February 24, 2010
As we continue our series on failure, the above picture captures the sickening emotion Holland’s Sven Kramer experienced after his coach told him his was disqualified from a speed skating competition at the 2010 Olympics. Being the world-record holder in the 10,000 meters, Kramer was considered a favorite in this event. But a gold medal was not to be. Kramer was disqualified because he crossed over into another skating lane when he was not supposed to. How devastating to lose a gold medal because of a preventable mistake!
The interesting sidelight in this saga is that Kramer was ultimately not responsible for this mistake. His coach had gotten confused in the lap count and told Kramer to switch lanes at the improper time. The skaters alternate lanes at certain intervals to level the skating distance of an oval track with inner and outer lanes. Kramer’s coach, Gerard Kembers, told press corp members after the race that his “world collapsed” and that “this is the worst moment of my career.” The decision and direction of this coach cost an athlete an ultimate prize.
As coaches, we shoulder the responsibility that our words/influence have on the athletes with whom we work. In this instance we see where words have a negative effect. Trust between team members and the coach is imperative if the coach is to be effective, but that trust can be broken or “doubted.” Sven Kramer has been slow to blame others for mistakes that have occurred during his racing career, but this Olympics has changed that. His coach is to blame for this critical mistake. We leave these last two images for you to dwell on as powerful reminders of a coach’s influence on today’s athlete–for good or for bad.
February 18, 2010
As we have watched the Olympics these past few days, we have seen moments of great triumph and also moments of utter devastation. From the ultimate high to the lowest point of an athletic career, a glimpse into the competititve desire of the human soul has been shown to the world. Coinciding with these events, the Nashville, TN media carried the story of a very different kind of low today. This low in most minds can be stated as “a great loss.” A 14 year-old soccer player died at practice doing wind sprints. Now that low brings a whole different perspectitive to the word “loss.” Similar to the young luge athlete at the Olympics losing his life, here is a situation where our viewpoint of life becomes finite. The death of a member of a team personalizes the main reason to exist as a team. It is in times of deep conflict and struggle that you must remain as a team, both on the mountain and also in the valley. A great “team” even though they may struggle with it can process a “great” loss. As a coach, we must constantly guard against exalting competition where it becomes one’s God and it does not allow for the lows of life to help build character in each individual life. We love the scent of victory and ascending the podium but character is built in the valleys of our daily walk.
February 15, 2010
The podium at the Olympics is a place where rewards collide with accomplishments. There is nothing like it. As an olympic athlete, reaching the podium and having a medal placed around your neck becomes a place of recognition that few rarely attain. The fulfillment of years of sacrifice culminates in your name and country going into the record books for the ages. But what is the cost of getting to that pinnacle? For some, just getting to the podium is not enough; it must be the highest spot-the gold medal spot-to be considered a success. As we have approached the area of failing as a coach and an athlete, we must examine the cost of failure and what it means for one’s future endeavors and challenges in life. Dealing with the failure of one moment, especially at the Olympics, can be paralyzing to a world-class athlete. The bitterness of defeat can leave a bad taste that can last forever. A radio broadcast from Feb 8, 1992 caught our attention. The link below leads you to the page where it is archived. Listen to the perspective of previous Olympians, and, as a coach, consider once more the cost of setting the podium as the ultimate goal and the possibility of disappointing circumstances that keep that goal out of reach.
Select the link below, and then select the radio broadcast number 2 about Olympic disappointments on the page. You need about 7.5 minutes to listen to it in its entirety.
February 13, 2010
Imagine being Nodar Kumaritashvili’s coach! Nodar is the young luge athlete from the Republic of Georgia who was involved in a fatal accident at the 2010 Winter Olympics yesterday. How would you process these moments during your life? As we have thought about failure, the above picture has caught our attention such as it is similar in posture to previous posts. It does not represent failure as much as grief and shock. One young athlete with so much enthusiasm for doing well at the world’s greatest sports venue has his life taken from him. This picture portrays his father, David Kumaritashvili, sharing a private moment with Nodar’s friends outside his home in Georgia. What would you say to them? What answers can a coach, who is supposed to have all the answers for his/her athletes, give during a tragic event like this? It is at these moments that a coach does not have the answers but must trust in the ONE who does. As finite beings, we are limited in our knowledge and understanding, but, in this kind of difficult circumstance, answers do not come through having knowledge; instead, these are moments of truth when we must trust instead of trying to have an “answer.” Not discounting knowledge of our sport, let’s also be coaches who live out our faith so that we can be there for our athletes in times of tragedy and loss.
February 11, 2010
The Super Bowl has come and gone with a victor and a loser in the W-L column. The Olympics now loom on the horizon. Each of these competitive events contains elements that can be considered failure at some point. Not taking home a gold medal can be considered a failure . Throwing an interception can be considered as failure. Falling on the ice can be seen as letting down an entire country. Not making the tackle becomes fodder for the armchair quarterback.
As we explore this topic of failure, one of our readers sent in these “Rules of Being Human.” Take a look.
Rule #1: You will learn lessons.
Rule #2: There are no mistakes – only lessons.
Rule #3: A lesson is repeated until it is learned. (Unless you don’t care)
Rule #4: If you don’t learn the easy lessons, they get harder.
Rule #5: You’ll know you’ve learned a lesson when your actions change.
Coaches have the responsibility of helping their athletes not only deal with success but also with overcoming failure. This lesson may not be learned best by winning but by helping them see loss as a gain. Is this possible? It is not only possible; it’s a must! Coaches must model this in their own response to a loss or a moment of failure if they expect their athletes to do the same. We all have these points in our lives, yet we continue to judge success based only on wins and losses. One pertinent definition of success is “the favorable or prosperous termination (ending) of an endeavor or attempt.” Does this mean the Indy Colts are failures as coaches and players? Are the New Orleans players and coaches the only successful ones? Is the W-L column the deciding factor here?
The above picture is a powerful statement about how to live life because our failures should not define us. If we are not building our own character as well as helping others build theirs, then we are failing because we are not building something that will last beyond our lifetimes. As humans we were created to represent and live out success in ways that do not show up in the final stats. How are you defining and modeling “success”?