| Resolve To Be a Rec League All-Star

Author / John Durrett

5-7 minute read

Here we are again: another New Year’s Day is nearly upon us, and with it another set of New Year’s Resolutions. I used to hate “resolutioners.” These new members often crowded classes, and coaches habitually put a ton of energy into people who were just going to disappear after a few months. However, I’ve always liked the idea of New Year’s Resolutions: using the day as a kick-start for positive life changes. The only problem is people have trouble sticking to resolutions, and nearly everyone who makes one quits on it. I began to wonder why this was. 

When I was working in the high school and college arena I noticed that nearly all my students went through the same struggle: as they reached the end of their time in organized athletics, they weren’t sure what to do to stay in shape. I had tons of kids come talk to me during their senior year, asking how I found the motivation to stay in shape. Without the framework of their sport, they either didn’t feel encouraged to head to the gym, or simply didn’t like weight room training enough to stick with it. 

They craved the intangibles of their sports: community, competition, set schedules, skill acquisition. Many students would reach out to me after graduating, upset that they’d gained weight and desperate to find a solution. I was often too short-sighted and would help them by writing them meal plans or lifting routines. I never realized that there was a better answer in front of me the whole time.

Over the years, I looked at the kids who seemed to stay in shape after leaving school sports. Their big trick? While they may have left their school sport behind, many of them never left sports entirely. More often than not, a good portion of them changed gears and used this as an opportunity to learn a new sport or hobby that was physically demanding, and kept them mentally and emotionally engaged. Sometimes this was because as they grew they developed newer values that didn’t align with their previous sport, and sometimes this was because after all those years in one modality they simply got bored. Others opted to continue in their chosen sport, but instead found different and novel ways of competing (think going from football to Flag Football). Regardless of the direction they went, all of them used their hobbies to stay motivated and invested in their health and wellness long after their peers had given up.

Rec League All-Stars

If the only Football was Pro Football, the world would be a strange place. When we’re growing up, we see the career progression of sports very easily: rec league, travel programs, high school varsity, perhaps a stop off at prep school, collegiate athletics and then for that rare few, playing as a professional. This is presented for us very clearly because it is a huge money machine. Kids thrive off the community of sports, the challenges they present, and the excitement of playing games with their friends. Interestingly however, the career track seems to stop abruptly. For some of us, it happens in high school. I was so terrible at soccer that I didn’t even make it onto my high school team. Luckily, I was also a martial artist, and I still do that to this day. It was always interesting to me that other sports didn’t have the track that martial arts does: many of the people I trained with in my youth were a decade or two older than me, and students naturally become assistant or full instructors. Some were Masters competitors, still getting after it and competing with others their age. They stayed in shape accordingly, to maintain the functionality of the sport. The good news is, we’re starting to see tracks open up in other sports that help guide athletes past what are considered to be their peak playing years. Rec League sports are growing, with everything from Flag Football and Adult Soccer Leagues to Kickball and Volleyball. More and more sports are offering and publicizing Masters competitions.

A number of the athletes I train for strength and conditioning play in adult recreational Volleyball or Basketball leagues, and cite them as a huge motivating factor that keeps them coming into the weight room. They go out for beers with their league teammates and get together on weekends for games. It’s very similar to all those same drives they had growing up, and it helps them stay invested in their wellness. Just like when they played in school, they don’t want to be the weak link on the team, and they still want to be sharp on the court or field of their choosing. Also, many of them speak highly of the social aspect. In school, many of our teammates became our closest friends, and it turns out this is still the case in adult sports. Science has long demonstrated that this kind of tribal friendship and community is even better for our health than the sports themselves.

Old Bones, New Sports

Perhaps the sport you played just isn’t the same. You can’t exactly be getting tackled anymore and still show up to your office on Monday limping and covered in bruises. Or perhaps a sport flag football, with its absence of the thrill of contact, just doesn’t get you excited. Maybe it’s too mentally discouraging that you aren’t as fast as you once were. Equally likely, there’s a chance that you just feel burned  out on a sport you dedicated your youth and adolescence to. 

Worry not, there’s a solution for you as well. I run a Mixed Martial Arts gym, and most adults who sign up here have no prior experience. Some may have boxed or wrestled when they were a kid, or did a little Taekwondo or Karate, but by and large we are their first real foray into the combat sports. I love to see it. These people are looking for something to light their fire, a new spark to get them excited about being healthy. Many are just looking for a way to stay in shape that doesn’t bore them to tears. It’s easy to forget that the weight room need not be the end-all, be-all of fitness. It shouldn’t be. If you want to be a Power Athlete, you should be digging into sports, even if that means finding something new.

