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Advice from a Pro: How to Make the Most of Your Athletic “Window of Opportunity”

Hey everyone! Xavier Scruggs here and I am a former Major League Baseball player with the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins. I have played professionally around the world for the NC Dinos of the Korean Baseball Organization, the Gigantes del Cibao of the Dominican Winter League, and the Leones de Yucatan of the Mexican League, among others. I have a background in communications, public speaking and writing, and I’ve joined the WPW team to provide a professional athlete’s true point of view. Through my brand “Xtraordinary Athletes,” I have always been committed to providing a platform where athletes come together to maximize their potential inside and outside of their sport. You can learn more about Xtraordinary Athletes at xoathletes.com.

With that being said, I feel there is no better opportunity to use my voice and impact than with WPW. My time and experience as a professional athlete has equipped me with intangible tools and experiences that I am happy to share with you. Everything I do in my life, including my writing, is motivated by my faith, my wife Jessica, and two son’s Ezekiel and Xander. And of course, my love for the game! Please comment or hit me up at @xavier_scruggs if you’d like to suggest article ideas or have any questions.

Today, I’d like to help give you some perspective on your “window of opportunity,” what it means, and how you might maximize it.

Expand Your Mind & Your Goals

Understanding that opportunities come in many forms is an essential part of maximizing your window. As athletes, we never know how much time we will have in the game. When we are young, our opportunities and our time seems limitless. The older we get, the tighter our window becomes, but through that window, more opportunities can come into view.

Our athletic window not only contains our goals within our sport, but it can lead us to what will set us up for the rest of our lives, athletics or some other opportunity. What we do with our small window gives us a sense of purpose for what we will become. Not only should we strive for the athletic goals that we set for ourselves, but we can also grow mentally, socially, and even spiritually, on our athletic journey.

Sport Teaches Life

Personal growth, especially when you consider our short athletic window, is bigger than the sport itself. The trials and tribulations that we go through as an athlete prepare us for life after our athletic journey, and often give us an advantage.

Most people will never understand the sacrifices you’ll make… getting up at 5am to get your drills in before school starts, or missing out on social events for tournaments and games. They don’t get why you stand in front of the mirror evaluating your form for countless hours until it’s perfect. They will never understand why you keep putting in the effort when the odds are against you. While these sacrifices are your best chance at athletic success, they also build you a set of tools for life after sport that those same doubters won’t have: work ethic, resilience, self-motivation.

While your own belief is often your greatest strength, you can even grow from self-doubt. For me, there were moments of self-doubt in the summer of 2013, when I was taking 14 hour Double-A bus trips from Springfield, Missouri to Corpus Christi, Texas and back. The long trips offered plenty of time to second-guess myself, especially when I was struggling. I had spent 6 years in the minor leagues. I thought, “is my window closing?” I remember crying on the bus, asking myself, “is it worth it? Would I really be able to call myself a Big League player one day?” I thought about that all the time. I didn’t want to put all this time and effort into climbing the ladder only to fall short of my dreams.

Those are the times that I look back on the most; the internal battles within myself that strengthened my resolve. That next spring, I was invited to my first Major League Spring Training. The window of opportunity was there, and in a way I had never experienced before. It was time to show the Cardinals organization who I was, to make a name for myself. Having grown from my journey to that point, I took full advantage.

Part of the struggle is just recognizing those moments, understanding how to live in those moments, and grinding through those moments.

Rather than Compare Yourself, Better Yourself

Everyone’s window of opportunity is different. In the social media age especially, we athletes can sometimes waste precious time comparing ourselves to our peers. Rather than comparing yourself, use your time to better yourself, and think about the bigger picture. Think of the relationships you are building, the knowledge you are gaining, and the experiences that are shaping you.

The time we have within our sport isn’t promised. You don’t want to look back and say, “Man, I wasted a lot of time. I wish I would’ve done more.” You may not accomplish everything that you want to, but you’ll sleep better knowing that you’ve done everything you could possibly do.

Stop and Smell the Leather

Finally, in the middle of our window, its difficult to slow things down and enjoy the moment, but that is a must. Take a second to smell the leather of your glove. To look at all the imperfections in the basketball. Take a second to not just hear, but instead listen to the roar of the crowd in the stands. Be present in the moment. Soak it in. These are the things that reinforce your “why,” and they’re what you will miss most when its over.

Your window of opportunity is your chance to show who you are and what you stand for. You have so much more than just talent to bring to the table. Lean into things that develop your confidence and will to succeed, because these things will guide you inside and outside of your sport. Be relentless in your pursuit of mastering the details of your craft. This will be a determining factor that can extend your window and enable you to make the most of it.

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