#thegameoflife

The Heart of A Champion

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.  

  1. 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.  
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 
  4. 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. 

To Raise a Champion

In April of 2016, as my almost 20 year marriage was falling apart, I turned around to grab a ball to serve as I was playing beach volleyball at 2nd St. in Hermosa Beach. Immediately,  I recognized one of the players on the court behind me and said hello, thinking at the time that she looked familiar from one of the kids schools or teams. We hadn’t lived in Hermosa Beach long and I didn’t know that many people.  As I went to serve though, it dawned on me, that’s not a mom from school, that’s Misty May. So, with my new “seize the day, what have I got to lose attitude”,  I went over and introduced myself telling her about how my two oldest kids (one of them being the only boy in attendance) had participated in a clinic she coached when we still lived in Fresno. Being that I’m older than Misty but still feel like the kid who had the Hovland/Dodd and Stoklos/Smith posters covering her walls, I was happy enough with that quick conversation and got back to my game thinking that was a pretty good story to tell the kids later where they would definitely laugh and chastise me for being a dorky "fan girl".

After the next game, I went over to my towel, grabbed some water and checked my phone for messages and as I scrolled through, I saw a text message from Kerri Walsh Jennings. At that point, I almost decided that I hadn’t really woken up that morning and must still be dreaming. What were the odds that I would have and encounter with the both players on the winningest team in beach volleyball history while I was playing “mom volleyball” on a regular Tuesday morning?  As I read Kerri’s text about Abraham Hickes and the Law of Attraction, the goosebumps rose on my arms and the tears came to my eyes as this champion of a human being recognized the bond that I have and the  energy that I put into my kids. If there is anything I have true confidence in, it's that bond. Kerri and I had only met a few times because our kids were taking jiujitsu at the same place but her instantly thoughtful, caring and beyond empathic nature saw me, and took the time to recognize it, at a time in my life that I was working overtime to keep my optimism and zest for life at its usual heights. She, of course, made a massive impression on me with her humble nature and helpful ways.  I was reminded as I read the text of how I watched her one day at jiujitsu run over to help an older man pick up a bunch of mail he had dropped all over the street. I was amazed at the attentive way she managed conversation with complete strangers and wondered how she could manage the energy she was putting out into the world with so many eyes on her all the time. It’s not that one person’s opinion or relationship defines my view of myself, but her intuition and attentiveness blew me away and provided so much inspiration as to what I am attracted to in this amazing, beautiful life. The real thing that has come out of this ongoing dialogue between the two of us that started way back at jiujitsu over 2 years ago and continues today, is the insight it has provided me in how to raise a champion. What I have learned from Kerri has given me so much perspective on how I want to raise my four to be champions in the game of life. The court is just one place to learn; but the world, full of its adversity, trials and tribulations and matched by its amazing beauty and potential is where the real game is won. True champions aren’t defined by their medals and results but rather by their character, work ethic, and ability to positively impact others every day. Champions leave other people's days a little better for having showed up…and that is exactly what this champion has so selflessly done for me.