joy is in the air, and optimism is plentiful. Similarly, this same positive energy is typically seen at the start of an athlete’s career. Whether learning the ins and outs of a game, breaking in new equipment, or meeting new faces, the first phase of practicing and playing a new sport tends to be full of excitement, attention, and an eagerness to improve.
As the opening day thrill of the MLB season wears out, it's rivalry matchups, walk-off homeruns, and record-breaking performances that keep baseball captivating come early summer. Likewise, as athletes move past their initial wave of awe, it's important they find renewed enthusiasm elsewhere. Maybe a spark comes from an annual tournament, a match-up against a best friend, or maybe a huge upset. Whatever the source, it's typically happenings (and headlines) like these that keep the second phase of an athletic campaign upbeat and passionate.
As the MLB All-Star break nears, energy around the league needs restoration. Fortunately, the All-Star week does just that - it energizes.
Similarly, it's not unusual for athletes to want or need a break from their sport. Whether burnt out, recovering from an injury, busy with other activities, etc., it's common that an athlete will take some time off, however long. The time off is meant to refocus and rejuvenate an athlete for the next leg of training, playing, and goal reaching.
Once the All-Star break has passed, and the spirit of the league has been refreshed, it's the trade deadline that adds a thrilling dimension to the already momentous back half of the season. Just like how one single acquisition can alter an MLB team’s culture and trajectory, a burgeoning athlete will hopefully encounter opportunities to advance their development. Be it an invitation to a talent showcase, the hiring of a new coach, or the earning of a starting position on a travel team, ideally every athlete is presented with chances - big and small - to progress.
As September looms, the league’s energy level, full of intensity, uncertainty, and angst, has reached a peak as many MLB teams find themselves in a tight race for a playoff berth. Such a decisive span can be compared to the later stages of an athlete’s evolution. At this point, athletes have gone through extensive training, practicing, and playing, yet oftentimes their athletic futures are still “to be determined.” Maybe one is attempting to lead a team to the playoffs for the first time in program history. Maybe one is striving to break a school record. Or maybe one is trying to be noticed by a collegiate coach. While stressful - just like the MLB playoff anticipation - this is both a pivotal and exhilarating time for aspiring athletes.
Finally, October is here and the playoffs are underway. This is a time like no other, one in which each pitch, hit, and call matters within the scope of the game and the heart of the athlete. This is when one’s genuine love for the game shines; this is when you lay it all on the line to achieve what you have worked so hard for over the years. But also, this is a time when MLB players, coaches, and fans can look back to late March and say, “Wow, where did the time go?” So, whether you are an MLB player chasing a World Series or a DI soccer player chasing a NCAA championship, just remember:
In the grand picture, the athletic journey typically comes and goes in the blink of an eye.
To prospective athletes who are reluctant to commit to a sport because of the long journey ahead, I encourage you to not let that be the deciding factor. If you do not enjoy the sport, then that is one thing, but don’t let the timeframe of achieving your athletic dreams keep you from chasing them. If anything, buy into the countless chapters that will not only teach you life lessons and shape the entirety of your journey, but will also go by oh so quickly.
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