by Caitlin O'Neill, assistant athletic trainer
If you have ever seen me roll up my sleeves to tape an ankle or wrist, you’ve probably noticed the small arrow tattoo I have on my right forearm. When people first see it they often ask, “Why an arrow? What’s the meaning behind that?” Sometimes, they will jokingly ask, “Is that so you always know which way you are going?” Little do they know there is more truth to their question than they realize.
I was coming up on the end of my time at Washington State University, about to take my exam to become a certified athletic trainer, and I knew I wanted to find a way to commemorate the experiences I’d had throughout my college career. College, for me, was an incredibly challenging time in my life. I’d undergone incidents that had nearly broken me and my spirit, but I endured, I lived, and I was nearing the finish line. As I was scrolling through Pinterest one afternoon, I came upon a picture of an arrow with a statement underneath that read, “An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. When life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means it’s going to launch you into something great. So just focus and keep aiming.” For me, the arrow represented my journey towards accomplishing my goal of graduating and becoming an athletic trainer. Over the course of my years at WSU, there were several people and obstacles that were dragging me back, trying to prevent me from succeeding.
Today, when I think about the athletes I work with in the Lakeside athletic training room each day, the arrow could represent any number of things to each of them. From the journey towards a team goal of winning a game, to each moment spent working for a personal record in an event, or the work it takes to become the best version of themselves that they possibly can both on and off the court or field, the metaphorical “arrow” could be embodied by anything. The force or forces hindering the progress of each one of them could be just as diverse.
Adversity is an inevitability, especially in athletics. There will always be someone or something attempting to block the path to success. That “thing” holding someone back may even be the person looking back at them in the mirror. As Rocky Balboa told Adonis Creed in the movie “CREED,” pointing to his reflection in the mirror, “You see this guy here? That’s the toughest opponent you’re ever going to have to face.” The way the adversity is approached and managed is all a matter of perspective. If you can change your perspective and understand that the struggle you are faced with was purposefully and strategically placed to make you better and launch you further, then you will almost appreciate having to endure it. You will say, “Thank you, because without you I wouldn’t know the potential I had or how far I could go.” Don’t lose sight of the goal. Just focus and keep aiming.
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