Friday, June 28, 2013
For ESPN The Magazine's recent Kids in Sports Issue, 12 professional athletes were asked to write letters to their younger athletic selves.
There's reigning U.S. Open champion and Gold Medalist Andy Murray, who at 26 years old, reminisced about being thrown out of the finals of the Scottish junior championships because of his temper. He told his 12-year-old self, "Even if I could stop you, I wouldn't. You need to see that racket fly through the air in Craiglockhart fly for what seems like forever, until it lands by the umpire's chair and slides under the fence, out of reach. You need to feel sick about getting thrown out of a Scottish junior championship that you should've won."
He continues by saying, "There will be this thing called YouTube, Andy. And when you're my age, you'll use it to look back on your first pro appearance at Wimbledon. It will take you another six years, but when you get there, you'll be skipping around the court wearing such a big smile that your face almost cracks. That's when you'll realize you love this game too much to let something as childish as anger get in your way. You'll start breathing evenly and keeping your head clear on court changes. You'll learn to put tactics over temper. And you'll have so many memorable matches, it will make your 12-year-old head spin."
Athletes included in this series include Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas, star soccer player Abby Wambach, NBA star Dwight Howard, NASCAR star Jeff Gordon, and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos.
But my favorite letter is from LA Galaxy midfielder Robbie Rogers, who came out of the closet a few months ago and retired briefly before returning to the game he so loves. He told his 14-year-old self:
"You're walking around with a cramp in your stomach. You feel trapped within yourself. The pressure of being a high school freshman and playing for the U16 national team is stressful enough. But on top of that you're worried that you're different from everyone, especially your teammates. And you think that if they figure out who you are, you won't be able to play the sport you love, or your family won't agree with it. Sometimes you pray and think: I don't wanna live through this. Why can't I be like my brothers and sisters?"
He continues, "I know I said I wouldn't tell you what your future holds, but I will tell you that everything's going to be fine -- one day you'll be happier than you ever thought possible. And while you can't envision sharing your secret now, the world is changing. People are becoming more accepting. And when the time is right, the day might come when you're ready to face the world as the beautiful person you truly are."
The whole feature is tremendously moving, in some cases humorous, and truly insightful. You can read all of the letters at http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/9418365/notes-younger-self.