Carney column: Sports have given me everything I have
A few weeks ago, I pieced together a feature story on sports lessons and how they help shape young men and women. While writing that feature story, I was able to reflect on lessons that sports taught me. Once again that reflection showed me just how much sports has given me in my young 25 years.
I won’t claim to be the star of any of the sports I played; I was far from it. But I contributed to a number of wins and losses on the respective playing surfaces.
While some of the lessons that I learned occurred during those wins and losses, most of the lessons imprinted on me from sports came in the classroom, weight room and locker room.
In the classroom, I knew that I needed to maintain a B+ average to continue to play the sports I loved.
While I truly only needed to maintain a C average, my parents instilled in me the value of education and the need to do my best in the classroom, just like I would when it came to sports.
By being disciplined in the classroom all those years, I was able to graduate with honors from both Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Syracuse University, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism.
I didn’t know it then during my time in elementary school, middle school and high school, but I soon realized how important it was to put in the effort and work when it came to school work just like I would on the practice field or in games while playing sports.
The John Wooden Pyramid of Success says on the initiative block, “cultivate the ability to make decisions and think alone. Do not be afraid of failure, but learn from it.” I became someone who could take the initiative to go my own way and learn along the way, which has led me to here.
I didn’t know it before writing the feature story, but after talking with Coal Ridge boys basketball head coach Paul Harvey about Wooden’s pyramid, I realized that I tried to follow that as much as possible without truly basing my daily outlook on it.
Following my conversation with Harvey, I jumped into research on the pyramid and realized just how many blocks I had experience with, all because of sports.
I’m not kidding when I say sports is mostly my life. I go to bed watching sports and wake up reading about it, not to mention clearly covering them for a living. Sometimes that can get frustrating to my fiancée, Karlie, but it’s who I am, and she’s come to accept it.
That’s not to say I don’t need a break from sports every few weeks or so, but sports are a massive part of my life.
Through sports, I learned about friendship and compassion, not worrying about someone’s skin color — which still seems to be a serious issue for folks these days — or what their religious, financial or ethnic background is.
There’s hope for this world moving forward, largely because of the young people partaking in sports and not dealing with perceived prejudices.
When you work closely toward a common goal with people you might not deal with away from sports, you get a chance to see things from a different view.
That started to really come into focus for me in high school.
I remember Oct. 11, 2009, plain as day. Our quarterback threw an interception, and I chased down the linebacker from behind.
In the process — likely out of anger and frustration — I threw the guy to the ground, directly into my plant leg, which caused my knee to buckle in grotesque fashion, leaving me with a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus in my right knee.
Following surgery a month later, I knew that I had a battle ahead of me, but I didn’t really know what to expect because I had never had anything so challenging sitting ahead of me, aside from my tonsils being removed around the age of 12.
With my knee surgery and recovery, I was expected to miss eight to 12 months, but I attacked rehab every single day — sometimes two or three times a day — and completely rebuilt the strength and flexibility in my right knee and right quad muscle.
I finished rehab in four months, but my surgeon wouldn’t clear me despite getting the all clear from my physical therapist. That was incredibly disappointing, but that’s life.
I missed my junior season of baseball in the spring because of it, but what I learned from that experience was that I could do anything I put my mind to, as long as I was truly committed.
Fast forward seven years, and I’m doing just what I set out to do in eighth grade.
That’s pretty special to me. Without sports, I don’t know who I’d be. That might sound sad, but sports has had a major impact on me.
I’d be curious to hear from readers about their experiences as well.