It’s the game that matters the most

Wings captain Brodie Merrill. (Philadelphia Wings photo)

It is interesting to see how sports media has escalated to new levels. From Twitter/Instagram/Facebook to all-sport TV & radio stations, to live Internet updates ... even blogs from athletes! People have incredible access to sports and athletes when they want it, how they want it.

Is this a good thing?

From a fan's perspective, this is amazing. Growing up, I would be lucky if I caught my favorite Montreal Canadiens once every couple weeks on the national French station. Now, not only can I watch a game whenever I want, but I can also know what P.K. Subban had for dinner last night. The modern fan has far greater reach than he or she ever has.

On a wider skill development scale for each sport, it can be a great thing. Practices with professional coaches and athletes are no longer exclusive to those who are able to afford or live in a specific region. Workouts, drills, and tips for the game from some of the best in sports can be found in a few clicks on YouTube/Instagram/Facebook, etc. 

From an athlete's perspective this can provide a lot of interesting and exciting opportunities as well as present new and unique challenges. This blog, for instance, is a great medium for me to share my perspective on the current landscape of lacrosse and really open up to the lacrosse community. With these different mediums it allows you to have some control of how you are represented in the public, which is empowering. Also, it is rewarding and motivating to see the support received directly through social media. It provides a great connection with our fans.

It can also be consuming. How do you block it all out?  How do you not let it affect your performance? It is a weird thing reading about yourself in an article or magazine or even a tweet. It can create a sense of vulnerability for even the toughest athletes. I can remember when I first broke into the NLL, the exposure was pretty modest. Social media wasn't as prevalent.

Now you see players tweeting at each before or after games. The walls have been broken down and it can be easy to get overwhelmed by it all. For some athletes, you can see intentions and goals start to change. It can easily shift from team oriented goals to individual focused goals. This can be a slippery slope.

It was a big learning experience for me when I first appeared on the cover of Inside Lacrosse. How was I supposed to react? I'm sure I will look back on it one day with a lot of pride, but it initially came with a lot of weight. My game was affected. I stepped outside myself and tried to be something I wasn’t, in an attempt live up to the hype. It was no coincidence that the following season was the worst of my career.

I completely understand that it is easy to get distracted by all of the noise. However, it all comes down to controlling the controllables. As I have hit the later stage of my career, I have gained a better understanding of what is important to focus on about the game. The outside noise becomes much less intense.

Most times one cannot control what other people tweet, or write in magazines about them, but they can control their actions and their game. You can’t control the tough workout or huge success that is all over social media about your rival or competitor, but you can control how you are effectively preparing for your next competition.

You approach things with more of a clear mind and you see what really matters in the game. The process of the game, the training, the physical/mental release, the relationships, the competitive environment, the highs and lows that the game presents, the anticipation of playing in a game like Saturday night. The nervous and excited feeling of knowing your season and everything you have invested comes down to one night.

Hope you can tune in and watch our game on YouTube. If not, you can access live updates on Twitter, and check out post game photos on Instagram.