I am a competitive person. As far back as I can remember, I have always been competitive. I remember a time when I was playing U12 soccer and I was miserable. I felt like the coach was always picking on me. It always seemed like when we would get to play a scrimmage game, he would always play, too, and he would put himself on the other team, and then he would man-mark me. I was getting kicked and banged up by the coach, and I wanted to quit.
My parents wouldn't let me quit, but they listened to my concerns and talked to the coach. Turns out he thought I had potential but "needed toughening up." I thought I was tough enough, and I decided to show him in our next practice. When it came time to scrimmage, sure enough, he lined up across from me. When the ball came, I missed the ball (later I would find that this was called a "professional foul" and kicked him in the ankle. He went down, and he never played against me again. Several years later he was refereeing one of my games and he pulled down his sock to show me that he still had a scar from where I'd kicked him. I guess I was tough enough!
As we went on and as my skills got better, I would routinely play against better players, and I loved it. I loved running drills in practice, and I would work as hard as I could. Track practice was the same; when I was supposed to run a 400m interval in 75 seconds, I would run it in 70. Sometimes my teammates didn't like to practice against me because I had one speed: all out.
I really liked having a coach push me to work harder.
But after playing high school soccer, and after playing club soccer in college, the days of having a coach were over. I still play as hard as I can, but I don't have someone else pushing me. At least I get to play. I wonder about someone who has played football at a high level - where do they go next? At least a runner can run local races. A basketball player can play Y-ball. A soccer player can play in an open league or an age-group league (when I was a teenager, I swore I'd never play in one of those old man leagues like an over 30 team). But what about a football player?
I wonder, what's next?
Like I said, I am competitive. I have been running races a lot more over the past several years. One of my life-long goals was running a marathon, and once I did that, I wondered what my next challenge would be. It was running a second marathon (the way I saw it, anyone could run one, but it took more to run a second one). But then I wondered what would be my next challenge.
I began running more 5K races - for a couple of reasons. One was that I like seeing some of the same people at every race and making new friends. But, of course, I love the competition! For a while, I focused most on my finish in my age group, but lately it's been about my time. I set a goal this summer of beating 20 minutes (42 seconds better than my then-PR), and I accomplished that goal with a time of 19:35. What next?
One of the things I see a lot with some people is that once they accomplish a particular goal, they live off that accomplishment. For example, if the goal was to run a marathon, then they do it, then for the next 5 years they eat like they just ran it! "yeah, man, I ran a marathon. Now pass the pork rinds!"
Or in life in general: maybe they did something high level, but now they say, "I did that once, so now I just sit around." To that person, I say, "What next?"