Three Gardening (and Life) Lessons Learned From The World of Sports

My husband and I both grew up playing competitive sports.  It’s in our DNA, I guess you could say.


It’s a tough world to live in.  Yet, the lessons that are learned there are priceless and timeless — lessons that easily translate into every other area of life.

As I was out in the garden, the other day, completely out of breath, dripping with sweat, and with my leg and arm muscles on fire from digging a trench, I started thinking about some of the lessons that I’d learned from the world of sports, so I thought I’d have some fun sharing them with you today.

Lesson number one :  “No pain, no gain!”  Oh, if only this weren’t true!  I’ve never been a fan of physical pain.  I’ve always loved playing sports, but have never enjoyed the physical pain that I’ve had to put my body through in order to get stronger, jump higher, hit a volleyball harder, or outlast my opponent.  So, as I was out there, digging my trench, putting all of my arm and leg strength into it, feeling like I couldn’t dig another inch, I had to remember, “No pain, no gain”.  So, I just kept telling myself, “one shovel-full more.  Just keep on digging, no matter how much it hurts.  You’re getting closer to the end.  Soon you’ll be done and able to get the bed planted!”  If I’d stopped, because of the pain, I never would have gotten my tomatoes planted.  I had to keep digging, despite the pain, to accomplish my task.  That is how you overcome physical pain, you  focus on the end goal.  Whether you’re digging a trench, pulling weeds,  getting started on an exercise regimen, or whatever – focus on the end goal, not the pain, and remember that there is no gain without that pain, and then push through it because the end product is so worth it!

framed raised bed

loads of tomatoes

Lesson Number Two:  You win some, you lose some.  I’ve heard it said that, no matter what we farmers and gardeners do, we should expect to lose about thirty percent of our crops.  Whether seeds fail to germinate, get eaten by bugs or gophers, succumb to disease,  stress out due to extreme heat, or spoil before they make it to your table or tummy, when it comes to harvest time, it’s a given, “You win some, you lose some”.  It’s frustrating, I know!  But, we have to pick ourselves up and carry on.  We can’t let losses drag us down.  We can’t give up!  We must learn from all of our losses, in the garden and in life, and then move on from them.  Losses aren’t really losses, in the large scheme of  things, anyway.  As Robert Louis Stevenson so elegantly put it, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”   Yes!!!  NEVER stop sowing.  Beautiful fruit awaits!!!

acorn squash seeds

Ronde De Nice Squash

The final and greatest lesson I’ve learned from the world of sports is: NEVER GIVE UP!  Do you remember the Chinese hurdler, Liu Xiang,  from the 2012 Summer Olympics, the one who was predicted to win gold, but then tore his achilles tendon at the very start of the race?  Oh, my goodness!  If anyone had a reason to give up, it was him.  (I’ve  experienced that injury before and – believe me – getting up on your feet is the LAST thing you want to do after it happens) But, Liu Xiang did.  He had that “never give up” spirit inside of him that said, “keep on going and finish!”  So, he hopped on one leg, all the way to the final hurdle, which he kissed, and then continued hopping on until he crossed the finish line, where other Olympic contenders met him and carried him off of the track.  It was a beautiful sight.    The point is, “Winners never quit, and quitters never win”.   Farmers may lose entire crops.  Athletes may finish last.  All of us, at one time or another are gonna have something devastating happen to us that makes us want to just lie down and give up, but we can’t.   We gotta push through the pain.  We gotta move past the losses and, as one of my cousins always used to say, “Just keep on truckin!”   Keep moving forward, one step at a time, giving 100% in action and attitude towards everything that we do, and – whether the world recognizes it or not – we’ll be successful.  As Joel Salatin says when it comes to farming, “Good Enough is perfect”.  Yes, it is.  As long as you never give up! So…


(graphic via The Pixel Boutique)

Lesson Learned?  I hope so!  Now, carry on. 🙂


3 thoughts on “Three Gardening (and Life) Lessons Learned From The World of Sports

  1. Inspiring post! I have always felt that working in my garden was a workout. In fact, I bike the river and found that spring gardening gets me in shape before I start biking in the spring after a long winter inside. I don’t have the land you do, but I am the one that grows the food at our home. I remember seeing Liu Xiang on tv and that was inspiring to watch! robbie:-)

  2. I’m glad to hear you gained the attitudes that sports competition provides the opportunity to attain. Dad and I decided that “our song” was The Star-Spangled Banner since we shared so many memories with that song, starting with our first date at his basketball game, to the final game that he got to see Tracy play at Reedley College. It was sometimes “painful” for us to watch the three of you play your heart out and suffer defeats (though not that often), always wondering if you were doing it for you or for us since he and I loved sports as much as we did. I must admit I missed not watching the Big Four play sports and compete, but obviously they have not suffered as a result of your decision. What do they say about learning some of the lessons that sports provided for you about getting through the pain and continuing to persevere? I would be interested in passing along alternatives to people I know whose children are not athletic enough or “burned out” by the pressure of today’s youth competitions.

    • The kids say that you can learn those same lessons from putting time into and applying yourself to anything that you care about. Whether learning to play a musical instrument, dance, or sew, they said that when you care enough about something, then you will persevere and work hard to achieve results. That was a great question. I had fun hearing their answers and discussing it with them. Thanks, mom!

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