Water polo had been a large part of my life for nine years. At the time, that was about half my age. As I walked into my coach’s office for the second time that spring semester, I had already made up my mind.
“Coach, I thought about what you said, but I have made my decision to leave the team.”
I’m not sure if he had been expecting this (I confronted him on the matter a month beforehand), but I was in and out of the office within minutes. That day, I went down to practice early to give him my final decision. I walked past the team on my way out, said nothing to them, thanked my assistant coach who I’d known for years, and left.
I never looked back.
Although I considered quitting water polo over the years, it was my teammates that always kept me going. I still had a team in college. So why did I quit?
Well, there were several reasons. The most important one pertains to a commonly heard maxim: surround yourself with good people; those who you aspire to be, for ultimately you become more like those with whom you spend time. For eight years, that had been the case with my teammates. They were awesome (of course not all of them, but the world isn’t perfect), and were like brothers to me. I cannot begin to count the numerous bonding experiences I went through with them. While there were times I did not look forward to going to practice or playing a game, I could always count on my teammates/friends to make it a good time. Even in the hardest practices, the hardest games… friends are what keep you going!
When I eventually quit in college, I felt little camaraderie with this team. There was a “macho man,” “tough guy” mentality, constant smack-talking, and an air of bravado I didn’t connect with. Had we been a strong team, you could argue it was justified.
We weren’t. We were actually 50-50 W/L (wins/losses). That’s poor by most people’s standards.
Nothing is more important to me than my friends and family. In my humble opinion, the relationships you make in life will determine your overall happiness. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, my relationships drive my mood and energy. I had friends outside the team, some of whom I still keep in contact with now, that I knew would make me happier. So, I quit, readjusted my priorities, and continued on.
Which begs the question: what then? Put simply, I kept active. Staying active and keeping the blood pumping was important to maintain fitness and helped me foster more friendships. That next fall, I joined a swing dance club, paintball team, and aikido club, all of which were very different!
One of my close friends and I picked a weightlifting program to do together, and we held each other accountable every day to go down and workout. Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, we would go directly to aikido after lifting, and Tuesdays and Thursdays were swing dance nights. Those Thursdays were incredibly long days! But, having begun these new things and having an accountability factor via my friend kept me busy and entertained. Our friendship evolved as well. In fact, the two of us made even more friends through the two clubs!
Sunday was for paintball practice/tournaments. Paintball was different. Sprinting, crouching, shooting, repeating, all while being shot at from close range (we played speedball, a much faster, more competitive style of paintball) was by far the most exhausting, and it was thrilling!
If you had asked me when I was a teenager what I would be doing in college, these three things would never have crossed my lips. But they were by far some of the most fun clubs/teams I had the pleasure of joining. Once I quit water polo, I could have stayed in my dorm room every night playing video games, watching Netflix, maybe eating hot dogs…but I didn’t! I stayed active. I tried new things and made new friends. Despite giving up the sport I loved to play, I soon discovered there were so many other ways to get out there and be active. Don’t be afraid to try new things and put yourself out there, find what makes you happy, and do it with friends you care about and who care about you!
Think you’re terrible at a sport? You won’t know until you give it a try. My buddy offered to teach me racquetball one day, and I said sure. That day, I may have been terrible, but man is it fun to smack a ball around as hard as possible. Over a year later, I still play and encourage others to play with me. A particular friend of mine can attest to the joy of trying new things as his first time at racquetball was with me. He needed a few games to get the hang of it (despite being a significantly better athlete than me), but he and I ended up somewhat regularly scheduling time to go play together. It was time well spent, despite the already lengthy days of class together, and our friendship only got better from pushing each other’s skill on the court. I even get to write for his blog!