- Reed Landin
Breaking Through Barriers
My name is Reed Landin. I am a Sophomore on the Duke Men’s Lacrosse team, and I come from the amazing place of Dallas, Texas. I am here to tell and show that athletes have so much more to them than what you see on the outside.
"It was an indescribable feeling, the rush of joy and excitement that I got from playing sports."
For all I can remember, my entire childhood was filled with sports and family: the good and the bad. Having an older sister who started playing sports from a young age, I was exposed to the art of competing when I was a toddler. Having a natural athletic ability, stemming from my Dad, I started playing every sport when I was super young. I would be non-stop going from practice to practice and game to game on the weekends. As I got older and my family life got tougher, my passion for sports turned into an escape. It became a time in my life, where at such a young age, sports became an outlet of happiness and freedom for me. Soon, I learned that this escape would take over my life.
2010 was a year to remember. I had just turned eight, I was in third grade, and I played every sport imaginable. I truly loved living life. That summer, the dynamic of my life was altered forever. One evening, I was outside playing basketball, by myself in an imaginary NBA game, where it was myself and the Dallas Mavericks playing against LeBron and the Cavaliers. As the sun started to set and the lights outside failed to make the rim shine, my Dad opened the door and asked me to come inside because he and my mother needed to talk to me and my sister about something ‘important’. After being on such a high from beating the Cavaliers in game seven of the NBA finals, I trotted into my main living room and sat down on the couch. I can remember that day so vividly: my sister sat to my left, my father sat down diagonally from her in a soft, comfortable chair and my mother stood beside my father. They looked at my sister and I and told us that they were getting a divorce. At the time, being eight years old, I didn’t realize what it meant. I knew about the word and knew it was bad and my family would be split up. I never could have comprehended what would come and how my life would change.
As the months went on, I adjusted to this new life of seeing my dad for a week and then my mom for a week. I kept trekking on with my athletics and continued to excel at whatever sport was in season. While my athletic performance continued to improve, it was hard to have both of my parents at my games, especially because I knew they didn’t want to see each other. Sometimes, my focus would turn to them; I would look on the sidelines to make sure they were both still there, rather than focusing on the game. I remember times when they would argue at games, the disagreement getting so uncomfortable that one parent would leave in the middle of the game. Unfortunately, this became a silent burden I carried with me. I thought it was my fault that they disagreed and that I was responsible for what was going on with my family.
"I made a promise to myself and to my father that I wanted to play sports at the next level. I wasn’t sure which sport yet, but I wanted to be pushed and disciplined."
Life continued on as I accepted the fact that my parents' marriage was broken, and that being separated was the best and most healthy way for them to live. My dad took it upon himself to help me in any way possible to reach my goal of playing sports collegiately. He was unbelievably hard on me. Ironically, my family has always described him as a marshmallow: he was tough on the outside, but soft, caring and loving on the inside. At a young age he showed me every aspect of his ‘marshmallow’
tendencies. Sure, he would express frustration at me after a bad game, but he would also show me the utmost love and care, too. There were times when my Dad pushed me to limits I never thought a middle-schooler should experience. There were times I was embarrassed when my Dad would yell at me on the sideline because I knew all my friends and friends' parents could hear him. There were times when, after a bad basketball game where I missed every single free-throw, he would make me go make 25 free-throws in a row before I could go inside. The list goes on… I didn’t see the point behind his toughness at the time because I was so young; however, my reflection has proved to me that without him being overly tough on me, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
"My father’s tough love has molded me into the person and athlete I am today. He showed me how to be passionate about something, how to be motivated on consistently trying to achieve bigger goals, and how to know when you aren’t giving it your all. "
The combination of my dad's ‘tough love’ and my parents' divorce built my character, instilling in me toughness, resilience and motivation. When my parents first got divorced, I was embarrassed to tell my friends because I didn’t know how they’d react. Once I became vulnerable enough to tell them, they would tease me about it. It was a hurtful pill to swallow because the subject was so sensitive to me, but facing that adversity proved to me that I never needed to truly listen to other people’s opinions. The only people I needed understanding, compassion, and empathy from were my family. I learned these lessons from a young age and it allowed for me to continue to evolve these character traits as I pursued my dreams of being a college athlete.
October 7th, 2019. That was the day I committed to play Division One Lacrosse here at Duke University. Filled with joy, excitement, anxiety, and fear, every emotion overcame my body after I got off the phone with Coach Danowski. Every thought imaginable raced into my head: “Am I good enough?”, “What if I never play?”, and the list went on. After my Junior year of high school lacrosse,
the season got canceled due to COVID. I geared up for a modified spring lacrosse version for my
Senior year. I remember if I didn’t play amazing in every game, one kid would call me “overrated”. I would get DMs after games from random kids telling me how bad I was at lacrosse, and that I would only be a benchwarmer at Duke. “A kid from Texas would never pan out in the ACC” they would say, mockingly. I tried to block all of these things out, but it was hard not to think about it. The bullying was a heavy weight that I felt I was carrying around alone, and it started to affect me mentally. All of the doubts started to merge into a depression that I had to deal with.
It wasn’t until I talked to my Dad about the fears and anxieties I felt going into the summer before coming to Durham that I changed my entire mentality. My lacrosse career has been doubted due to the fact I am from a non-traditional lacrosse area. Only a handful of guys have ever come from Dallas to play at Duke. No matter where I committed, I was going to be flooded with doubts from others and rude comments that I would never be good enough at the next level. My Dad told me that the only person who can allow for these things to affect me is me. My biggest competition is my mind. It was all a mindset that I was taught from an early age, I just needed to live by it.
"I used all of the doubts as motivation and made a promise to myself that I would become the best lacrosse player I could be."
That motivation and promise to myself allowed me to carry an entirely new mindset into my freshman fall at Duke. It pushed me to become a little bit better everyday, and it also gave me confidence that I could play with the top players in the nation. Having confidence and practicing with the best players in the country allowed for me to play free and to have more fun. I remember telling my Dad during winter break last year that the reason I felt like I was playing so well was because I didn’t have any weight on my shoulders or any outside pressures. The only thing I believed, in my mind, was that I needed to play lacrosse and learn from all the amazing talent on the team. This mindset continued into the spring and led me to have a successful freshman season, tallying two hat tricks in ACC play and finishing the year with 10 points.
"So looking back, I am thankful, because I can now see why my dad pushed me to reach my potential. I am so happy he did."
For me, the spring season was a range of emotions. I had some really high highs and some super low lows, but it was the resilience and determination that was instilled in me so young that allowed me to persevere through it. My childhood was great, and I have some amazing memories, but my childhood is also filled with hurt, pain, and sadness. Those tough lessons and experiences allow me to persist through adversity today. If my dad wasn’t such an ‘asshole’, as other people would say to me, I wouldn’t be here today, writing this article, playing Division One Lacrosse at one of the best institutions in the world.
"In reality, we all have a story of how we got here and how we have become the people we are today."
I feel like athletes across the nation tend to be bubbled into this ‘macho’, tough persona. So, if you are reading this I urge you to talk with people and get to know who they really are. In reality, we are all the same and so much more than just athletes.
- Reed Landin
Photo Credits: Duke Athletics and Reed Landin