Saturday, August 22, 2009

Atletes, Coaches, Eating Disorders and Recovery

This is in response to this article--,0,3248337.story?page=1

T. Moody overcomes her Eating Disorder and competes in marathon.

I read this article and being a former college lacrosse player-- I felt compelled to respond! I don't know T. Moody but I was glad I read this. I have not met her but it sounds like she is turning a negative experience in college sports into something positive, much like I am trying to do.

I understand that over exercise is a huge part of eating disorders, but I also think it can be a great resource and strength in recovery. (done in a healthy manner) After treatment, I took a year off from playing lacrosse and running. I now play club lacrosse and I am training for a marathon to raise funding for eating disorder treatment. I have been cleared by doctors, and my therapist. I am in the best shape of my life, both mentally and physically. I run for fun, and never for a time. In college, I ran because I had to, now I do it as a healthy and fun experience!!! I am an athlete and I always will be..... You just don't and can't turn that off-- any athlete can understand and relate to this.

I know in my heart why I run and it feels great! I pray and believe that T. Moody is doing just that same thing. I think her story is inspirational and I am so proud of her strength and passion to stay with the sport she loves. When my college lacrosse career ended-- I gave up on the sport and I struggled for over 4 years with anorexia and substance abuse. I have since found serenity and peace in running and returning to the sport I love. While in treatment I wrote my story-- "A Fallen Athlete"( ) which goes into detail on my struggles with eating disorders, drinking and my recovery. I believe every recovery is different and it can be a very moving thing for an athlete to get back out there and do what they do....

I also understand that one must be careful with exercise while in recovery. Only you know if you are doing it for the right reasons???? We must all stay alert about eating disorders-- that means parents, family, friends and coaches. If you are in recovery, please seek professional guidance when considering exercise.

I wrote this on the topics of athletes, and coaches--

For the Love of the Game
This is where I get real about competitive sports and speak directly to all athletes out there. It does not matter if you’re on the professional, collegiate, high school, or junior high level. It does not matter if you are male or female, or what sport you play. We all share in a unique bond. That bond we share is the love of the game. I hope my story has been eye-opening for all athletes.

If you love the sport you play, don’t turn your back on it. Learn from my mistakes and realize that failure in sports is an inevitable part of the game. Game, that word is defined as something you play for entertainment or fun. Sports are a game, and these games are a big part of all athletes’ lives. However, games are not life. I loved the game of lacrosse, but I took it too far. I put immense pressure on myself to become the best. To me, it became more than a game; it was my life and, eventually, my identity. I was nothing without the game of lacrosse. This is what I thought at the time. I was so caught up in the competitiveness of the sport that I forgot why I was playing it in the first place.

I started playing lacrosse because I loved it, and because it was fun. Lacrosse gave me an avenue to be free from the world around me. The love of the game, the fun and excitement sports provide, is what athletics are all about. I lost sight of this love when (I thought) the game failed me and I ran away from it. Sports are a game and they should never become your sole identity. A sport should never take the individuality of an athlete. However, an athlete should be identified with the sport they play and the excitement they provide for the sport.
Brett Farve is not football, but we identify that name with the amazing accomplishments and miracle plays he gave the sport of football. I know everybody remembers that miraculous Monday night game when Farve, after the recent passing of his Father, led his team to an inspirational victory with four amazing touchdown passes that seemed to fall from the heavens above. Football did not give that to Brett Farve, he gave that memory to football. He gave that day to all of us. I lost sight of all the great things I provided for the sport of lacrosse in my career and I let lacrosse identify me.

I may have not become a well-known professional lacrosse player but I had some amazing moments in my career, just like Farve did. Yet, I was blinded from these memorable achievements because I believed lacrosse defined me. With that mind-set, when I failed in lacrosse, to me it meant I had failed in life. Not knowing how to handle failure, I turned my back on the sport for three years; my life rapidly spiraled downward until I hit rock bottom. (Anorexia) I never truly lost the love for the game, it was just buried deep inside me, with all the pain, shame, and anger I had from my last game. I wanted to be the best, but you can’t always be the best at everything you do. Sometimes it is okay to just be good at something.

