Becoming an Athlete by Scott Shaw 02/27/15.
When I was a young boy I was short and skinny. I remember being able to fill a five gallon bucket of water and sit in it and use it as a pool. Only my lower legs and my upper back would be sticking out. I look at a 5 gallon bucket now and think, “How the heck did I fit in that?” I was shorter than everyone in my early elementary classes, but I was the biggest dare devil ever. I would fight the biggest guys in school and take any double dog dare you could throw at me. I always hated when my mom would tell me I was too little to do this or that. It wasn’t I was too young, it was I was too little. My father, a Marine, didn’t allow crying and would always push me and my brother to be strong and do our best. We heard “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome” it seemed like on a daily basis. So I had no chance at not getting Napoleon syndrome, especially because my older brother would give me a good ass beating on a daily basis and all I looked forward to was growing, getting stronger, and beating the hell out of him. I could have been the poster boy for the “Got Milk” commercials because I drank it as fast as I could and as much as I could so I would grow.
At the age of four I had already cracked my head open several times, had multiple black eyes, and had cut one of my toes off. I did all these by being a dare devil and I may have been copying Superman that I saw at the drive-in with dad; maybe just a little. I remember my dad teaching me how to walk again in a day and telling me to get up every time I would fall. I knew that I wasn’t allowed to cry no matter how bad it hurt. That day made me as strong. Whenever I feel weak I think of that day and no matter what I can finish what I started.
Despite my short stature and missing toe I was incredibly fast on my feet. I wanted to play American football so I could run and smash in to big guys without getting grounded. My mom told me again, “NO, you are too little.” I played Little League and thought it was the most boring game ever. I am an anxious person by nature and hate sitting still and that game is mostly just standing around waiting for something to come your way. I liked acting like I was chewing tobacco like the pros every time I shoved a huge piece of Big League Chewing Gum in my mouth. I found out I needed glasses from Little League since I couldn’t see the ball being pitched at me. Once I got glasses I learned they sucked for running. The best part of playing baseball is when the coach wanted someone on base and didn’t care how and I would lean in to the pitch and get hit, “batter take your base.” Probably good thing I quit in Little League.
I wanted to do Martial Arts and my mom told me I was too mean and aggressive and would use it to bully or fight bigger guys. Well she was probably right, but I wanted the discipline to control my temper. Instead I would run every time I was mad and running would zap my energy quick. She finally let me play indoor soccer when I was about 8 years old. I remember the coach asking me if I could kick a ball and had no idea what he was talking about. I fell in love with soccer and played many times per week on multiple teams. After a while I got pretty good at defense and started making it on select teams. I played as much as I could and practiced at home almost daily. I then started learning all the positions, but always loved defense because I could make sure no one was getting passed me to shoot on my goalie, or at least I would die trying. I loved how fast and rough the game was.
Back in the 80’s BMX Mongoose was all the rage and I wanted one so bad. My brother was nice and made me a fake one after my parents said I couldn’t have one because they were so expensive. I ended up buying a real 1981 Mongoose frame from a friend for $50.00 and my mom was so mad at me that she called me stupid. So I rode my knockoff and would have my mom time me around the block. I would increase my speed and distance with every lap. I then started leaving the block and going to other blocks without permission of course because again I was too little to leave the block. I started saving my money from any way I could earn it and once I had enough for a part I would ride the knock-off to the bike shop and bring it home to my real Mongoose. It took me awhile but I built my very first Mongoose and I still have it to this day. It was one of my greatest childhood accomplishments. I wasn’t even 10 years old. My teammate David Cortivo and I have been friends since around 1st or 2nd grade and we rode our Mongoose’s everywhere and even through a tornado; ok we laid in a ditch with our bikes, but hey we survived it.
