This is about the pitfalls of a superstar athlete who is trying to remain true to himself.
| Chappy Smith had been with the same company for the past ten years. When he got hired it was as a general laborer. He didn’t have any skills when he started but over the last decade he became one of the premier minds in his profession. He now headed the entire plant but the downside to this extra responsibility came the longer hours. And this unfortunately equaled less time with his family.
A.J. tried desperately to stay awake until his dad came home but he was snoring before 8:00 pm. In the morning A.J. woke up surprisingly early considering how tired he was the night before. He began tossing and turning around 6:30 am and then crawled out of bed at 7:00 am. His legs were a lot stiffer than when he had left the center. They felt rubbery and it took a few minutes for him to fully regain his balance.
A.J. had dug in his closet the night before and found a duffel bag. After he showered and got dressed for bed, he put an extra towel, a bar of soap and a change of clothes in the duffel bag and set it by his door. He grabbed the bag and headed downstairs for a little breakfast. He found himself extremely hungry again just like he was after his running session.
On his way down to the kitchen he paused at his parent’s bedroom. Their door was open and his mom and dad were both asleep. He wanted to wake his dad and share his wonderful experience from the day before but he knew how important his dad’s sleep was to him so he just accepted that he would have to wait and then went downstairs. When he got to the kitchen he ate a banana and drank a glass of milk. He also grabbed an apple and a bottle of water and placed them in his bag. He then left a note to his folks on the dry erase board hanging beside the refrigerator. The note read, “Went to the YMCA and will be back for dinner. Love you, A.J. “. With that completed he went out the door, collected his bike from the garage and started the mile ride to the rec center.
When he got there Kevin was just removing the chains from the front door. Kevin saw A.J. and a smile covered his face from ear to ear. Glad to see you again son! Does this mean you had a good time yesterday?
Sure did! What time does Matty usually get here?
On a normal day he beats me here but he overslept today. Then Kevin explained that Matty is his son and said but he should be along soon.
Kevin opened the door and the two entered the main building. Kevin opened his office and set his briefcase on the desk. Then he began maneuvering through the maze of hallways unlocking doors and setting up for the day’s activities. A.J. helped where he could and at the end Kevin thanked him for his assistance.
As they walked back to the main hall he told A.J. that the morning was his favorite time of the day. He explained that the morning was the start of a new day and it was his time to reflect on life. He said that the empty center was his church and it was where he thanked God for all that he had. Then he would put in a monster workout on the basketball court and in the weight room.
When they returned to the office Matty was waiting for them and they all went into the locker room and changed. Kevin hit the weights and the boys walked out to the track. On their short trip down to the track Matty asked how he was feeling and A.J. said alright.
My legs were a little stiff when I woke up but they feel better now.
Good well let’s have some fun!
They performed the same stretching routine from the day before and when they finished A.J. thought to himself - yeah this is fun. They started out slow with a short jog around the track to warm up their bodies and then got into the sprints and longer distance running.
At 11:30 am they stopped and Matty said let’s get some lunch. That sounded good to A.J. cause he was starving again. The boys went in Kevin’s office and sat on the floor where A.J. pulled out his apple and dug his teeth deep into the skin and bit off a large chunk.
Is that all you brought?
Yeah I didn’t want to eat too much and get sick.
That was smart thinking but you’ll need more energy for the rest of the day. And with that Matty pulled a couple of sandwiches from his brown paper bag and handed them to A.J.
I can’t take your lunch.
Relax I made extra in case you came back today. A.J. hesitated momentarily and then took the sandwiches and said thanks.
Ham and cheese is my favorite!
This is wonderful! Matty agreed and the boys devoured their meals. At about 1:00 pm they went back to the track and mimicked their workout exactly as they had this morning and yesterday afternoon. As they walked a cool down lap around the track A.J. heard that unique sound from the day before. He asked if they could go check out the ball field and Matty said sure.
They walked over and sat on the bleachers. The ball players were fielding grounders, turning double plays and shagging pop flies. Now A.J. didn’t know what any of these terms meant but they are ones he would become very familiar with in the near future. After a few minutes Matty excused himself and said he would see A.J. later.
A.J. sat and stared at the guys on the diamond shaped field. He was mesmerized by their skill level and thought they played like a major league team. Well at least they looked as is they could. Before he knew it the time had slipped away and it was 4:00 pm. Mom served Sunday dinner promptly at 5 and you did not want to feel her wrath if you were late.
A.J. ran up to the locker room, showered, changed and began his ride back to his house. When he got home his dad was watching the news in the living room and mom was in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on another delicious meal. A.J. sat beside his dad and waited for a commercial before interrupting his dad’s relaxation time.
Dad, can I talk to you?
Of course son, what’s going on?
I just wanted to tell you about the Y and the great people I met.
His dad turned the T.V. off and said I’m all yours! He proceeded to tell his dad about the past 2 days and the wonderful boy and his dad who had been so nice to him.
He then said in a confident voice, “and I’m getting faster all the time and one day I’ll be able to beat you in a race!”
I look forward to the challenge! And with that they were called to the dinner table. They all bowed their heads, prayed for their blessings and then A.J. pigged out just as he had done the day before.
A.J. began spending all his free time down at the rec center with Matty and Kevin. As soon as the sun was out he would ride to the center and change into his running clothes. He met coach Jackson and Matty on the front steps and helped them set up for the day. He didn’t really do much work but coach Jackson made him feel like his work was of the highest national security.
When finished the boys would go their way and coach would finish his morning rituals alone. The two would stretch and begin a strict regime that was designed by Matty’s dad. They would start slow with light jogging and short wind sprints. When their cardiovascular system and muscles were warmed up they would begin an intricate set of races. The races were longer at first and then shortened towards the end of the session - 2 x 100 yards, 4 x 50 yards and 6 x 40 yards. They would run hard but smart in the first few races making sure not to overexert themselves. Then as the distance decreased all bets were off and it was max speed from start to finish.
These races were set up in this fashion to allow the boys to build their stamina and control during the longer races and their speed and determination during the sprints. After this exhausting workout the boys would catch their breath and have one final race that wasn’t in the training session custom built by Mr. Jackson. This last race was just for fun or was it? It was a final 100 yard dash - full speed, no mercy, blow your opponent away gut check sprint to see who wants bragging rights the most.
At first there wasn’t even a contest; Matty always destroyed A.J. from start to finish. This made sense of course because Matty was older, bigger and stronger. The problem for Matty was that A.J. developed too quickly. Within a couple of weeks Matty could still beat A.J. but he really had to work at it. Somehow A.J. was able to fly down the track without wasting a breath. After 6 weeks he was barely winded and able to beat Matty on a few of the longer races but he couldn’t compete with the long swift legs of his new pal Matty in the sprints. On the final race it was always a nail biter. A.J. would run neck and neck with Matty for a better part of 80 yards but then Matty’s longer legs and superior size would kick in and he would pull away from his counterpart. He would win the race by 8 - 10 yards but A.J. would never slow down until he passed the finish line.
When A.J. ran he gave it everything he had every time out no matter how bad he was losing. He kept his legs churning away at the asphalt, held his head up and kept his eye on the target - the finish line. To Matty, A.J. was the ultimate competitor. He was in awe of this younger boy who ran as if he was born to it. He didn’t gloat when he won and pouting simply wasn’t in A.J.‘s vocabulary. At the end of the race, either win or lose, he would catch his breath swig a bit of water in his mouth and then be back on line ready for another heat. And at the end of the days running they would walk off the track side by side complementing each other for a hard days work - and play of course.