Updated: Nov 19, 2019
Almost 3 years ago, Kohe said goodbye to his family, childhood bedroom and comfort zone. He packed a bag and boarded a plane to start a new journey in Japan. Receiving an opportunity to play rugby and study overseas was a dream come true. With many challenges, growth, new friends who have become family and an abundance of new experiences he shares with us his most recent challenge and lesson. As outsiders we often view sports players as being on a pedestal or that they must not experience struggles- this piece written by Kohe shines a light on the reality behind rugby, injuries and life.
This piece is written and shared with permission from Koheleti Vaitaiki.
“You’ll be out for the rest of the season...” the sentence that no athlete wants to hear. Many people would think “so what? It’s not a big deal..”
Wrong. To us athletes it’s a big deal because this is what we have dedicated our lives to. This is what we have been obsessed with. For many of us it is our compass to what we decide to do and not do. “I’m not going to eat or drink this because it is going to take me one step away from my goal”.
When we hear " You are out for the season", it takes a while to comprehend what that really means. Although other people may hear “you’re out for the rest of the season” and think- well,so what?. This was not the case for me.
To be an athlete, who has grown up living and breathing rugby it translates to something completely different for me and something I had difficulty coming to terms with. When this happened to me, it was a translation of:
“So you know this thing you love? Well, you won't be able to do it for a very long time". Can you imagine that? Imagine having to stop doing the thing that you love more than anything.
Not for a day, or a week. You can not do it FOR MONTHS.
That’s what I heard when I broke 3 bones in my face. I was angry, frustrated, confused. Why me? Why did it have to be this game? What am I meant to do now? All the should have's/ could have's flooded my mind. Anything to make this reality I was in not real.
All these thoughts like a whirlwind in my mind, while the tears come running down my face. I held my face trying to explain to my Physio that I couldn't feel the left half of my face because the guy high tackled me. The tears come running down more because I already knew that one sentence no athlete wants to hear is about to come.
A few hours later in the hospital room the words I was dreading are spoken in to existence.
“Your season is done Kohe.” My face and my heart went numb.I didn’t know how to react.
Deep down I wanted to scream every swear word possible, as loud as I could, in every language. I closed my eyes, put on my happy go lucky mask and softly replied- Okay. Things were far from okay. I was ready to just quit and go back home to Australia. It is my last year with this team and if I can’t help them on the field, I might as well just go home.
I think back to if this happened when i was younger. I know that I would have just gone home and been miserable and pissed off until I could get back on the field. But now- the journey I have been on and still am on, the lessons I’ve learnt and am still learning, have all played their role to helping me in these kinds of situations. The kind of situations where you just don't know what you are going to do or how you will push through.
It wasn’t until I allowed myself to be truly vulnerable that I learnt an incredible lesson.
Life is more than rugby. It is weird because before I wouldn’t say I’m a religious person but now I really do believe there is a higher being that looks after those who truly show love and have faith. Being injured has helped me go on that journey of self discovery. I changed my perspective from the victim mentality. I look at being injured as a sign to slow down and enjoy the other things and blessings in my life.
Sometimes we can get so caught up with our jobs and unnecessary things in life that we forget to enjoy the things that we already have and enjoy the moment with our friends, kids and family.
My injury has shown me how important it is to keep a POSITIVE MENTALITY. I understand how so many sports players talk about going through depression when they’re injured and a for a time- I feel like I did too.
Imagine you going to work and just being with your usual group of work friends enjoying your life and then all of a sudden something changes in just a split second. Now, for the rest of the year you have to go sit in a room by yourself and start on a completely new project alone while watching your usual group of work friends all together, continuing to finish the original project, without you. That is the life of an injured athlete. We go from that team environment to all of a sudden working and doing our rehab by ourselves. A completely different schedule to the team. It is a lonely place to be.
I do not deny the difficulty of going through this, but I want everyone to know- this injury in my life is a bigger metaphor for the tough times everyone goes through in life. We all go through our ups and downs in life, they just come in different forms. I truly believe these challenges come into our lives for us to grow. There is two perspectives in which we can choose to live life.
1. There’s the victim mentality in which we can look at these trials and say- “why me?”. Creating and living in our excuses and being miserable every minute of every day.
2. We can look at life in a positive perspective and be vulnerable/honest with ourselves and say “this is a tough time right now, but it does not have to last forever. I know with keeping my faith, I can get through this”.
It is much easier to choose the first option, I know because I almost chose it. It is much harder to choose option 2, but what makes it easier is my faith. This is what has helped me get through my tough times. I believe that GOD has got me and will look after me and you. You are not fighting this battle alone. We can get through this with faith and love. I am in no way saying my life is perfect because it is far from that. I’m also not saying my life is harder than yours because it far from that too.
I do know this- “If we all threw our problems into a pile and saw everyone else's, we would all grab ours back.” Why? Because we are only given problems that we can handle. So no matter how hard your life is right now, just know and understand that you are made strong enough to get through it and it does not last forever. It may be hard right now, but God gives his hardest battles to his toughest soldiers. You got this. We got this.
The 3 things that helped me grow and get through this trial was changing my mentality and perspective on what a tough time means. Finding the opportunity for growth in every difficulty. Reading books, studying and doing other things I love outside of rugby. Things like meeting up with friends, travelling, praying and other things that bring me joy, to help me decompress and re-align. Lastly and most importantly the biggest change that came from this trial was that it helped me reconnect with my faith. Let’s get though these hard times together and help each other grow.
So much gratitude to Kohe for writing and sharing this piece. It is no easy task to delve deep in our dark moments and to let others in. I absolutely loved reading the raw and vulnerable journey of Kohe navigating his way through rugby, injuries and life. I hope this sparked light in your journey too. Share with us your thoughts below.
Follow Kohe's Journey on instagram.