Training Camp

Training Camp

From Chicken Soup for the Soul 20th Anniversary Edition

Training Camp

Sports is human life in microcosm.

~Howard Cosell

My childhood sucked. Thank God.

My parents divorced when I was 18 months old. My dad took me because, frankly, my mother didn’t want me. In fact, when the doctor first told my mother she was pregnant with me, her response was anger and disappointment. After I was born she was generally just disinterested in me and simply handed me over to my father. She was a woman who never really wanted to be a mother and thankfully for me she admitted that to herself and gave me up to my dad. He really didn’t know what to do with me either, but was willing to “do what had to be done” (one of his favorite mantras).

My dad was only 23 years old when I was born, and back then, men didn’t raise kids on their own. He had just moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to what must’ve seemed like the middle of nowhere (Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I was born) to be an overworked and grossly underpaid football coach for the university there. He was alone, lonely and wounded from the divorce, with no idea how to raise a son.

So he parented the only way he knew how — like he coached. That meant, no whining, no crying, no excuses, and lots of yelling. My dad was infamous on the gridiron for one of his coaching philosophies: no matter how hard a player was hit on the field and how hurt they got, they were not allowed to come out of the game. One time a linebacker got really smashed in the middle of the field, wobbled to the sideline and begged my dad to be taken out of the game. My dad grabbed him by the facemask and screamed, “Not unless you are showing bone.” The player pulled his shoulder pad back and his collarbone was sticking out of his neck skin like a Thanksgiving turkey. Thus came the line I heard hundreds of times: “No, you cannot stay home from school sick, unless you are ‘showing bone.’”

Get rejected, fail at something, fall down, scrape your knee? The only sympathy I heard was “Hey, No Pain, No Gain.” He actually had that painted in big block letters on our garage where he would relentlessly slam around his Olympic size weight set starting at 5 every morning, without fail. Miss free throws at the basketball game? Do

1,000 free throw practice shots before you come home. Trouble dribbling with your left hand? Tie the right one around your back and dribble for eight hours. Get a ‘C’ in math, it’s workbooks and math school all summer. No relenting. You didn’t get love or attention in my house unless you achieved.

It is because of this “dysfunctional” childhood that I have become the highly functioning achiever I am today.

• Having to get over issues of abandonment caused me to become vigorously self-reliant.

• Growing up with a tough university football coach father developed my drive and self-motivation.

• Not being doted on taught me to be independent and self-reliant.

• Having to achieve for attention taught me to be goal-oriented and results-minded.

People often see their childhood or difficulties of their past as wounds they need to heal from. Instead I discovered that adversities are your advantage. It’s like how you grow a muscle. You put it under intense stress and challenge it repeatedly. What you are actually doing is tearing the muscle fibers and breaking it down. Then it grows back bigger and stronger than before. You now have the muscles (mental, emotional and psychological) to achieve extraordinary things ordinary people cannot.

Somehow, in his own way, my dad was the best parent a future achiever could ever have. He was strong, disciplined and consistent. He parented/coached me to be the same. I’m incredibly grateful for my childhood training camp. In the end, it seems, my childhood was awesome!

~Darren Hardy

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