Sports have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure exactly how old I was the first time my mom asked me to come run the last quarter mile together as she trained for yet another road race, but I can be certain of two things – first, it was too soon; and second, my lifelong love-hate relationship with running started that moment.

It wasn’t my idea of fun at the time, but I never really stopped running since then. I’ve gone on to play soccer, football, rugby, and even finished a couple of marathons, an act of running excess that would have repulsed younger versions of me.

Playing sports is one of the only things I still do that I did as a young child – I don’t listen to the same music, I don’t read the same books, watch the same shows, I don’t dress the same way, but I still root for the same teams and play the same sports.

There are a lot of ways to learn life skills while having fun and building lifelong friends, but sports will always hold a special place for me. I believe we practice sports to win the game, and we play the game to practice for life. Sports give us a relatively low-risk way to test our limits in difficult situations. Playing sports taught me how to show up and do my job even when I don’t really want to. It taught me how to lead when others are counting on me to do the right thing, and how to work together with a team to accomplish a common goal. The speed and stress of competition taught me to internalize the easy decisions, to focus on what really matters and make the right decision before it’s too late. Sports also taught me how to overcome fear, pain, and fatigue. They taught me how to handle disappointment, and how to celebrate victories with respect and friendship. These are the real lessons of playing sports – more than how to throw a ball or sidestep a tackler, sports prepared me for the challenges of life. That’s what I still play for today.