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From battlefield to sports field

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From battlefield to sports field

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As you step to the free throw line, your hands shake as you try to avoid looking at the scoreboard that reads 60 to 61.  The regional championship is decided on these crucial free throws. The gym is electric, and the shouts of the opposing student section are deafening. As you begin your routine, the crowd goes silent. You can hear your heart beating and your mind is racing a hundred miles an hour. Despite all this internal commotion, you release the first shot and it seems perfect. The free throw rattles out. The opposing crowd screams in joy and delight, beginning their obnoxious chants again. You attempt to regain your composure, but fail. Your second free throw also misses. You feel heartbroken and your team’s chance at a regional championship is gone.

As Veterans Day approaches on November 11, Americans remember and recognize the dignity of veterans and current military members. Many consider veterans to be some of the most mentally tough people on the planet.  They must deal with loss, homesickness, anxiety, and much more while having to stay focused on their military duties. 

Father Dan Hall served six years in the army as a Special Forces officer, with two tours in Vietnam. Later, he served eight years as a chaplain with the United States Marine Corps in deployments all over the world, so he knows quite a bit about mental toughness from his military service. The current Vice President of Mission and Viatorian Identity at Saint Viator has done the unimaginable, both mentally and physically. When he was fifty years old, he made a pledge to himself run 50 marathons. That’s 1,310 miles, plus all of the training mile necessary to accomplish this feat. His ability to complete this task, despite his age, is inspiring.

When asked why he ran he said “Because it is difficult. Anyone can do the easy things in life.” He continued, “A friend of mine from my military days convinced me to run the first one. I started training at 4:00 am five days per week” Fr. Hall said. “I set my goal at fifty because I was fifty years old when I began. I enjoyed the challenge”.

Father Hall also spoke of times of doubt and how self-discipline helped guide him through those uncertain times.

“When I was leading my soldiers, I thought of them as family”  Fr. Hall said. “My biggest fear was making a decision that would cost someone his life or serious injury. When you are in those tough, life and death situations, all you are thinking about is survival and not about what is politically or theologically correct”.

While it is not on the same magnitude as serving in the military, sports also require enormous amounts of mental strength. Whatever sport it may be, they all test athletes’ mental capability and push them to their limits. Jack Cambria, a junior who is on the varsity water polo team, is able to stay mentally tough while treading water for unthinkable amounts of time.

“I force myself to just go an extra five seconds and then I tell myself to go for another five,” Cambria said. “When I begin to struggle, I remember that we are a family on this team. We always have each other’s back and they are always encouraging me to push myself. Before I know it, we have finished the set united as a team. Water polo is the toughest sport I have played, and being mentally tough is essential if we want to succeed. Your body can only take you so far, and how strong you are mentally sets you apart from the competition”.

David Stahl, a varsity soccer player, needs to be mentally strong to get through grueling workouts and tough games. Every year, the soccer team has to do a difficult workout called the pyramid, which consists of running eight miles at different paces without stopping.

“During the pyramid, I tend to look at the positive impact that finishing will have on me and my teammates,” Stahl said. “If we all are willing to work towards the same goal, our team sees improvement in our performance in games.“

Training, discipline, and mental toughness are necessary for success in the military and in sports, since the body can only take a person so far.

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From battlefield to sports field