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scrub athlete

Posing with Terry Baker’s Heisman. Scrub move? Probably.


If you’ve got one, then you’re a scrub athlete. And that’s not a bad thing.


Talking to college stars and professional athletes, one thing stands out:

They’ve played a lot of games.

Far too many for one moment to stand above the rest.

Ask if they remember one game, one opponent, that changed them.

Even better, ask about something you played a part in.

The greats have too many archives to file through.

Honest sports guys will tell you it’s a process, others chum you along.

How can you tell the difference?Football players who didn’t see the field often have a story of THE TACKLE, THE RUN, or THE CATCH.

Some mix in THE INJURY.

Basketball players tell about THE SHOT, THE STOP, or THE COACH.

Every sport has it’s moments. Play long enough and you have many moments.

Play a short time, like high school with no college or pro career, and one moment stands out.

You learn this by telling someone your story, then asking about theirs.

If they say they can’t remember, what they mean is they’ve had lots of them.

That alone doesn’t make you a scrub athlete, but you might feel like one.

Who doesn’t remember the glory days of youth when you were invincible?

Mostly players with so many glory days they all seem to fade together.

Ask an adult about life’s highlights and you might hear about weddings, births, or jobs.

They all pale in comparison to a seventeen year old wrestler who knew they would lose the biggest match of their life.

It’s funny how things turn out.

So there I was, facing an opponent who rarely lost, an opponent who was the best big man on the rival team.

Ordinarily a heavyweight, he cut to 191 to find someone new to beat. Me.

The match was tied going into the second to last weight on the schedule.

My coach gave me the all-time pep talk with, “Just don’t get pinned.”

Not the sort of encouragement you want for a maximum effort.

I walked out and shook hands with this beast and he threw my hand back so hard I hit myself in the face.

On the whistle he pummeled my head until I was blinded by my headgear. In that moment he drove me to the mat with a shoulder tackle to the gut.

One point for me for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Now he was more than angry. He was rip snorting mad.

Long story short, I’d learned a take down the day before with the warning, “Don’t try this unless you’re desperate.”

I was desperate.

The move was a combination of arm drag and trip, not something everyone did.

And it worked. It worked the second and third time, too.

In fact it worked so well that my opponent quit on me.

You know the story about quitting in sports? Don’t do it.

While he laid on his stomach I began a series of cross faces. Over and over I pushed my fist into his face.

The fear I’d had earlier turned into my own little ball of anger and shame, so I cross faced the heck out of him for my own delight.

And won. It was a mean thing to do, but he was a mean guy, so it evened out.

That’s my story. I whip it out now and then as a sort of parable, a metaphor, a way to deal with fear.

If you have a similar story with more meaning than the actual event, break it out. Just don’t expect longtime athletes to embrace it the way you do.

Does it make you a scrub athlete? Not really. It just makes you real.

Now, what’s your story?

About David Gillaspie


  1. Mark Mullins says:

    Well, good story, even better ending, thank God that’s over. You’re a mean one Mister Grinch, lol

    • David Gillaspie says:

      The truth is I’m fascinated by stories that overcome adversities. That’s every story ever told?

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