The line between success and failure is thin indeed. He was suffering from bone spurs and nerve damage in his neck, which was numbing his arms. Luckily, there was an operation that would relieve him from his pain, but it came with a hefty cost – giving up the sport he loved playing. In 1996, after being advised by the team doctors, the Calgary Flames forced left winger Gary Roberts to retire from the NHL.
Roberts felt like he was failing at life and wasn’t sure what to do. His motivation was so low that he didn’t even keep up with his diet. So, instead of attempting a triumphal return to the sport, Roberts decided to work in an office. But after six months, he knew this was not for him; there must be something else. His identity sat with hockey and life outside of that meant nothing. But how could he even think of making a return to the NHL if every doctor and hockey executive said otherwise?
However, he did it; he made his return! About 18 months after his forced retirement, he made a lifestyle change and became dedicated to fitness. This change enabled him to return from retirement, and he had 12 more successful, and point-productive, NHL seasons.
Now he shares this wealth of knowledge with many athletes. But the most remarkable aspect of his story is that the athletes he trains become superstars. Steven Stamkos, for example, felt the criticism for his lack of productivity in his 2008-2009 NHL debut. But in the offseason, he trained with Roberts and came back with a 50-goal season. Now he is the captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Connor McDavid started to train with Roberts before entering the NHL. McDavid is now not only the best current player in the world but also the best player of our generation. Roberts also trained one of the most “uncoachable” and “lazy” players – Phil Kessel, who had a notable playoff performance. Many fans and media members debate whether he should have won the M.V.P. after training with Roberts.
Roberts might be in the pro sports world, but all the odds were against him. Making a return to the NHL from a career threatening injury and doing it for an additional 12 years is incredible. Roberts fought doctors, giant executives, and his anatomy with his lifestyle change. It gave him motivation and dedication to continue doing what he loved. Without motivation, Roberts could have ended his career early like Pavel Bure and Bobby Orr, whose injuries forced them to retire in their early 30s and never make a return.
When you are failing at life and not sure what to do about it, look at this story for inspiration. Try to find motivation and work to fight all the odds that are standing against you. Know that if you work hard enough, you will accomplish your goals. It could be a lifestyle change or a change in scenery. Or it could be you wanting to take that leap to open your own business. Whatever it might be, stay focused and make it a priority even if you hit roadblocks along the way. You will find success if you do so.
Michael Policicchio | The Edge Blog