MNT athlete reports from the 2014 Pan Am Cup

April 07, 2014, 1:35 a.m. (ET)

U.S. Men's Indoor National Team athlete, JaJa Kentwell reporting from the 2014 Pan Am Cup in Montevideo, Uruguay.

I have always wanted to play the piano. For the longest time, I never knew why I had such a deep appreciation for it; all I knew was that I wanted to learn. A close family friend and my mentor, Joe Neuber, asked me why I don’t just learn to play the piano. I told him I didn’t have time. From waking up early in the morning exhausted from studying the night before while running to class to driving more than a hour to work after attending all my classes and finally driving back to school to study throughout the night until I wake up from a lack of sleep the next day. Yes… so busy that there is no time whatsoever, even for punctuations. He told me if I wanted to learn badly enough I would get up earlier, 5 a.m. if that’s what it takes. I thought that was ridiculous and told him I simply didn’t have the time. The next two words that came out of his mouth I will never forget, “Make time.”  The conversation stopped there and I didn’t quite register the meaning.  A couple years past and during an all-nighter of studying those words replayed in my head out of nowhere and I thought to myself about the characteristics that made him such a humble and successful person. It was that moment the light bulb went on and I finally understood what he meant. The longer the explanation, the bigger the excuse.

We all have our likes and dislikes. Some of us don’t like eating breakfast, some of us dread doing the conditioning program, and some of us would rather do anything else than have to take an ice bath. At the end of the day, we don’t make excuses; we do these things regardless how much we hate them because our love of the sport and our teammates make each sacrifice worth it.

In preparation for our first game against the host nation tomorrow, we have all exerted countless hours of conditioning; grinding through sprint after sprint, numerous practices and games against extremely high caliber teams, domestically and internationally, and months of preparation in order to be successful at this tournament. Taking care of our bodies is extremely important, preparation for tomorrow’s game doesn’t start when we wake up in the morning; it starts with a good night’s rest. As we ready ourselves for bed, we only have one thing on our minds: to represent the red, white, and blue on our jerseys with pride.

Moral of the story: I got up at 5 a.m. every morning to practice the piano and now I am able to play every piece composed by Beethoven.

P.S. I value my sleep and I still don’t know how to fully play the piano. To be successful at something you must have a passion for it. I have an appreciation for pianos, but my passion is hockey.

Yours truly,

JaJa Kentwell  #3