People frequently ask me, “Did your sons get into cycling because of their dad?” The answer is, “No. Chris got into cycling because of our boys.” Whatever sport they became interested in, Chris wanted to become a part of to spend more time with them. (Okay, to be honest, he also wanted to make sure they were safe when riding on streets with motorists during their earlier years.) But then Chris, too, got bit by the cycling bug and loved to be on the bike even if Chad and Shane weren’t around.
Since our older son Chad is currently racing in the Tour de France, I decided to share (with his permission) a blog that he wrote in March 2011 on how he became a cyclist.
I Was Going to Play Baseball
In fifth grade, I—like every kid, at some point in their life—was given an assignment to write about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had just finished writing a mini-biography about Jim Abbott, a professional baseball pitcher with no right hand, and decided that I was going to play baseball professionally after I was done with school.
I think most young boys involved in sports make such a decision, and the vast majority of them eventually grow out of it. I had grown up playing baseball since I was 5 years old (a passion that my dad had passed on to me and my younger brother), so it was only natural to aspire to make a living at the sport. At the time, it seemed quite likely that I would (at least in my own head) because I was the best player out there (at least in my own head). I was a good hitter to get on base or advance runners, was a good and fast base runner, and had a good arm to throw runners out from my preferred position behind the plate as catcher.
As I got older, though, my shortfalls in the sport became more apparent. I was too lanky to be a powerful hitter, was not great at hitting junk, wasn’t as comparatively fast as I used to be, and my arm was not very strong. I was a good switch-hitter, though, and still a savvy base-runner. I had other faults, too: I was afraid of the ball and the ground. I was no longer a good catcher, as I was too timid to be the wall behind the plate for those crazy pitches, and to the day that I quit baseball in 8th grade, never once dove for a ball because I was too scared. And so, I played less and less. I was no longer under the illusion that I might someday play professionally. My motivation decreased as my bench-sitting increased.
Well, at least I still have my fallback career as a concert pianist, I thought.
As a child, my mom had pushed me to learn piano and naturally, I pushed back. In fifth grade, though, she found a teacher that I liked and I agreed to give it a shot. It quickly became apparent that I inherited the musical talent gene that God bestowed on my mom’s side of the family, and I made quick work of the beginner’s books and was soon playing “real” music. After only a year and a half of playing, I was tooling around on the grand piano at church one Sunday evening and the music director asked if I could play for the upcoming Keyboard Christmas. The concert would be a packed-house of 1,200. I didn’t have any Christmas music learned. It was 6 days away. I had a whopping 18 months of piano under my belt.
With my mom’s help, we picked out a fun jazz number of “Deck the Halls.” In less than a week’s time, I learned it, memorized it, auditioned it, and played it to near perfection at the concert.
I was certainly not one of those prodigies you see on Oprah, but I did have a knack for learning a song quickly if I knew how it was supposed to sound, while memorizing it simultaneously. Over the several years between that point and my high-school graduation, I played dozens of times in church, dozens of recitals, and several benefit concerts. Although I hate speaking in front of people, playing piano for them suited my showoff-ish personality quite well.
As part of the natural progression of things, I auditioned twice for a young pianist competition. I didn't get in either time. The problem is that I enjoy playing music for the enjoyment of it and as I like to hear it, rather than the perfect as-the-composer-intended renditions. If you want to give a rousing speech, you're more concerned with the emotional inflection of the words than properly enunciating each syllable, and that's my approach to music. That's not good enough for competition, though, and people don't pay to hear mistakes.
So how did I become a cyclist...?
Man, don't you just hate cliffhangers?