We also find a lot of folks signing up because they’re interested in learning a new skill. Perhaps they are interested in self-defense, or they’ve always wanted to learn how to throw a good punch. Many are deeply invested in the sport of MMA and want to broaden that passion. Whatever the case may be, they’re using their hobby as a motivating factor to stay in shape. When they want to improve in their sport, they know that exercising will be a big component of that. Their desire to learn and play a new sport keeps them pushing the weight on their squat and the time on their runs in a way that few other things can.

Do It For The Kids

This may come across as harsh, but I mean it from the bottom of my heart: People seem to want to do everything for their kids except leading by example. Read that again. We have a thriving kids program here at my MMA gym, and many of our best kids have one thing in common: their parents train, too. In order to help their kids get in shape and stay motivated in sports, parents break the bank buying fancy gear or paying for special skills coaches. 

I can tell you that nothing will motivate your kids like seeing mom or dad out there on the field as well, training and pushing themselves. Your kids are starving to emulate you, and the younger they are, the truer this statement is. 

Show your kids what an adult should look like: healthy, fit, strong, relevant. 

This serves a dual purpose, as it’s obviously just as good for your long-term health as it is for theirs. In a society where we struggle to connect, and kids get drawn into ever increasing screen time, what could be better than sharing a passion with them that you can both invest time and energy into? 

It warms my heart every single time I see a parent on the mats drilling a padwork combination or Jiu-Jitsu technique with their child, and I know that kid is destined for great things. Do you and your kids have different interests? That’s okay. As long as they see you being active and working hard to progress, you’re setting the foundation for them to live a better, healthier life.

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The Lone Ranger

Have I lost you completely? No kids, no desire to make new friends, or maybe just no time to invest in a sport that requires teammates and training partners? Not to worry, there are dozens of great athletic endeavors available that you can commit to completely alone, whenever the time works for you. Individual adult sports are fulfilling in their own way, and often perfect for the person who loves self-refinement and competing against their own numbers. There are master’s leagues for many individual sports, including but not limited to swimming, track and field, rowing, biking and distance running. You could pick up something like golf or tennis, which can be practiced with whomever shows up to the court that day. There’s a sport for everyone, and you simply need to find the one that pulls you in.

Resolve to Get Physical

The goal of your New Year’s Resolution is the same as everyone else’s, and is something that Power Athlete CEO John Welbourn has spoken about often: do what you say you’re going to do. Don’t quit. 

Easier said than done, right? We know why we quit, though. We simply lose motivation. This year, your goal is to get back in the gym, to start a diet, to get in shape. Just wanting it isn’t enough. You need to layer on your motivation, and the best way to do that is to acquire a physical hobby. Never played any of these sports before, or any sport at all? Don’t let that stop you. 

We’re sold a lie that we have this finite window of childhood to begin to learn and play new sports. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s never too late to find yourself in love with a new sport, or to rediscover your passion for one you thought you had to toss aside.

My challenge to you as we stand on the cusp of new year is simple: make playing a sport your resolution. Embrace a hobby that will encourage your mental, physical, and emotional wellness for years to come. You certainly won’t regret it. Active hobbies will keep you motivated to get extra sleep, eat better, hit the gym, and help to turn you into what we affectionately refer to as a “performance whore.”

The best part? When you do want to start pulling levers to empower your performance, Power Athlete has you covered, offering strength and conditioning programs, meal plans, or individualized coaching for every goal. All you must do is provide the goal.

2022 is on the horizon.  Click here to begin crushing your goals today!

Related Content:

Podcast: PA Radio Episode 505 – Finding an Identity after Athletes hang it up
Podcast: PA Radio Episode 484 – Tendon Tensegrity & Rec Sports with Dr. Matt Zanis
Blog: State of Mind by Tex McQuilkin
Blog: Training for Sport is Training for War by John Welbourn
Podcast: PA Radio Episode 544 – Microdosing Athleticism w/Cory Schlesinger and Zack Zillner

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John Durrett

John is a Coach at Underdog Mixed Martial Arts in West Hartford, CT, where he teaches both martial arts and strength & conditioning. For over a decade, Underdog has built several professional fighters, even sending some to the UFC and Bellator. John began training martial arts at a traditional Karate dojo at the age of 6 years old. This was the start of a lifelong journey which has seen him log countless hours in a myriad of styles, including Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling, Kali, Eskrima, and Jeet Kune Do. In addition, John has spent over a decade working as a professional strength and conditioning coach, coaching at the High School and D-III Collegiate Level. Along with over a dozen other certifications, he holds the distinction of being a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the NSCA and is honored to be counted as a Power Athlete Block One Coach. He is intensely passionate about empowering athletes to find their max potential and explore their body’s unique capacity for the martial arts.

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