Once an athlete, always an athlete? Not so much.
But the adrenaline you feel as an athlete, competing in front of a crowd, fighting to bring glory to your school, country, never goes away.
I was at a major school meet over the past two weeks, and this time not as an athlete, but as an official helping out in the event. My role was largely different from the one I had in the past — instead of worrying about my technique, attire, shoes, etc for the competition, I had to worry about athletes reporting on time, equipment running smoothly, etc as I worked behind the scenes. The experience was different. Less attention on me, more administrative and logistic matters to tend to.
But one thing never changes. That rush of energy you feel when you step onto the track/field (even though the attention wasn’t on me, naturally) is phenomenal, almost indescribable. On the final day of the event, school banners were hung all over the stadium seats, prompting memories of how I once, too, was given this important task of rallying our show of support for the school athletes. The cheers, cries and shouts of encouragement, joy, anger, frustration, was a reminder of how much I missed being part of a larger community, cheering and screaming our lungs out. Even if our team didn’t win, it was this camaraderie that united us as one.
When I heard the cheers from all the schools at the stadium, shivers ran down my spine and my hairs stood on ends. It’s that kind of energy you don’t get from say, binge watching your favourite drama, completing a 42km run or having a good night’s sleep. It’s a kind of energy that one cannot achieve alone. A kind of energy that you may not always have, but once you do, you remember it for life.
Even as a spectator, the adrenaline on the final day got to me. It didn’t matter what colours each spectator donned. Neither did the role of each person at the stadium present matter. The high of the event pulled us all together, young and old (yes, there were many old coaches and athletes there!).
I miss being an athlete. But I’ll never miss that adrenaline, because it’s always here, and never runs away.