“Only one person and one person only will determine how good of a runner you become … You will become as good as you let yourself be. That one person is you.” – a Coach
In 1988 and the years leading up to it, I had the privilege of training with a great synchronized swimming team for the Olympics. For years, we spent hours and hours each week, nose-clips on, heads down underwater, practicing and swimming and working hard, with competition as our goal. That year’s Olympics in Seoul became the premier for the sport of synchronized swimming, and our team qualified to compete in the Olympic Trials in Indianapolis in early summer. I was the youngest on the team, just fifteen years old.
I remember the competition, standing nearly paralyzed with fear in front of judges, rivals, and the crowds. And I remember vividly the feeling of wanting to give in– to walk away before even competing– because of the tremendous pressure.
Every time the Olympics come around, the flood of memories comes rushing back. I love watching for the looks on the athletes’ faces, observing how they handle the pressure. For after all the years of training, the hard work is put to the test in the moment of competition for all the world to see. I cringe when the skier makes a mistake, a momentary glitch in concentration when the athlete perceives the pressure and caves.
Isn’t it in all of life that our ability to maintain a vision is tested, our skills for hanging on through the most difficult moments are challenged, and we are forced to see if our training can help us to pull through and finish strong? Whether it’s running a race, or writing a novel, or working toward any concrete goal, we must learn to push through the moments of doubt when we just simply want to give up. Finishing well isn’t easy.
That year, at Olympic Trials with my team, we stood before the scoreboard and were thrilled to earn 13th place– a big deal for a young team. I think we all learned so much. There will always be factors to prevent us from achieving a great goal. But to achieve excellence, we must learn to push through the doubt, exert the extra energy needed to overcome anything ready to derail our success, and push through to finish strong. In all areas of life, we have to allow ourselves to become our very best.
Starting the Conversation: When have you worked hard toward a goal and worked even harder not to give up? What is one goal you would like to achieve?