Updated: Apr 6
Let me tell you a little story. Throughout my entire life I have always been the athletic type of person. Regardless of where I was: in school, with my friends or family. Even though, as a kid, I played a lot of different sports in my free time, there was always one priority: football (as in soccer). I quickly realised I was quite good at it and started playing competitively. Just like so many other kids out there I wanted to become a professional football player. It turns out I was not gifted enough. Upon having realised that around the age of 16 or 17 I changed to a different team that was closer to home, had less training hours but still allowed me to play on some sort of semi-professional level.
Unfortunately, starting at the age of 18, I had to deal with a lot of injuries. It was never really bad, but it kept me off the pitch again and again. I stopped counting but I know I twisted and/or sprained my ankles more than 10 times and tore my ligaments so often that I am not sure if the endings ever reattached. But I always came back to the game. Until the day where something new came up. My knee was hurting. It was not a specific moment where something cracked or twisted or broke. It slowly started and so, I ignored it and kept on playing until the pain became unbearable. Even when walking or standing. It made me stop. What I thought would take a few weeks took eventually more than two years and countless consultations with physiotherapists, osteopaths, orthopaedic specialists and chiropractors. I don’t want to bother you with the details of a long and frustrating time and make a long story short: Step by step, with the continuous help of a chiropractor, I was able to get rid of my pain, regain function and most importantly trust in my knee (to a certain extend). However, what I also began to realise during my long phase of rehabilitation was that my “career” as an active football player had ended. After all, I did not trust my knee enough to get back on the pitch. It was one of the hardest decisions I have made so far in my life. It was quite depressing in the beginning and it felt horrible to tell my teammates, coaches and everybody in the club that I was out. But with time I made my peace with it.
There I found myself suddenly having loads of extra free time: no more scheduled football practice and matches. The urge to train was still there. I spent quite some hours in the gym in these times, got nerdy about training methods and searched for pieces of information on YouTube. This is how I eventually came across an interview with someone named Ido Portal – Movement teacher and initiator of the Movement Culture. I heard him speak about movement and training in a way I had never heard anyone speak before. No one. Ever. If you have 5 minutes, watch the video below NOW. If you don’t have 5 minutes, put it in your watch-list. It is part of this story.
I could spend hours and thousands of words now to tell you about how I changed my perspective about sport, competition, training and my philosophy around it and of course, movement in general, but that is not the point if this little story. The point is to tell you that after I was forced to stop doing what I loved to do, playing football, I found not only a new discipline to follow, I found a new way to approach my physicality in a much deeper sense than before. I realised I am living in this human body with its potential to move.
Socrates once said:
“No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable”.
And so, I began to move. Martial arts, parkour, meditation, handbalancing, locomotion practice, dancing, climbing… The list goes on and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. I do not have that competitive mindset in me anymore that I used to have from my days as a football player trying to be the best in one sport. I would much rather experience ten different disciplines, each with their unique concepts, rules and constraints and only be mediocre at them. I stopped the sport that I was so passionate about only to realise how much more is out there to be and experienced and practiced.
Now why am I writing about this?
Let me invite you to take a moment and think about the last time you tried a new discipline or learned a new skill or movement. If you cannot think of an answer within 30s, I would encourage you to go out there and learn something new. It does not have to be a one arm handstand. If you usually only touch Olympic barbells and weight plates in the gym maybe start by doing a body workout. If you have spent the last 15 years throwing punches maybe go to a dance-class next weekend.
The same applies to you if you are a coach. And more importantly: If you train others, especially young athletes, think back to the beginning of my story. I was playing football and football only. I wanted to become a pro, it didn’t work out that way. Life happened. It broke my heart for a time but then I was lucky to find some inspiration to start walking a new path. I want to encourage you to consider preparing your athletes for that situation – when life happens. Just like me it could bring them to the edge but if they find the right inspiration from the right person it could open completely new doors for them – like it did for me.
I would like to finish by quoting Ido as follows:
“The best reason to move is because you can.”