I haven’t had time to write much this past week, just a few notes here and there as I’ve been watching my kids play volleyball in Phoenix and enjoying every moment of it. My thoughts in these times are usually all about the gratitude I feel for the opportunities that they have to play and be coached at levels that were never available to me. I love sports, they brought my timid heart to a place that helped me believe in myself and see my own strength and resilience. Always a little behind in the struggle, learning things in my own time (I consider myself a late bloomer) and now getting to put all of this together and attempt to impart it to my kids, in the best way I can, all without a National Championship, a CIF title or really much of anything but an all league mention from a league I guarantee you’ve never heard of. What I know because of that though, and what is so hard to teach in the moment to kids who know the taste of success from an early age, is that while winning feels so good, the lessons we learn in the downturns, our ability to bounce back and trust in our own good intention and process is what takes us the farthest in life.
Society today is so often looking for the easy win, the answer that makes us feel good in the moment, but that chase for comfort leaves us unable to handle the unease of life that inevitably comes our way. So often these days, when we see our kids struggle, the answer seems to be "quick fix it, there has to be a way to avoid this uncomfortable feeling!" The more discomfort I have encountered as an adult has given me the ability to see so clearly that one of the biggest lessons to teach my kids is how to work through discomfort and disappointment on their own. It's not always easy to do and definitely doesn't feel good in the moment. My goal though, is to raise a champion in life, not just on the court, and those lessons don't always come with accolades and medals in the present.
The real heart of a champion is battle tested and scarred from brutal losses. When the work is put in, in the hours when no one is watching, when others are sleeping, when you’re diving on the floor, drawing blood, clawing and scrapping for every last ball, willing it not to hit the floor and you come up short, in the moment nothing hurts more. But for me, sports have always been a metaphor for life. I have learned more about how to handle the highs and lows of my life with lessons that I have learned on the court or in the pool. As EE Cummings said:
“It takes courage to grow up and find out who you really are.”
Sports has helped me to do that. I’ve learned a few things along the way and I’m reflecting on them today as I watched my son experience the toughest sporting experience and defeat that he has ever had. Here are my takeaways in a nutshell.
- Sometimes you have to lose, to figure out how much you love to win. I’ve heard many champions say that they hate losing more than they like winning. Whatever the case may be for you, losing, in the moment is never fun, but every loss is an opportunity to grow and get better. Take what you learned from the loss and keep working.
- Accepting defeat gracefully is not easy, but placing blame, second guessing or letting a loss define you places you squarely in victim mode, and in that place, losses linger and don’t have the opportunity to become lessons. If we are able to go back to the drawing board and find the takeaway lesson in the defeat, we don’t lose. Without acceptance there is no opportunity to grow.
- You can control your process but you can’t control the result. Even with an outcome you didn’t want to face, you can sleep well at night if you have faith in your process. There are many ways to win, work to know yourself and you can define your process. Once you’ve found it, it can change as you learn, but don’t let it go.
- In being a good teammate, lessons are learned that make a good friend, parent, spouse, employee, boss. Loyalty, responsibility, passion, work ethic, make us valuable on a team, but even more valuable in life. The long road to success is paved with small detours and plenty of heartbreak, avoidance only pushes us away from our highest potential and truest destiny.
My biggest takeaway from this volleyball vortex that I have been swirling in is that as brutal as it is to watch my son in pain, the thing he needs to hear from me most is how proud I am everyday, regardless of results, because I see passion, work ethic and his ability to see a picture of the world that is bigger than himself...and that is the real heart of a champion.