Judo isn't the most important thing in my life, not by a long shot.
There was a point when that was not true, when the first thing I thought of when my eyes opened in the morning was winning.
Life changed. I had children, employees, a business. I still like judo. I teach once a week and show up for the occasional weekend practice, clinic or tournament. I wrote a book, Winning on the Ground, with Jim Pedro, Sr., which I like to think is pretty good, and I enjoyed writing it.
However, I have other priorities now. I run a company that makes computer games to teach math. Every day, I am responding to schools that are using our games, designing new games, working on bugs (we like to call them undocumented features) and talking to people who are interested in becoming employees or investors - CEO stuff.
I have a husband, four daughters and two granddaughters, and they all think I should spend some time with them occasionally, you know, family stuff.
I'm honest about it. I don't go around telling people I want to be the Olympic coach - because I don't. Far from being offended if someone wanted to recruit some of my students from Gompers Judo to their club - especially those who are going into high school this fall - I would be thrilled. They would really benefit by practicing more than once a week.
I don't see the same level of honesty in many athletes. All my life I have heard people say they wanted to be good at one sport or another, that it was the most important thing in their lives.
And yet, when I watch what they do, they aren't training every day. They have a million excuses, but the one that really makes me want to smack them in the back of the head is this:
That practice just isn't good enough for me. I'm a serious competitor. Those people are just recreational.
So, what then?
Well, often it is their excuse to sit on the couch and complain about how they are being deprived of the opportunity for an athletic career.
Talent, winning - it's not something your parents buy for you with expensive private lessons, training camps and moving across the country to be on the "best" team. Yes, maybe you will need that - later.
For now, what you need is to get off your ass and go outside and run, go to the gym and lift, go train with those people you think aren't as good as you. If you are so great, fight them left-handed, only work on your defense on the mat, letting them pin you. There is a lot you can do.
You know what you should NOT be doing? Sitting on that couch talking about how you could really be good if someone else paid for those opportunities for you and arranged everything perfectly so you had the best possible training, coaching and conditioning.
You know how you get the best of all of that? You show that you EARNED IT by the work ethic you demonstrated.
Otherwise, you're just another person sitting on the couch talking about how good you could have been.
And if it's NOT that important to you any more, because you are focusing on school, starting a business, raising a family or whatever, that is perfectly okay. Just be honest about it.