All you can do is be the best you can be, nothing else matters. I demanded perfection of myself on the lacrosse field but nothing reaches perfection. I set myself up for failure, and when I failed, I couldn’t handle it. I lost control BUT, thankfully, I ended up in recovery. I couldn’t have done it alone. My story may seem drastic but if it can happen to me, then it can happen to you. Just remember, I grew up as a kid who was a sports junky just like you. That kid who loved lacrosse lost sight of the true meaning of love of the game. However, when I picked that stick back up on Easter Sunday, I was enlightened and reconnected with the sport. (Anorexia been in full remission since that day) I now have that love of the game back and a future to look forward to. Please learn from my experiences and love the game you play. Remember, sports are a game, play hard but have fun.

Athletes’ Greatest Teachers

Coaches are athletes’ greatest teachers. They have the incredible opportunity of taking young kids with amazing dreams and talents and transforming them into remarkable athletes and people. However, notice that I used the word “opportunity.” Every coach has the chance to be an athlete’s greatest mentor, but so many overlook this because winning becomes everything. What is the number one priority of any coach out there? If you asked that question to any coach, I would bet that four out of five coaches would come up with the same answer. That answer, of course, would be to win games.

The ultimate goal of any coach is to take their team to the championship game and win. How are coaches’ careers defined or measured? This answer, just like the above, seems to have a simple response. Coaches are judged and compensated for the amount of success they achieve. The more titles a coach brings to a school, the more his legacy grows. No one talks about or goes into the various sports’ halls of fame for setting the record for most overall losses. Everything in sports focuses on winning. No one wants to hire a losing coach, nor does any player want to be apart of a losing program. Our society seems to have both embraced and accepted this “all or nothing” mentality. The real truth is that in sports, there is so much more than winning.

The hard fact is that, in any sport, at any level, there will only be one championship team at the end of the season. No sport has two or three champions; in the end, only one team wins. What I have learned throughout my athletic career is that there is more than one way to achieve victory in competitive sports. I have been on both sides of teams—winning and losing. Honestly, it feels great to win, and I have been on championship teams. Still, I believe I learned more from losing than I ever did from winning. I believe my story is a true example of that. In my lacrosse career, I lost my final game in both high school and college, as I am sure many other athletes have. It is almost impossible to finish a career or season with a win because, inevitably, only one team wins. Yet, just because you ended the season with a loss doesn’t mean you didn’t accomplish victory. I lost my last high school lacrosse game, but I went on to play in college. This was a huge victory for me.

So many victories occur in sports everyday, but they seem to get overlooked because all we focus on is being that championship team. Do not get me wrong, I love to win and there is nothing wrong with winning or working hard to become a champion. What I am saying is that sometimes it is okay to lose; you can still be victorious. Why does any one athlete play a sport? Yes, more than anything they want to win, but the real reason they play is solely for the love of the game.

Look at Tiger Woods; he is by far the dominant athlete of this era. He defines the true drive to win, but you can tell by his passion on the course, that he truly loves the game. Also, I almost guarantee that if you asked him whether he learned more from winning the Tiger Slam or from the tournament that broke his consecutive win streak, he probably would have said the tournament that ended his streak. Yes, even great athletes like Tiger Woods lose at some point in their careers. You truly learn more from losing than you do winning. By knowing how to lose, you learn to win.

I have had many great coaches throughout my career, and I can vividly remember the life lessons they instilled in me. Many of the best coaches I had prepared me to be successful in my future. I credit Coach Reynolds for giving me the fight and heart to turn my life around. He was only my coach for a short time before his life was tragically taken but his legacy lives on in me. His “get it done” mentality saved my life and has allowed me to be here today to tell my story. No days go by for me that I don’t remember and learn from what he imprinted in my heart. He was not only a great coach, he was my greatest teacher. Coach to win, but teach your players the life lessons that will prepare them to succeed when that final roar of the crowd goes silent. The level at which you coach does not matter. You have the opportunity to change a player’s life for the better. Teach your players to win, allow them to fail, and lead them to victory off the field by the way you coach on the field. Just as Coach Reynolds was and is my mentor, you to can be some player’s greatest life teacher.

Patrick Bergstrom