Love Tough: A Letter on How to Love Yourself Again

We all know loving a sport can be difficult, but we also know it’s a one of a kind love that can never be replaced.


I grew up learning, which most of you have probably heard of, Tough Love, where you were stern and assertive in a way that made people respect your character. Sometimes, I expressed that kind of toughness in a way that was almost too tough on those around me.

Then a coach of mine taught the logic of the phrase "Love Tough", a place where the emotion of love is prioritized before being tough, and man did I learn what it meant to Love a team Tough.

By prioritizing love before being tough, it made it clear how to succeed as a team. I gave my sport everything I had because I loved it tough.

True love is jumping into a cold eight lane pool every morning before the crack of dawn.

True love is holding your breath for one more second for the person in the lane next to you. It’s those days where you think you can’t do it anymore, but push through anyways because it's a love you can’t get enough of.


Nothing is more terrifying and humbling than being handed the opportunity to be a Captain. I was handed a responsibility to teach “loving tough” to my teammates. To me, it was a place of always being needed, a place to lead by example and by grace; but more so a place to continue to build something bigger than myself, a culture.

I loved every ounce of the water, the hard work, and the family that had been built by a legacy of alumni. I learned to build trust, and have tough conversations not just with my teammates, but with myself.

When I jumped into a cold eight lane pool one last time, I had a lump in my throat and tears in my goggles. I knew It would be the last time my true love and I would ever be under the same safety net.

Scared? You know it. Proud? You bet. Loving you... was Tough, but loving you taught me to be vulnerable, to lead, and gave me character.

I lost all of that…. when I hung up my goggles.

I lost every bit of motivation, and love towards myself as a person.


I still to this day am trying to figure out who I am as a woman, but I hold tight to what it means to Love Tough.

As we grow with our sport, through time we almost tend to love that sport and those doing the hard work beside us more than we love ourselves.

You may be in a place where you are uncomfortable with your body, or don't really know how to take the next step to be active again. You may even be stuck in a place mentally that questions your identity without your sport.

I am here to tell you to Love yourself Tough, prioritize that self-love psychically and mentally.

Loving Tough within a team and within yourself, builds strength and integrity. It allows us to understand that everyone leads in a different way, learns in a different way, and prioritizes in a different way.

So, those of you that are still pushing everyday within your sport, Love Tough. Love your team Tough, and hold them to their best possible selves because you LOVE them. Be TOUGH through grace and embody what it means to be relentless with your sport.

My loves who have hung it up, love yourself tough. Be patient, be proud, and be kind.

You are the epitome of what it takes to Love Tough, because you've already been through it with your sport. Being lost is being human, stand tall and love the transition, because it loves you.

-- A Former Lady Vol, Still Learning to Love Tough

Micah Win Bohon