So I rode everywhere I went and every day I commuted to middle school by Mongoose and I played a lot of soccer. In middle school I had enough with being little so I started hitting the gym and I worked out every day until I was lifting as much weight as older kids. I took a stupid dare and broke my heels and was told I would have to be put into casts and I told the doctor no and he replied that I would have to suffer, so I did. It was excruciating pain to play soccer with broken heels, but I did and I found a way to tape my feet until they healed. I entered high school, got my driver’s license and quit riding my bike altogether. That was a bad mistake. I played outdoor high school soccer until one day I was screwing around with some buddies and I fell on my hip and got a bad bone bruise that kept me benched most of sophomore year. I then got kicked off the team my Junior year for hitting a guy, so I tried wrestling. Soccer never prepared me for the workouts our wrestling coach would make us do. I was trying to cut weight and beat a senior to take his weight class and I would leave practice vomiting quite often. I finally lost my temper and hit a guy and got bumped down to Freshman, but since I was a Junior I refused to wrestle Freshman and I was off the team before my first official meet. With all this I never considered myself an athlete.
I continued playing indoor soccer into college although I didn’t try out for my university. I regret leaving that field without even signing up for tryouts. I had lost my love of soccer because I forgot how to have fun playing anymore and left every game angry. I learned how to sail when I was 3 years old and wanted to be a great sailor so I sailed a lot through my childhood too, but I never entered a race because I knew I would become competitive and end up hating it. I sailed a lot in college and quit soccer. I was married shortly after college and had twin girls shortly after that. I sailed when I could and ran at work when I could but family life and work started taking over, which is the way of life.
In my young twenties, Dave and another one of my teammates and high school friend Neil Dickhaus asked me to go mountain biking. I had to run out and buy a low cost department store mountain bike. We rode a few times together and I was always near the back trying not to throw up. We were so slow we used to take lunch breaks on the trail. I fell in love with cycling again, but as I started riding, they stopped and we lost contact with each other. I kept riding and saving for a good bike, but I kept putting it off because I just couldn’t pull the trigger on spending the money. In my upper twenties, I became a Christian, tried to chill out some, moved to a new house, and shortly after I had a great day paintballing, so that night I rushed into the bike shop a few minutes before closing, with paint all over me, and bought my first good bike. The next morning I rode Castlewood and slashed a tire and bent the chain rings and brought it back to the shop that morning for repairs; needless to say they were shocked. I started road riding near-by Grant’s Trail and used that for mountain bike training for Castlewood. I used Castlewood for training for Chubb. I did all this riding alone without a spare tube or cell phone; I had a patch kit and pump and that was it. If I finished Chubb and didn’t have a heart attack I was happy for the year. I then almost killed myself on that bike by hemorrhaging my liver doing yet another stupid dare. I also started kayaking for recreation and continued mountain biking, road biking, and sailing through my twenties and thirties, but I never raced anything for fear of hating something I loved.
In my late thirties I was asked to join an adventure racing team and had to start running again. See TeamBOR.com History page for details. I was extremely slow so I focused on running since I could ride and paddle. I remember before the race seeing a couple racers that were a little overweight and I thought, “Thank God!” The start of the race was so crazy that the first trek made my legs lock up on the mountain biking leg. After the 8 hour race that took us almost ten, I stood there exhausted, sore, dirty and bloody and I remember looking around at everyone and thought I was standing amongst great athletes. I then realized I was an athlete. Each year I train harder and I get faster, better, and run longer races. I gave up sailing because I didn’t see the activity level I needed and plus I could buy more bikes with the money I saved. I also gave up soccer again after playing a couple years as an old guy so I could focus on running since soccer was destroying my feet again. I am happy to say I have quite a few races under my belt in the last 4 years and am looking forward to many more. My faith in Christ keeps my temper from ruining the sport for me and when I feel too competitive I take a breath and remember to have fun and when I think I can’t continue He is there to carry me across the finish line. Now I just hope to inspire others to have the courage to get off the couch and take their first steps to becoming an athlete, even if that means just starting out with a walk. Ahab.