This week was scheduled to be the US Olympic team trials. That world feels like another life. How upset I was about the 2020 postponement feels like another life. I now find it hard to imagine this year happening any other way.
I’ve been doing a ton of PT and rehab after the achilles thing. Every time we find a new area of weakness or imbalance , my first thought is that I would never have had the chance to work on this in a normal season. I’ve seen so many examples of those opportunities for growth … working on mental training, increased lifting, new breathing techniques. I hope other people are finding these silver linings. The biggest one might be off the playing field.
Athletes across sports have been using their influence to help bring Black Lives Matter protests to main stream. Would we have seen this much vocal support of the movement if people had been traveling the country with games every other night? Or immersed in final training for the peak of their career, when you have to be endlessly frugal with emotional capital? Would we have seen this outpouring of personal stories and truth telling from black athletes? During the season, when everyone is weary of giving competitors any edge?
The postponements have allowed space. Olympics and Paralympics can be amazing, unifying events. But the Olympic Dream doesn’t need stadiums. It’s in every athlete working to improve. I hope we come out better for this time.
I was surprised by some of the takeaways I’ve seen of a recent podcast and interview of mine: that I don’t have it all figured out, and that I’m still trying to find my groove. I didn’t expect to be perceived as unique or vulnerable in talking about how I continue to learn about my sport, or build a better relationship with my coach.
I don’t love the implication that in saying I don’t have all the answers, I’m admitting that I’m not great at what I do. I believe that the capacity to be always learning is a key factor that differentiates people who reach the top of their field.
It’s not that I don’t already know a lot about my training. I’m happy to geek out on any aspect (except maybe some specific workout where I turn off my mind and just let me coach tell me what to do). But I also know there is always more out there. Or some way to refine a system. Or some input that changes as I get older.
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And TBH, this perpetual student mindset is my “groove.” I would get bored without it. Insofar as boredom is a contributor to burnout, I believe the mindset in itself helps my longevity as an athlete.
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Expert status, mastery, they are not destinations, they are states of mind. So are relationships. I say I’m continuing to improve my relationship with my coach. In no way does that mean we don’t have a good one. I’m continuing to improve my relationship with my mother, and I’ve loved her my whole life. Relationships take active work. You should grow deeper understanding with someone the longer you know them. That is one reason this extra year of training for the Olympic summer has been a hidden gift.
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I fully expect to progress in the next year. But I will never progress to the point where I stop giving “vulnerable” interviews about how I’m “figuring it all out.” I guess I’m saying I have figured out all I need: The moment that I stop the beginner mindset, the moment I no longer want to learn or improve, is the moment I retire.
(For reference, podcast is Running on Om. I so enjoyed this discussion with Julia. And I do admit that I ramble around my point … I could probably work on that and seem more authoritative.)
‘I want you to believe for a second that I am all-knowing… I want to tell you that I know for a fact that you will have everything that you dream of.’
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What would you do now? Who would you be? … I have watched normal, flawed, fearful human beings accomplish the extraordinary. For all of us, attaining what we hope for will require effort, discipline, focus, courage, joy, tolerance of errors, and a willingness to change. But, it does not require perfection. As long as our hearts are captured by dreams we should chase them. So, ask yourself, what would I do now if I knew that my dream would come true? – Shannon Thompson
When I read this the other day it was exactly what I needed to hear. So I’m leaving it here in case anyone else feels the same. In an unprecedented situation, we can still act with our dreams in mind, with the faith that one day soon we will have made it to the other side, and we will look back on this time together.
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The author is sending out daily emails with more nuggets of wisdom just like this one.
“Be where your feet are.” It’s sports psych wisdom about staying in the moment that also applies to life in lockdown. I liked this and many other gems from the podcast Laughter Permitted with @juliefoudy interviewing Dr Colleen Hacker.
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Dr Hacker was the mental skills coach for the US women’s national team, and gives tips on how sports psych tactics can help in a this period of stress and uncertainty. I also love just hearing their mutual respect and care for each other even years later. Bonds forged in sport last lifetimes 💪🏼💪🏼.
A recommended listen for uncertain and uncharted times: the @onbeing podcast with Rebecca Solnit on hope.
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She flips the aversion to uncertainty on its head. Hope needs uncertainty.
Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes — you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone.