Bird Brown: In sports, and life, go beyond your limits

Friday marked the final day of the longest preseason in the history of Maryland high school athletics.

To mark the end of the summer and the beginning of the new school year, Carroll County Supervisor of Athletics David Dolch made a visit to our practice to spend a little time with my boys. He was there to meet with me and discuss some issues, and meet the boys and check in to see how we’re progressing so far, but mostly to give them a valuable message that signifies what all coaches desire, no expect, from their athletes.


He told them that not only on the soccer pitch or the football field, but also in life, that each one of them will face adversity, and how they handle it will dictate who they are and how they will live their lives.

He encouraged them to focus not on the things around them that are out of their control, but to do whatever it takes to make themselves the best they can be.

The best player, the best teammate, the best role model, the best student, and the best person. The rest of the stuff will take care of itself, as long as they knew they had done all they can to prepare themselves for what they would face in their lives.

My first organized field soccer program was with the Bowie Boys & Girls Club.

I had played what is now called futsal when we lived in Rio de Janeiro but never played on grass until we came stateside. I had a very good coach for the times, a former professional player from South America named Orlando Navarette.

We were not the best team, but certainly not the worst, as we traveled across Prince George’s County to play a travel schedule against teams like Clinton, Fort Washington, and Camp Springs.

As a travel team, we thought we were at the top of the pecking order.

We had cool uniforms, a dedicated field, a high caliber coach and played against other top teams from the county. What else could there be?

Going into my ninth-grade year, a new organization sprung up to attract the top soccer players from the community called the Bowie Soccer Association. Several of us from our team were asked to switch our allegiance and begin playing for BSA with promises of better coaching, more travel and better competition.

But we thought we had it made, so why switch?

Some teammates made the leap of faith but many of us made the decision to stay put because it was comfortable for us to keep the status quo. We enjoyed our teammates and couldn’t ask for a better coach than Mr. Navarette.

There are few things I regret not doing in my youth, but one was not making the switch and challenging myself to a higher standard of play than my “comfort zone.”

Because of that my player development was stifled for a few years, really until I got into college. I got better, but mostly because I matured physically (still waiting for the mental maturity to kick in), not because of better training, better teammates, or better competition.

It wasn’t until college I found a coach and another level of play that challenged me to be the best player I could be. I had good coaches and good teammates in high school, but my game took off with the standard of play we faced day in and day out at the collegiate level.


At 14, had I made the switch at to BSA, who knows where my game could have taken me?

This occurs not only in the soccer world, but throughout all sports.

I’m not advocating that all athletes make the leap to a higher standard because many factors go into making that decision including finances, personal available time, the athlete’s talent and natural abilities, work ethic, and family’s ability to commit to the requirements of a more vigorous training and game schedule. Frankly, some are already playing at the highest level that they are capable of playing.

If you are that top athlete that can push herself to a higher standard of play, a more intense level of commitment, then I say you owe it to yourself to take that leap of faith that I myself failed to take many years ago.

What does it hurt to accept the challenge and push yourself to be the best you can be — soccer player, line cook, or AP student?

Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best when he said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

You can only imagine what awaits you if you push yourself to your highest limits?