The Sports Trifecta: Action, Attention & Mental Toughness

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Kappa Softball Champs 2012
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Varsity Baseball: Senior Year

“Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.” -Yogi Berra

My dad and I have always had an avid interest and love for sports. To be honest, it’s mainly been baseball, football, basketball, soccer, and as of five years ago, rugby.

Growing up my father played everything from football, basketball, baseball, slow & fast pitch softball, ran track & cross country, competed in gymnastics and held his own against other boys in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.

Damn, he was even involved with the Boy Scouts of America. From hiking the Appalachian trail and Philmont trail in New Mexico, he’s practically seen and done it all. Nevertheless, my friends and I weren’t interested at all in becoming boy scouts in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. That’s alright!

My dream and goal has and always will be to take my father to see every Major League Baseball team play at least one home game at their respected stadiums. The trips will take a couple of years and cost a great deal of money, but it will become a powerful bonding experience in our relationship.

We’ve crossed off many stadiums such as Citizens Bank Park where the Philadelphia Phillies play, PNC Park for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Yankee Stadium for the good ‘ole New York Yankees, Camden Yards where the Baltimore Orioles play, and a handful of others.

Top on the food chain is Wrigley Field! Home of the 2016 World Series Champions Chicago Cubs. We really missed a phenomenal party this year. RIP Cleveland!

Next up is Fenway Park home of the Boston Red Sox and then off to AT&T Park where the San Francisco Giants play. And, while we’re at it, we might as well stop in Los Angeles to catch the Dodgers play regardless of whether or not they beat the San Diego Padres or Los Angeles Angels.

It’s great to dream, right? Thankfully those dreams and goals will become a reality. However, back to reality, friends of mine have asked me in the past, “Do you really like baseball that much?” My response every time is ABSOLUTELY! “But Donovan,” they’ve replied, “You haven’t even played baseball since your freshman year at W&J College.” That’s right. My choice was to pursue economics and business, drop baseball, still play intramurals and flourish in a new sport like club rugby. I’d say it was a smart four year run. What do you think?

To understand the reason why I’m so passionate about sports simply could not be summed up in one paragraph, book or Instagram story. The number of years, practices, blood, sweat, shoulder injuries, wins, maulings against Franciscan University, verbal confrontations, losses and fights due themselves enough justice. In retrospect, it was only a speck of time. Now it’s gone. But is it really though?

Growing up I was told by my dad, “Do your best son.” Whether that was in the classroom or out on the fields that’s what I did. I always knew I had to work harder than my classmates and especially my teammates since I was always a few inches shorter than them. However, I didn’t necessarily give a shit about that last point!

So, while in college, I picked up rugby. Now for those of you who say, “I don’t understand rugby.” Or, “I don’t get the rules,” that’s alright because I don’t expect you to. It took me over two years to understand them so I doubt you’ll learn them overnight.

Initially, the hardest part for me playing rugby was transitioning from baseball to rugby which is extremely aggressive and filled with much more contact. In high school my training consisted of a barely lifting weights (maybe 15lbs to 20lbs), using rubber-bands for resistance training, throwing a much smaller-sized ball and swinging a bat hundreds of times a day.

Now, whenever I started lifting weights my freshman year of college you can imagine how much of a challenge that was. I had no idea what the hell I was doing. My form was terrible, my weight was probably 140-145lbs soaking wet (before the freshman 15) and I couldn’t tackle someone to save my life.

It’s okay though because that’s why we practice and practice and practice and practice. From hitting tackling bags, curling heavy ass weights, kicking and chasing rugby balls 40+ yards, squatting 135lbs to 225lbs until you couldn’t walk two days later, and witnessing some of the scariest hits on the rugby pitch, I’ve practically seen it all.

Fast forward to the spring of 2012, all of that learning, film watching, lifting and practicing paid off. We won all of our tournaments the spring of my freshman year. 2012–2013 we held our own against the competition as we lost a great number of seniors from the prior year and introduced numerous collegiate athletes to the sport such as football players, lacrosse players and wrestlers. 2013 into 2014 we won nearly every game in our division due to seasoned players on the team, leadership amongst the upperclassman, new skilled players, and one hell of a coach and former rugby player in Joseph Piszczor. Everything about the sport I learned from him.

My last two seasons, 2014 and 2015, I captioned the team and was President of the Club. I was humbled to be given the opportunity as I learned from some of the best rugby players in the western part of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. I loved the expansion the sport was undertaking and felt as if it should be documented via GoPro. So, what did the club do? I bought a Go Pro with the club funds! As of now, rugby is going through the same popularity soccer had when going back to the early and mid 1990’s. It’s great to see the sport back in the Olympics!

The biggest aspect I took away from college rugby, and the brief stint I had playing for men’s teams in Philadelphia, is the sheer attention to detail and mental toughness this sport will teach you. If you aren’t in the right position to make the tackle on defense the ball carrier is going to run right through you. If you take your eyes off of the ball on offense for even a split second the probability of converting in a clutch situation is slim to none. Heck even form tackling for smaller backs against 200+ lbs of a forward needs to be similar to a two-legged takedown in wrestling as you wrap their waist and chop down at their ankles. Last time I checked, 165–175 lbs versus 220lbs is a mismatch. The little details need to be executed the right way.

Their are similar carryovers into your personal life, professional work, businesses and relationships too. The mental toughness a sport like rugby provided me is hands down better than anything I was ever expecting. You’re going to have great days, you’ll have mediocre days, and then there are negative days where you don’t even want to get out of bed. In my eyes, it all boils down to your daily disciplines in all facets of life.

It doesn’t matter what you do everyday. Anybody can have one great day. But how many great days over time have you had? It matters what you do consistently each and every single day for a lifetime.

In this post I am not speaking to you as a runner, but I have and will continue to run. At least for 80 minutes continuously on a rolling clock! I am not a solider, nor do I plan on becoming one, but I’ve rucked and I’ve fought against guys much bigger than myself. I am no where close to becoming an Olympic athlete, but I lift and train my body diligently on a weekly basis. I have and will use any tool to strengthen my body, mind & soul for myself, former team members and future teams too. I am not where I want to be but at least I am closer today than where I was yesterday.

My Very Best,

Donovan Vogel

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Philadelphia based teaching financial literacy | Prospering all other hours | Writer | Lifter | Reader | Traveler | Freedom & Wellness

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