Autobiography of Sports

It was as if I had won the World Series. Next I would be touring the country, signing autographs, and riding on floats in city parades. Everywhere I’d go, locals would triumphantly hoist me atop their shoulders as I would wave to the adoring fans. I believed this all to be true. I was on top of the world, and a member of the red Aces, the winning team of the Ridgway, IL, tee-ball tournament. At five years of age, this was no small feat. It was the most significant event of my dear little life. I felt like a rock star, a five year old rock star. Even since with monumental moment, athletics have always played a large role in my life.

It’s obvious that at a young age, I desperately believed that I was great at sports, whether I actually was or not. To me, I was the cat’s pajamas. This sense of accomplishment is common at that age according to the Developmental Changes in Goal Orientation, which implies that effort equals excellence. Even before my tee-ball years, I remember playing sports with my family, baseball in the backyard, and basketball in the shed, depending on the weather. I had always been encouraged by my family, especially my mother who was a volleyball coach and had played several sports herself.

She felt it was important for my sister and me to understand and participate in athletics. My mother would tell me stories of how my grandmother played basketball in the 30’s in Tennessee. I was inspired by the women in my family and their experiences with sports. I wanted to be a part of something they were apart of and had thoroughly enjoyed. Oddly enough, it was my sister and I who excelled in sports, in comparison to both of my brothers. My family didn’t exactly fit the mold of the traditional gender stereotyping when raising sons and daughters. Parents give more encouragement to sons than daughters in sports. Girls reported lower physical competence in physical activity than boys,” (Brustad, 1996). I participated in sports at an early age because I had positive influences in my family, and because I enjoyed the challenge and the physical activity. By middle school, I began to excel in basketball. Playing for the Gallatin County Hawks girls’ basketball team, I was discovering my talents as a ball player. I played opposite Dana Pinkston, former Saluki women’s basketball guard. She was quick, agile, and very tough. She pushed me to be a better ball player.

During this time in my life, I experienced both intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation, as described in the Self-Determination Theory. The Self-Determination Theory describes intrinsic motivation as challenge, skill improvement, and fun. Extrinsic motivation includes privileges, social status, recognition, and awards, (Deci ; Ryan, 1985). My intrinsic motivation included gaining more control of my dribbling, having more confidence on the court, and increasing my shooting accuracy. However, I was motivated as well by the attention I got from the coach and teammates when I performed well.

I loved the feeling I got when people clapped for the team as we ran out onto the court. I especially wanted people to clap for me. Basketball was going very well for me at the time and I felt as if I had great potential in the future. During that particular basketball season, I spent several weekends traveling with my family to St. Louis for consultations with an orthopedic surgeon. It was discovered that I had severe scoliosis and might need surgery. I had gone to the doctor after an injury on my hip during the previous softball season and an x-ray on my hip had discovered my problem.

Fortunately, it didn’t seem to affect my game, and wasn’t noticeable if you weren’t looking for it. In fears the scoliosis would progress, my parents thought it would be best to have a spinal fusion surgery. Halfway through the basketball season, I had spinal surgery at 13 years old. After the surgery, I was in bed for six weeks, and wasn’t able to exercise or do much of anything for six months. This was very hard, emotionally and physically for a previously very active 13 year old. I wasn’t allowed to participate in competitive sports for one year, but I was determined to play basketball again in high school.

During my freshman year basketball season, I spent a couple of months practicing with the team as much as I physically could. It was apparent during the practices, that I had lost much of the stamina, strength, and mobility I once had. I had difficulty keeping up with my teammates, and it seemed my teammates would be frustrated with me for it. After a year following the surgery, I was allowed to compete in games. I wasn’t as good as the year before and I was very conscious of it. I very much wanted to regain what I had lost, and more. I wanted to be able to compete, exceptionally.

My perceived competence was very low, but I had a high mastery goal orientation. According to the Achievement Goal Theory, goal orientation and perceived competence of one’s ability will determine their motivation. Goal orientation is not enough to determine motivation (Nichols, 1984, 1989). My motivation and goal orientation, determined that I had high motivation for excelling. I very much wanted to get back into the shape I had once been in. I didn’t play much at all during the rest of the season, and I had lost confidence in myself as an athlete.

I felt so far behind and felt obligated to make up for lost times, so I made a goal that I would do anything to get the endurance and strength I once had. During my sophomore year, I began going to early morning practices, which were a volunteer exercise program, mainly for members of the boys’ basketball team. I and one other female attended these early morning practices and were the only two females at the workouts. The other female was a good friend of mine, and also an extremely competitive person. Since I was the only other female, it felt as if we were always in competition with each other.

It seemed she always tried to beat me at all the drills. I soon let my goals become more ego oriented. I felt I was always trying to prove myself and my ability and began focusing more on being in competition with others, (Nichols, 1984, 1989). It was noticeable that my enjoyment of sports began to diminish. Not only was I participating in before and after school practices, I took up weight lifting class. I was gaining strength and becoming a better athlete, but was not enjoying sports like I had in the past. I began becoming ego oriented and obsessed with sports and being better.

I was playing basketball, softball, and volleyball. In the beginning, I wanted to improve myself, but as the competition escaladed, I began working hard for to prove something to my teammates, coach, and for merit on college applications. My identifications changed, and for the wrong reasons. By my senior year of high school, halfway through basketball season, the burn out began to weigh heavily. A month left in the season, I got mononucleosis. All I wanted to do was play basketball, and again, a physical ailment prevented me from playing. It was probably a blessing in isguise. I think it was a sign that I needed to rest and re-evaluate sports. I began recovering as softball season began to roll around. The funny thing was I really didn’t feel like playing. Three years starting at third base, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I was completely burnt out. All I wanted to do was go home after school, eat dinner, take a nap, and watch wheel of fortune. That’s exactly what I did during the spring quarter of my senior year. Season after season of sports, I never allowed myself to rest, even after I had a serious surgery.

It was rest that was well needed. I went to college and began participating in intramural basketball and softball. My goals and motivations were focused less on the ego and more on mastery. Maybe it was maturity, or the less competitive environment I was in, but I started to enjoy sports more than I had in high school. I seemed to care less about competing with my teammates or winning, and more about playing hard and having fun. I still had times when I let those ego beliefs take over, but then again, who doesn’t? Exercise and sport has always been a part of my life. Various experiences and challenges have shaped my motivation and approach to sports.