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Here is Canadian national rugby team member Adam Kleeberger's address to those attending the Cowichan Valley 2013 Youth Athlete of the Year awards at Shawnigan Lake School Sunday:
Good afternoon and welcome parents, grandparents, siblings, other family and friends.
And of course a special welcome to our young athletic guests of honor.
No one is able to achieve as much on their own as they are with the assistance of others.
I would ask the young athletes in this room to have a look around their table.
The people you see around you, as well as many you do not such as coaches, and trainers will be part of determining your success.
Through financial, physical, emotional, and spiritual support this network of people will help you achieve your goals.
But it won’t be easy, and it won’t be without a lot of sacrifice on your own part.
My name is Adam Kleeberger, although some of you might not recognize me without a healthy tuft of hair under my chin….
I currently am and have been playing rugby with the national sr. mens 15’s and sevens teams since 2005.
I have had the honor and privilege of representing my country 38 times in the 15’s version, and 17 times in the 7’s version.
And represented Canada at two 15’s world cups, one sevens World Cup, and a commonwealth games in 2006.
I have played professionally overseas in the UK as well as New Zealand.
Sport has given me the opportunity to travel the world, connect with people from a variety of backgrounds, and challenge myself against the best players in the game.
As fortunate as I have been to have these opportunities however, they have come with a personal sacrifice.
The dictionary definition of perseverance is: steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
My journey to the 2011 World Cup was one in which I faced obstacles and challenges, and I have learned some lessons I would like to share with you as fellow athletes.
In the summer of 2011 I had shoulder surgery that had a 4-6 month estimation of return to play.
Through personal sacrifice, hard work, and most importantly perseverance I was able not only to return in time for the first game of that world cup, but to be awarded man of the match honors for my performance.
It was not, despite my appearance a manifest destiny that lead me to that performance but many hard years of preparation and PERSEVERANCE!
If I take my story back further than the shoulder surgery in the summer of 2011 I think you’ll see that the journey to that critical point in my athletic career shaped itself from a myriad of experiences.
I am a strong believer that it is not the obstacles and challenges we face that determine our success but more importantly the way in which we respond to them.
The first major obstacle I faced in my path to the first game of the 2011 World Cup was actually my first attempt at playing for the national team at the age grade level.
From when I had started playing rugby in Grade 8 at 14 years old until my final year with high school rugby at 18 I had achieved nothing but success.
I made every team I tried out for, captained my sr high school team, and received many man of the match and player of the season awards along the way.
The first resistance I had to achieving success in rugby was a letter from the national age grade team coaches explaining that while I had potential I had not been selected for the team that was to travel to Italy for the Junior World Cup.
I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t frustrated and disheartened by this but I posted that letter to the back of my door so that I had to see it everytime I walked out of my room and set my goal to make the team the following year…. I did.
Although my resolve was tested throughout the next several years through injuries, omission from teams, and poor performances, my goals of being a part of a world cup team stayed intact.
Ironically it was not until my selection to the sr mens team for the 2007 world cup in France that I would once again be truly tested.
I had achieved my goal of being a member of a national team competing at a world cup…. However as is common with athletes we are perpetually wanting more!
I had achieved one goal so I set a new one, to be an integral part of the team, not only to make the team but to make the team better!
Of the four games Canada played in that world cup, I personally played in only one.
Instead of being satisfied I left that tournament feeling disappointed and frustrated.
It is an incredibly odd feeling when you achieve something you have been aiming for and instead of being proud of your achievements you find yourself so unhappy.
This is the nature of sport and those who play it at a high level.
We are insanely competitive and driven, this is what makes us successful in our chosen sports, and this is why the evolution of sport has created the ever more advanced athlete.
Once again in my athletic career I was forced to assess where I stood with sport, and if I was willing to commit another 4 years of my life for the potential to be a more integral member of the national team in the 2011 WC. Perseverance again reared its ugly head.
My new goal was established, and I was once again driven and focused to the task.
I think it is important to realize that along the path to any goal there will be ups and downs.
Things will disrupt your process such as injury and poor performances.
The goal has to be a trend towards improvement throughout these peaks and valleys.
An upward slope of peaks and valleys so that the peaks are just a bit higher and the valleys a bit shallower.
Understanding that in order to achieve success there will be failures and set backs has been helpful for me to maintain a consistent approach towards training despite some of the inconsistencies of performance.
The shoulder injury I sustained playing overseas was one of these valleys on my progress towards my goal…. Albeit a much more significant one!
Injuries although common place in sports such as rugby can be a challenge all unto themselves
The surgery that was done to repair the damage I had done to my shoulder was the first time I had had a major injury that required significant time away from the sport.
I developed feelings of anxiety about returning to play in time.
About being physically fit enough to be that integral part of the team I strove to be.
With the position I play in the sport of rugby, whether I would be able to perform the requirements of my role to the same extent as I had prior to the injury.
