Who am I if I can't get on the field?
Me playing for Team Israel in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Who am I if I can't get on the field?

Jeremy Wolf
Picking up the pieces made me realize how fragile it all is.

I thought about it the other day.

My career. What was my career? What continues to be the what was of my career. Four years in college and two years in the pros. And, you could say, I had luck on my side but I didn't feel that way for the longest time. Maybe I do now. I think for me it comes down to what I was able to accomplish… in retrospect. In retrospect, in hindsight, I had all of the things I needed: a supportive family, great teammates (for the most part), a drive to succeed. But, very rarely did I feel supremely confident in my ability.

My senior year of college at Trinity University was that one time I look back on my career with fondness because of what I put myself through and what I wanted at the other end. I wanted to achieve that goal, to get drafted - the goal of any young baseball player. I wrote the stats I needed to have on my bathroom mirror. I'd recite them to myself on the way to class, on the way to practice, on my way into the batter's box. “Hit .400, 10 home runs, 70 rbis.” I had a clear and present objective. I knew what I wanted and what I needed to do to get there.

I think that's what every athlete needs, clear and present goals to get to where they want to get to. But the stress of doing that got to me, mentally, physically, the constant need to gain approval from my friends, coaches, teammates… I never did it for me. I did it for them. I look back on my career with a fondness for a goal accomplished but complete unpreparedness for what was to come next.

Two years of professional baseball, as a matter of fact, it was 18 months. In and out, like that. I was injured the entire time, I played through a herniated disc in my back for two seasons and at the end of season two, it popped. Done. Career over. Identity in tatters. Who the hell was I if I couldn't get on the field?

Picking up the pieces made me realize how fragile it all is. Who are we when everything we've done is for a specific purpose and that purpose is now gone? It ceases to exist. The way we see the world, shaped by what we devote our lives to, and just like that, it's over. Just like that, we don't have the opportunity to continue this dream. Life is on hold until we find something else that fills that motivation for us.

Five years on from that moment, I can still feel it, a career-ending pop on a windy night in Brooklyn playing for the Cyclones. In tears knowing it would be my last time ever on a field; no 31st round pick stays with a team after a spinal cord injury.

Five years on still thinking of that time with fondness, a fondness of a dream achieved but a deep regret for how I carried myself for most of my time. I played politics instead of the game, I lost track of what mattered, I was on my own. Why would I talk to the person next to me? What is professional sports if not competition with your teammates? What is winning when winning doesn't matter?

I look back five years on with a sense of triumph but a deep sense of regret knowing my one chance to reach the major leagues was marred by injury, what if? What if.

For each Kevin Love, there are 1,000 more. Hundreds of thousands more. There was me, who has fought suicidal ideations my whole life and an attempt my junior year of college. Looking back on it you don't think of the outcomes, maybe it was the only time in my life where I was truly in the moment. If I felt that, there's got to be more.

There are more.

Who are we without competition? What does it mean to play sports? What are the values it teaches us? What is the purpose? What does it all mean?

Where is the support?

I've dedicated myself to the mental well-being of athletes since the day I got released. If I felt it, there are more. They play every sport, they think like me, they are out there. What can be made to support them? To help them fulfill their dream like I did, to help them in the next part of their journey, to keep them alive...

MindReady is that answer.

Trust. Trust is a word I'm beginning to use a lot more. I trust that what I'm doing is the right thing to do. I trust I spend my valuable time properly, I trust that I have a great team around me, I trust our coaches with our athletes. I trust that MindReady will help people. And I look forward to earning your trust as a parent, athlete, practitioner, and champion of this movement. A movement to support and protect the mental wellbeing of athletes.


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