Saturday, September 20, 2014
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John Tavares, John Grant Jr. and the lifespan of pro athletes

In our bye weekend I had the opportunity to go to my good friend Mat Marchildon's house for dinner and Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC). It was a perfect set up. HNIC on the big screen and NLL games set up on the side on his iPad. I was impressed with the NLL YouTube channel. The picture was good and we were able to flick back-and-forth between Colorado vs. Calgary and Buffalo vs. Rochester. It was nice to sit back and watch the games from the perspective of a fan.

John Tavares, John Grant Jr. and the lifespan of pro athletes

John Tavares, the NLL´s all-time leading scorer, is still going strong at age 45. (Don Heupel/AP)
John Tavares, the NLL's all-time leading scorer, is still going strong at age 45. (Don Heupel/AP)

In our bye weekend I had the opportunity to go to my good friend Mat Marchildon's house for dinner and Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC). It was a perfect set up. HNIC on the big screen and NLL games set up on the side on his iPad. I was impressed with the NLL YouTube channel. The picture was good and we were able to flick back-and-forth between Colorado vs. Calgary and Buffalo vs. Rochester.  It was nice to sit back and watch the games from the perspective of a fan.  

As I was watching the games, two players in particular kept standing out to me. You may have heard of them, John Tavares and John Grant Jr. Both have had amazing careers and will go down as all-time greats. It may be most impressive as what they are doing in the twilights of their careers. Watching them score and make plays, I had to wonder, when are these guys just going to go away?  I have been on the receiving end of too many back-breaking goals from both players. Seems like there are a number of veteran players in their late 30s and early 40s that are having success this season (Tracey Kelusky another great example).

I can remember my rookie year of SR box lacrosse in Canada, playing against Tavares. We got in a small altercation and I called him an old man ... that was 10 years ago! Seeing what he is doing today at 45 is pretty amazing and it had me thinking of the longevity of an athlete.  

For most athletes, early in your career you have an invincible feeling. You never really think about the end. You act with a mentality of, “I'm going to play and perform forever.” I can't remember a time in my life when I wasn't participating in competitive sport. It has been a part of my life for so long. So you can understand why it is so hard to let go when the time comes to move on. I first really started to think about my time left in the game when I graduated from Georgetown.

Playing college lacrosse was an amazing experience, but I always had an underlying anxiety when thinking about my four years coming to an end. I remember catching a cab back from Washington Reagan Airport with a senior teammate when I was a freshman. It was a month before my first college season and he was in his final season. Being in the same position as him seemed so far away at the time. I can remember him saying it felt like yesterday that he was a freshmen like me. When playing this game, time really does fly by.

Hitting the later stages of a career, one’s perspective definitely changes. It’s easier to appreciate the subtle aspects of sport, the process of training and striving for improvement. Things that seemed trivial early in my career all of a sudden have become much more meaningful. I can remember the intensity of my emotions earlier in my career. For most, as you get older, you are less affected by the highs and lows that the sport presents. With time and experience, one starts to gain a better sense of themself and what they are capable of. It could merely be a case of survival. You have to become more diligent with your fitness, conditioning, and recovery. Your game sense and skill will improve (or stay the same) with time, but the challenge is keeping up with the game that is constantly changing, evolving. As age catches up, the preparation side of the game becomes more challenging, but also much more critical.

I guess that is really what the process of sport is all about: learning about yourself and your limits and growing and maturing as a person. When the time comes, you can be at peace with what you have put into the game and what you have learned.

***

Speaking of players that are thriving in the later stages of their career, Shaun Williams, member of the Buffalo Bandits, received some tough news recently. His son Tucker has been diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I've been fortunate to play on several teams with Shaun and have grown to know his family. They don't come any better than the Williams. Tucker is only eight-years old. This is obviously tough news. The lacrosse community has stepped up to support the Williams Family. If you would to see how you can support Tucker, please email: braverthanbrave51@gmail.com

Brodie Merrill Philadelphia Wings
About this blog
Wingin' It is the place for up-to-the-minute Wings coverage from Brodie Merrill of the Philadelphia Wings.

As the Philadelphia Wings' captain, Merrill is widely regarded as one of the top players in the NLL and was recently named Best Player in the World by Inside Lacrosse and named NLL Transition Player of the Year in 2009 and 2010. Last season, Merrill was named an NLL All-Star.

Brodie Merrill Philadelphia Wings
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