PRESTON — As a nutritionist, master herbalist, and personal trainer, people come to me to become healthy and to get in shape. When I tell them that my focus is overall health, they don’t understand to what extent.
I don’t stop at just physical health. As a boxing coach and competitor, I also deal with mental and competitive health. Accomplishing any goal is going to take a certain degree of mental toughness and competitiveness. I learned this lesson at a very young age. It was a painful lesson, but a lesson that shaped the rest of my life.
When I was seven years old I began playing basketball. None of us had any real skills at the time. It was what you would expect from a group of seven year olds. Traveling, double dribbling, air balls, and a lot of fouls. But the one thing we did have was an idol.
Right before our first game our coach walked in with a bag full of jerseys. His son, who also played for the team, quickly began looking through them and said, “I have to find number 23.” Another kid said, “Oh that’s that guy Michael Jordan’s number.”
I had no idea who Michael Jordan was at the time. But everyone seemed so fascinated with this guy that I had to find out. Luckily for me, our cable provider had the Chicago network, so I was able to watch Bulls games. I studied Jordan.
I, just like every other kid at the time, tried to mimic his every move. And when I played, in my mind, I was Michael Jordan. I was the starting point guard for my team. My first two years we went undefeated and won the championship. And the more we played, the better we got.
Over the next few years, players would come and go. I was one of the few who decided to continue playing until reaching middle school. My second to last year playing we had another undefeated season that ended with us winning another championship.
So going into my final year with the team, we were all very hopeful. But my hope for another successful season came with all wins for the team, but one personal loss for me.
The first day of practice a new kid walked into the gym dribbling a ball. We’ll call him Kenneth. Kenneth was quiet and humble. But there was something different about him. It was obvious from the moment he stepped on the court. We all introduced ourselves and began practicing.
For years I had been the starting point guard, and essentially, the leader of the team. But everything changed that day. As we practiced I found myself watching this kid. Mesmerized by the way he handled the basketball. The rest of us tried to imitate Jordan, but he actually made it look good.
I just knew that he was going to take the starting shooting guard position from the kid who held it previously. But to my surprise, my coach had other plans. Instead of making him a shooting guard, he made him the point guard. The starting point guard. My position.
For the previous five years I had been the starting point guard. And my last year with the team, I lost my position to Kenneth. I was devastated. I was never jealous or angry with him. After all, he deserved it.
I was more upset at myself for allowing someone to take what belonged to me. But I made a decision that day. Never again will anyone be able to take my position. From that day forth I decided that whatever I did, I would be the very best.
Being the best at what you do means knowing your strengths and weaknesses. It turned out that not only being a point guard, but basketball itself was a weakness for me.
But it forced me to be honest with who I see when I look in the mirror. I’m no basketball player, and it made no sense to try to force a round peg in a square hole. It was time to be who I was supposed to be. My mental health depended on it.
It may be weird to consider this a mental health issue, but just think about it. Failure. Disappointment. Not feeling like I was good enough. Feeling as if people forgot about me. These were all things that I felt when I lost that position. It was hard coming off the bench that season.
And even though we went undefeated and won the championship for a fourth time, I felt like I wasn’t a major contributor. But it didn’t matter. I had already come to terms with the fact that basketball wasn’t my sport. And whatever it was that life had for me, I was determined to be the best.
We often times give too much power to failure. Relinquishing that power has a direct affect on our mental health. We lose our drive. Our passion. Our focus. But failure is not final. As a matter of fact, failure is not real. It is an illusion. Yes, we will take losses, but never overlook the lessons in losing.
Every loss brings a gain if you are open to receiving it. When one door closes, maybe it is because you would have walked through it and missed when opportunity knocked on yours. Maybe certain doors are locked because first you need the keys to success.
Or maybe you just need a Kenneth to come along and show you that even though this isn’t your sport, you are about to be great at something else. So thank you Kenneth. Thank you for taking my position that day. Nobody has been able to do it since.
Tyrell James, co-owner of Born Champions Boxing, is also the owner of Rellic Fitness where he is a boxing coach, master herbalist, and health coach. He is also a personal trainer and nutritionist at Preston Gym.