It is times like these in your athletic careers that those personal demons arise telling you that you can’t or you won’t, when perseverance is required to get through the valley and make it to that peak.
Those who watched, cheered, and congratulated our team on the performance we had against Tonga in that first game of the WC see only the result and not the process it takes to achieve it.
They wouldn’t see the extensive rehab process; the hours spent trying to regain strength and function.
They wouldn’t see the time spent in the gym or the track trying to regain fitness levels.
They wouldn’t understand the mental battle to regain confidence in my ability to perform the tasks of the sport to a level that I was not just content with but proud of.
I was fortunate through my recovery process to be a part of a national sport organization that had the resources to provide me with medical, physical conditioning, and coaching support on my path
To achieve the goals I had set out however I needed to put the onus on myself.
It wasn’t up to the coach or the trainer to push me towards success.
They were excellent resources on that path, but the effort I put in to my recovery was the reason I was able to achieve the performance I did in that world cup.
The time spent on my own with a bag of balls practicing my pass, or working on regaining range of motion in my shoulder at home, or running around the field where the rest of the team was playing games to regain fitness.
The injury I sustained to my shoulder and subsequent surgery were a significant obstacle to reaching my goal.
It was how I responded to the injury, the perseverance I was required to show that lead to my success at the world cup.
Just as important however is the way I responded to the obstacles placed before this one.
Poor performances, omission from teams, and many other hurdles will be placed in your path as you proceed through your athletic careers.
Time and time again you will be tested, and your response to these challenges will shape you.
Ones ability in the weight room, or track, or having a medical clearance however does not define them as an athlete.
It is how they perform in the setting of their chosen sport.
I still had to prove to myself, my teammates, and coaches that I was the best possible person to be named to the team, and to be started in the games of the 2011 World Cup.
I had given myself the best possible chance of doing this through my physical preparation, however as we have seen in many sporting competitions it is not always the most physically prepared team that wins the championship.
Overcoming the mental boundaries to sport performance can be much more complex and difficult to address than the physical ones.
An athlete cannot simply put forth physical effort to overcome insufficiencies in mental performance.
Although the way individual athletes cope with the mental component of competition varies, I found that a confidence gained through my years of playing rugby at a high level, along with knowledge of the hard physical preparations I had put myself through were key.
I had played at this level before, and I had put in all the work necessary to be here again.
I played my first game of rugby in five months for BC against Newfoundland, we won the game and I came through unscathed.
I have no hesitations in letting you know that it was not my finest game, I didn’t score any try’s and I certainly wasn’t’ awarded man of the match…. But I didn’t get injured, and I did make some tackles on that shoulder.
I was not playing at a level I was proud of… but I was moving in the right direction.
As our lead-up to the world cup continued I was involved in more games and had more opportunities to work towards my goals.
Along the way there were set backs…. Missed tackles, new injuries… I can’t begin to tell you how much you forget the soreness you feel after a game of rugby when you haven’t played in that long!
But there was a consistency in the progress I was making towards my goals.
By the time of that first game of the world cup against Tonga I was thrilled to be a part of the team, and proud of the performances I was providing.
I was honored to be selected to start the game, and excited at the opportunity to display what I as capable of.
We won that game and it was an incredible performance to be a part of.
It is something special to share a moment like that with your teammates whom have all been through their own ups and downs and have had to persevere through their own unique experiences.
But as an outsider would you have thought about all the years that led to that victory?
The ups and downs that each of the players on that team might have gone through?
Representing my nation in a sporting event is one of the most exciting, and honoring experiences of my life, but it did not just happen.
It was and is the result of hard work, sacrifice, and when your going through a valley…. Perseverance.
Everyone has their own process that makes them successful and your experiences may be very different from mine, but this is what has lead me to success in not only sport but many facets of life.
Define what you want to achieve.
Create a goal that relates to what you want to achieve
Write it down. When you have an abstract idea in your head you can change it whenever you like to suit your mood.
When you write that goal down it is permanent and you are now accountable to it.
Create sub-goals that will help you achieve your greater ambitions.
If your goal is to make the national team, what aspects of your performance can you enhance to help you reach it.
Check up on your progress towards these goals.
It can be a sit down with your coach, self-assessment, or game review, but make sure you are aware of the progress being made, and if there is none change your approach.
Be honest with yourself when assessing your progress, no one is going to monitor you as closely as you can monitor yourself…. If you are not being honest with what you are doing you are the only one who suffers.
Accept that there will be ups and downs, peaks and valleys and revel in the moments you hit those peaks, learn from the valleys.
When times get tough, and they will, PERSEVERE! How you respond to adversity is more important than the adversity itself.
I’d like to leave you with a quote I really believe in credited to Aristotle:
We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not a trait, but a habit – Aristotle
Thank you, it has been a privilege to speak to you today, and congratulations!