08 Apr

Snapshots of an Ethos


I’m a huge fan of snapshots and short stories. I am also a fan of detail and would never expect any sovereign being to be able to account adequately for the experiences that led to their ethos in 1000 words. So in the spirit of letting you know me, I would like to share 2 important developments in my life, and in a form that I am passionate about.

95

I have a distinct memory from when I was younger that I still allow to spark inspiration in myself:  Blanco, TX, mid 2000s. In a small community, though awash with positives, oftentimes one can’t help but feel confined in general, but also to feel as though there is no escape from eyes or ridicule, especially when shamed. I remember being ashamed of myself because of the weight room—wanting to avoid pathetically attempting and failing lifts done by my peers easily, in front of those same peers. The memory that distinctly comes to mind was “maxing out” freshman year of high school. Everyone had to complete a successful one-rep max of the squat, power clean, and bench press in front of the eyes of the coach, all teammates, and almighty God as witness.

I wasn’t naturally gifted with strength. I was intelligent and creative but physically I was just a late bloomer. I was the weakest of the grade in all lifts, but apparently the most egregious and unforgivable transgression was my bench press. I literally cannot forget what that amount was as it was graffitied across my entire identity. When I began to put on my shoes, I saw “95” written in sharpie on both tongues, my books and my bag, which was further riddled with 95s of varying sizes. When I looked closer at my locker, my deodorant had been used to chalk a giant 95 on the locker itself. And when I prepared to head home, sure enough, more taunts awaited: 95s all over my bike (side note—I was literally the only kid who rode his bike during this time). Hopefully that has changed, but who’s to say? The point is that it felt as if I could not escape my own physical weakness. I genuinely had nightmares of not having the strength needed to pick up my wife and carry her on our wedding day. Oddly specific, I know, but the truth does not simplify its ways so as to make the cut; that is just what haunted my head. This led to a host of insecurities. I had never been afraid to be shirtless and now the nerves of potentially having to be on team skins in shirts vs skins nearly brought me to tears and filled me with anxiety. To shoulder such stark loads of shame on my young developing frame was profound in hindsight; to feel like I couldn’t turn to anyone because the adults/coaches were the first ones not only to highlight the weakness but also to go so far as to circle the weakest people’s names on the whiteboard. This further stoked the shame and enlarged my already massive target as a victim of bullying and harassment. I was fortunate and grew 9 inches and gained 60 pounds within the next year, and frankly was filled with rage. The bullying stopped shortly thereafter. I continued to work hard and lettered in most of the varsity sports you can play in a small school, but I was full of contempt and loathing and considered my athletic career over with high school.

 I’ll never tolerate or fully understand bullying, but a truth I think that is often overlooked is how relationships can change during these developmental periods. Most of my bullies were formerly my friends and I believe that the impact was profound. I found it sad that people would use their strength and power to push down and not lift up. I vowed that if I were ever to garner strength of any kind, I would do my best to lift others…that if I were ever a Coach, I would foster compassion, enjoyment and inclusion, and not fear or shame.

Glass ankles

The pain was blinding. I was startled at how easily my ankle gave out under my own bodyweight. I had been shot in the ankle by an invisible gunman but unfortunately, there was no knoll, there was hardly even grass on that field. I knew what I had done, I had broken my ankle. It was during a noncontact routine passing drill where a slight misstep led to life-changing consequences. 

There's something devastating about being told by my coach, “In 6 months you’ll be the best player on the team,” to doctors telling me I’ll be lucky to walk normally again practically twice in the span of a year. In 2012, I was part of a team that represented the University of Texas in the Collegiate Rugby 7s championship, the highest honor of Collegiate Rugby at the time. I had been playing the sport for only a short time but had found something that clicked with me and was excelling quickly. I was playing at the top of my game leading up to the tournament itself and during the CRC we had a solid showing at 3-2 in tournament play. By the end of tournament play, though, I had been reduced to a hobble. Mid-tournament I could tell that something was wrong deep in my hip but it didn't seem pressing and regardless, I wasn’t going to quit at this stage. I played the second half of the game. After limping back to Austin, I discovered a stress fracture had occurred in my left hip capsule at some point during or ramping up to the tournament. I was relegated to a sedentary lifestyle for a few months and vowed to return stronger. As soon as I could, I started the process of rehabilitation and achieved a lot of success through the knowledge I had gained as a Kinesiology major. I was able to rehabilitate myself back to playing shape and came back to my best playing season of any sport. I was named All-Conference and helped our team to the conference championship. I was feeling bulletproof and primed to make a splash in the tournament that had haunted me for the last year when in a simple warmup passing drill in our first tournament practice, I took a bad step that caught my cleat in a clump of earth, and as the rest of my body fell forward, my ankle held its place until it broke. There were heaps of denial in those initial hours. I proclaimed I’d be back in a week and that it was just a sprain, though I could barely put weight on it. I wanted to use sheer force of will to create a reality I knew was not mine. I awoke the next day to a lower leg that looked like a swollen melon and the truth had to be faced, a truth that was much more dire. My ankle was toast, and due to eligibility rules, my college rugby career would be over by the time I could make a recovery. I was retired by the conspiracy between a clump of grass and gravity. 

These days were bleak at first but this was an eye-opening occurrence. Being humbled and injured in such a frustrating and devastating manner led me to seek more answers, to seek more tools. I knew it was time for me to expand, lest this cycle repeat itself like a loop. I took it upon myself to complete my degree, and at the same time I dove into different areas in which I previously had no interest: preventative modalities, alternative treatments, holistic medicine, meditation, martial arts, functional and unconventional training,  eastern medicine, yoga, breathwork, etc. That journey of self-discovery turned out to be one of the most important journeys of my life, and is a whole story in and of itself, but it never would’ve happened had these bottoms not been reached. I can still feel my hip and ankle spasm sometimes, and I smile and thank my scars for the knowledge they gave me and the people they allowed me to help and continue to allow me to help. I smile and then grit my teeth as I then go and put in the mobility work because though I carry scars, I can carry them pain-free.

If anything resonated with you in any way, know that I am here to serve and help you on your journey and would love to see you in a Free Strategy Session at Central Athlete soon.

In movement,

 



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