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Oregon State University Football's Drew Kell Stretches with Team

Heads Up, Discover the Real You

For a lot of us athletes, we have been instilled with the mindset to put our heads down and work towards a common goal. But I think we can use this time of confusion and chaos to take a deep breath, pick our heads up, and find enjoyment and fulfillment in exploring who we are outside of our daily regiment. 

For the past 5 years, as a Division 1 football player, all I have ever known is the grind. I had school and I had football; that was it. I worked tirelessly day in and day out to be the best student-athlete that I could be. 

As a D1 athlete, all I wanted to do was get recognition and approval from my teammates and coaches and be worthy enough to play. This idea and this thought consumed my entire life. I would wake up early and be the first one to workouts. I would have restless nights thinking that I should and could be doing more and I constantly battled myself mentally. My life struggle was my investment in football. 

It wasn’t until I tore my ACL that I understood I was more than just an athlete. Although this has been one of the biggest adversities I have overcome, it was one of the greatest blessings as well. My knee injury happened the week before our first game of the season, which meant that I would be out for my entire junior year. At this moment, football was taken away from me. Instead of going to practices and workouts, I had doctors appointments and physical therapy. While my teammates were out on the field, I was on the sidelines spectating. Having a long term injury during the middle of our season made me a low priority on the team, making me feel disconnected and isolated. I struggled with this hard. Not only was the physical pain from this injury intense, but the mental stress of not knowing what to do with myself when I didn’t have sports was even greater. 

At BASE by Pros, we share this lesson through the fictional story of NFL Quarterback Joe Young who didn’t find success until he flipped his mindset to what he calls “The Balanced Beam”. Without balance, every moment is life or death. Once he found he was more than just an athlete it put less pressure on his performance and allowed him to live a balanced, more confident life.

Instead of fighting with the fact that I no longer had football, I decided to flip my way of thinking to make my situation manageable and mentally positive. I now had the time to take a step back and breathe. I wanted to explore the base of who I was but didn’t know where to start. 

During my time being hurt, many of my teammates, friends, and family reached out to me and made sure I was okay. Not only did this gesture help me in my time of need and hardship, but it helped me discover who I wanted to be. I loved the feeling of being cared about, loved, and picked up by others. I knew then, that I could be that person for so many others and had found my purpose outside of playing football. Whether it was a simple task or a difficult one, a shoulder to cry on or an ear to vent to. This is the person I found myself to be. Whatever it is that I do, wherever life takes me, I want to make a positive impact in the lives of others.

Life is full of ups and downs, twists and turns, and bumps in the road. Adversity is a part of life and can teach us so much about ourselves and others. Whether you are young or old, there is still so much we don’t know because we’ve kept our blinders on and grinded through life. Although we may be in a challenging phase of life right now, use this time of trial to learn about yourself and how to maximize the different aspects of your life. Take a leap, try new things and step outside your comfort zone. I strongly believe everyone in this world is born to do something spectacular and make a difference. There is more to each and every one of us and it’s time we pick our “Heads Up” and explore what that is!