May 3, 2011
Good evening, it's an honor to be able to speak to you all here tonight. First, on behalf of my peers I would like to say thank you to the coaches, trainers, athletic administration, Dr. Rissmeyer, and parents in the room tonight for all of your unwavering support. When I was first asked if I wanted to give this speech, I was trying to think of topics and something came to mind. Does everyone know the would you rather game? You're given two equally unappealing options and you have to pick between them. Well I was flipping through a book of them once and one stuck out to me. Would you rather always lose or never play the game? As a competitor, when I first read that I immediately thought that I would never want to always lose. What fun is that? But when I really thought about this question, the answer was obvious to me.
Some say that today playing sports is all about winning at all costs. It often seems that in all of that the passion and the love for the game that we start out with can be lost. Let's remember why we play. I started playing basketball because in the 5th grade the boy I had a crush on was good at it and I wanted to impress him in gym class. It turned into something more than just a means to get a guy to walk me to my bus, though. I developed a pure and utter admiration for the game. Over the years I've been lucky enough to have found much success with the sport. Sure wins are great, championships are great, but there is something so unifying about sport in its purest form. As Division III athletes, we don't play to get drafted or to sign multi-million dollar deals with Nike. We play because so many years ago when we stepped on that court or that field or that track we knew that this was what we loved to do. We put in the work and the time to get better because we wanted to. And that's what sport teaches you - to give it your all. It's that feeling of knowing that you've given everything you have in you that makes it worth it. But it doesn't just apply in an athletic sense. That determination and perseverance that you've learned and honed is going to stay with you all your life. You're a competitor, so use it to your advantage.
Now look to the people sitting around you. This is what it's all about: your friends, the relationships you've formed. Everyone will undoubtedly grow and evolve over their four years in college, but that common bond will be a constant and will stay with you always. The friendships you've made will last much longer than the memory of a loss or a bad game. In 20 years you won't remember your team's record, but you will remember the bonds you've formed through being an athlete. If you had never played sports, you may have never become friends with people sitting next to you tonight, or other people around the room. Personally, words cannot express how much you all mean to me.
Think about what else you'd miss if you never played sports. You wouldn't know the feeling of having to get a running start to be able to get on your bed because your muscles ache so much after the first week of preseason. The thought probably would have never crossed your mind to throw yourself in front of oncoming traffic rather than have to run 10/10s. You would never have had the chance to kick Andy Yosinoff's light blue elbow sleeve out of the way during practice rather than slip and sustain serious injury. Of which, we're not totally sure what purpose it serves, although it is aesthetically pleasing. You wouldn't know the resounding noise your alarm clock makes waking you up for 6 am practice. And perhaps most significantly, you would have never heard the sweet, melodic words of Ron Laham saying, "Get on the line, ladies (or fellas)," boy is that a life wasted.
So yes, when I think back about all the memories and experiences I have playing sports, given that ultimatum, I would have rather always lost than to never have played the game. Now don't get me wrong, losses can be heartbreaking. The thought of a missed shot, a ball off the post, a bad call by the ref - because let's face it, it's usually the ref's fault, right? We think about what could have been. But we keep playing, we keep competing, because there's just something about the crispness of an assist, the ping as the ball connects with the bat, the perfection in a well-timed handoff, that keeps us going and carries on our love for the game. I would never want to give up how sports have affected my life, what I've learned from them, and the relationships that I've formed. Winning is awesome, but there is a lot to garner from a loss; not only on the court, or the field, or the track, but also in life. We play because it's what we do and we would be lost and probably pretty bored without it. It is my hope that you realize everything you've gleaned as a student-athlete here at Emmanuel College.
Tonight we recognize the achievements of a number of individuals in the room, but I want to say congratulations to everyone. Being a college athlete is no easy task. To my fellow seniors, it's been a great four years and good luck in your future endeavors. For those of you who have more time here, I urge you to remember why you play. Play for yourself, play for your teammates, play for that little boy or girl who fell in love with the game. And make sure to cherish every season, every game, every practice; it'll be over a lot sooner than you realize. Thank you for your time this evening, and everyone have a great night.