By Andrew Dykstra

While I have been on the subject of my trials here and abroad, I am reminded of a line Theodore Roosevelt once gave in his speech, “Citizenship in a Republic”. This was shown to me by my dad a year ago when I left Chicago and began my efforts to find a new future. It reads:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

I think about a few things when I read this quote. First, I remember how much I have dedicated to my profession. I remember two-a-days, lifting, team practices, sprints in my back yard, jogging through the neighborhood and the plyometric exercises in the pipe-stem next to my house (as my neighbors stared in confusion). I have always had my eyes on the horizon and my mind on the goals ahead, so I easily forget the efforts that have put me in the position many would love to have. Recalling the labors I have put in allows me to keep pushing on.

The second thing I think about is criticism. I have been blessed through most of my life with great friends that have supported me in the Prince William County papers and in the VCU sports media department. But, the professional sports media is a new animal. Usually with limited information (because soccer is still a young American sport), these folks can write some biased nonsense with total disregard for your personal life, feelings or how it may affect your job. I learned my lessons the first year playing in the MLS. Then you have avenues for the amateur writers/fans to give their unsolicited opinions. These two groups are the reasons why Roosevelt’s quote means so much to me.

For whatever motivation an individual in the media or any outsider may have to say what they say (or write what they write), it is “the man who is actually in the arena” who deserves the credit in the end. Setbacks may happen, there may be obstacles (media/fans) to overcome, but in the end it’s about the individual striving to achieve something great, “who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Andrew Dykstra was a four-year starter in goal for the VCU Men’s Soccer Team from 2005-08. He spent two seasons with the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer and played the 2011 season with the Charleston Battery of the USL. For Dykstra’s other blog posts, check here.

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