Eminem got it wrong.
As the summer presses on we can expect to be treated to top class sport every week from here on in. Closer to home, the hurling and football championships are really beginning to heat up, with big counties already plying their trade in the backdoor system, in the last chance saloon.
It will be great to watch the likes of Tyrone, Monaghan, Mayo and Kildare in the football, fight tooth and nail through the qualifiers to make their way to the Super 8 in July. Fixtures on the road will be worth a couple of points to the hosts, so we can expect a couple of upsets this coming weekend.
For others, the summer is already over and no matter how good the weather will be they will feel a cloud hang over them until next year’s championship begins, almost 11 months from now. They may feel they’ve missed an opportunity and chances are gone for good, but reality is never that simple.
The likes of Clare and Waterford hurling will come again, and the building for that return begins now. They must fight the instinct to duck away from the hurt of this year’s campaign. The path least travelled is that of the courageous coach who reviews the season while the hurt is great. You won’t find all the answers straight away but start the process, because the best healing begins as soon as the wound is opened.
It will also make the second sitting easier and more fruitful, even if a few weeks have passed in the meantime.
But back to this concept of opportunities missed. The messages from pop psychology, and too often the rhetoric from a dressing room before players take the field, are misleading. The idea is to rile players up with overtures underlining how this game is their last chance and how opportunities like this don’t come around too often. If you don’t seize the day now, you’ll regret it for the years that follow.
Sounds good in the movies with a well-known A-lister delivering the speech of speeches to a room full of athletes that would not look out of place in a Calvin Klein advertisement. We even have some real life examples that feed this misconception. An iconic image from the 2006 Olympic Games in Athens is Michael Phelps emerging from the changing room for his many races, with his headphones on listening to his pre-race soundtrack. When a reporter finally asked him what he was listening to, he replied “Lose Yourself” by Eminem.
Cue the world and her mother going online and downloading the tune to their own personal training playlist. The song became an anthem in gyms and dressing rooms from Tipperary to Timbuktu. There is no doubting the quality of the tune and the overriding beat is as likely to get you going as anything else out there. Music is a great way to get you ready to perform.
But the message is wrong. Fundamentally wrong.
When Marshall Mathers, aka Eminem, penned this tune it was to accompany the backstory of his character in the film, B-Rabbit. A somewhat autobiographical view of his own journey to be accepted in the rap scene.
Lose Yourself opens with the challenging question: Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted, in one moment, would you capture it or just let it slip? Fortunately, life is not that cruel or unforgiving or absolute.
Life is filled with opportunities.
Sport is filled with opportunities.
Players and coaches who have crashed and burned already this season, making an early exit and finding themselves doing the banal away from the invigorating environment of team training, will have another chance.
The athlete that repeatedly thrives in a winner-takes-all, no prizes for second place, environment may exist, just not in the real world.
Our imaginations and memories do funny things to how we remember great athletes of yesteryear and even current superstars. However, they’ve all experienced heartbreaking lows that in the moment felt like something they couldn’t return from or even learn from. And yet, because they went on to become household names, they obviously did.
Eminem goes on to state: ‘You better lose yourself in the music, the moment, you own it, better never let it go, you only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, this opportunity comes once in a lifetime . ..’
It is not that simple, it is simply not the case.
Opportunity knocks in sport time and time again.
Career-threatening injuries are recovered from in ways that no one had seen before. Where people were once quick to write a player off because of their experiences, that same player will come back to prove them wrong.
Coaches who stumble, fall, and spectacularly fail with one team, come back to have their day and many others besides with another team, much to the chagrin of those who were full sure that was the end of them. They had their opportunity and blew it, and that’s the end of their story.
A so-called star player leaves a set up and again we are quick to suggest that without him, they are nothing. Their opportunity has now passed them by and everyone else will suffer for it.
For every so-called opportunity missed there are 10, 20, 100 cases of people who have risen from the ashes and found their way back to redeem themselves. Ironically, they will speak about how that apparent missed opportunity from their history was actually a critical part in their success later on.
People like Séan Óg Ó hAilpín (horrific injury from a car crash) and Stuart Lancaster (horrendous period with England rugby) are obvious examples, but there are many more less-known but equally reassuring examples of people refusing to accept that a missed opportunity is their last chance at achieving something.
Rather than seeing a missed chance to shine as a door shutting on any future opportunities, choose instead to invest your time and energy more productively by seeing every opportunity that has come and gone as well as those that still lie ahead as experiences that will inform a better version of yourself sometime in the future.
For the coaches that have an unexpectedly long summer of introspection ahead of themselves, this is an incredible opportunity to add tools to your utility belt. It can be hard to learn lessons fast enough when the games come thick and fast.
Go out to watch a few games featuring teams that play a different way to you.
Take in a few games of other sports to allow some pollination to take place.
You will get another shot, and when it comes you’ll realise that once in a lifetime happens more often than you thought.