It’s 6pm on a Saturday just like any other at the club. Legs are up on the wall, recovery drink in hand; I’ve finally finished my last session of the week. I breathe deeply; not sure whether doing so was born out of habit to slow my heart rate or, if maybe I’m just sighing with relief at the prospect of a rest day tomorrow. Slowly (gingerly), I bring myself to a standing position and begin gathering my things to hit the shower. A voice is heard from behind:
“All done Andrew?”
“Yes sir! Done for the week. It was a tough one.”
“Oh quit complaining. I wish I could run around hitting a squash ball all day instead of having to work. You’re so lucky.”
“Haha. Yeah, that’s probably true.”
My last sentence was uttered through gritted teeth. I hate that expression, “You’re so lucky.” I hear it often (too often). Whether from older club players, people my age, or just random passersby, it comes before: “I wish I could do what you do for a living,” or “being a pro athlete must be the best,” and sometimes even, “when are you going to get a real job?” Maybe it’s just down to the exhaustion from training but, I never correct them.
“You’re so lucky.”
No, I’m not.
I’m sore and I’m tired. And, despite being on my 15th chocolate milk since Monday (give or take), I’m dehydrated and low on sugar. My clothes drip with sweat and my skin is dry from constant perspiration. My feet are sore and my toenails have been mangled since I was a teenager. I’m physically exhausted, and mentally and emotionally drained. Food has become fuel and I’m tired of eating so much. I’m sick of losing – of trying to view my progress through performance and process goals when all I want to do is stand on a podium. I’m slightly broke and if not for my parents and a few gracious sponsors, I’d be completely broke. I push hard every single day. I am not lucky.
I am not seeking sympathy and this is not a cry for help. Because, while elite athletes are incredibly fortunate to have been granted opportunities which enabled them to pursue their sport professionally, luck went out the door after the timer began the 15th set of court sprints.
Let's be clear: instead of hitting up the gym for morning workout, Lucky snoozed his alarm. Lucky figured it would be okay to just do two core circuits instead of three. Lucky was up in the bar drinking with friends instead of busting out a 90-minute solo sesh on a Friday night. Lucky called the practice off after being invited out to party. Lucky took one look at the ice bath and said, “I’m out.” Lucky was ready to throw in the towel for good after a tough loss. Lucky failed to show up the next day and swept away the feeling of disappointment by drinking, not working. I assure you that Lucky never stood a chance.
But work did. And that’s what I do. That’s what we, as pro athletes, do.
Don't tell us you wish you could run around a court hitting a ball for a living, like it's all just easy and fun. And don't tell us how a ‘real job’ is so much harder than professional sports. And please, don't mistake my dedication and hard work for luck.