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.
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.