Here is what I learned from eight 5A state championships wins, an induction into the Colorado Sports Women Hall of Fame, four years of Division 1 diving at two different Universities, multiple NCAA Championship appearances, one Team USA international competition, and about a million failures, losses, and heartbreaks along the way.
Please enjoy part two: If you’re not an athlete, just know that every word on this page (and the coming pages) is for you too. These lessons are about life, learned through sport.
5. You were created for the incredible… live up to it. The most heartbreaking thing in sports is not the star athlete that got injured, but the athlete with unbelievable talent who never lived up to their potential.
If you have a gift in life, it is your responsibility to do all that you can to nurture it. To rely on talent alone is the most disrespectful thing you can do to yourself and to your team.
If God gave you an incredible talent, your talent alone will not impress him. He’s impressed with what you do with it. The hard work you pour into it. How far you pick it up and carry it.
The honor is found in putting in the work, not collecting the medals. Far too often we do just enough to not loose. I am so over this mentality.
The standard quo is not enough; if you ever have the choice, always choose the more difficult option. In life and in sport, go above and beyond, come in early to practice, do the extra work, add that plate to the barbell, be the only one who follows through on rehab.
If your work ethic is dependent upon how much other people are giving, then you are not working your hardest, you are working their hardest.
Be willing to genuinely push yourself to what you can do, not what is set before you. More often that not, you have more in you to give, and it’s your responsibility alone to give it.
Don’t wait for someone to draw it out of you because they might not see all that you are and who you were born to be; you weren’t created to live behind the boundary of status quo, you were created to break them. So get after it.
6. Your record is not a reflection of who you are, your work ethic is. This took me years to learn. So many of us base our worth on our records; how fast we run, how many wins we have, how many records we set, and where we stack up against the competition. Although they are to be celebrated, these are not the pinnacle.
Growing up, there was not a state meet that I went to and did not win, either track or diving. Every meet I competed in the state of Colorado, I won. I literally had a perfect record.
So when I went on to collegiate athletics and was competing against international and Olympic athletes, I started to lose; badly. My diving got worse as my confidence fell and my heart and soul began this dark unravel, it was messy and painful.
It took two years of pain, heartbreak, and an intense transfer to Indiana University for me to learn this lesson. I remember the promise I gave to my coach, who was/is the Head USA Olympic coach, on my first day at IU.
I told him from a very broken heart, I’ll never be the best or most talented diver he’s ever coached. I couldn’t promise him I’d win NCAA’s or any event for that matter, I wasn’t going to be the athlete that would go down in the history books. And I wasn’t. I wasn’t anywhere near the Olympians I trained beside every day, and that is so totally okay.
But, I did promise him that I would work. That he could rely on me to give every once of effort and talent within me while I was under his coaching. Whatever I had to give, I was going to give; every last drop.
I made it my mission to be the hardest working, reliable, and most respectful athlete I could be. When I started to view myself in reflection to the effort I was giving, instead of the outcomes of my meets, I first learned that I wasn’t working nearly as hard as I could, and that there is always another gear.
But more importantly, I started cultivating a true sense of self-worth and respect, which ended up drastically transforming who I was as an athlete. Even though its not the point, ironically I started to win again.
7. Give God glory when you win; but especially when you lose. I used to be part of Fellowship Christian Athletes throughout my collegiate athletics. We would always talk about the importance of giving God the Glory. I would look around the room and see Olympic athletes, NCAA national champions, and recorder setters talk about how good it felt to do so.
And my heart would break in the most painful possible way, because as previously mentioned, I was in a place where I was loosing… a lot. How could I ever honor god by placing at the bottom?
I made the naive mistake to think that only incredible winning performances brought god glory. Here’s the truth; God does doesn’t place the importance on outcomes like we do.
God cares more about how you handle the hardship and challenges in front of you, more so than you getting past them. He cares more about you maintaining composure, thankfulness, faith, and respect while your loosing, then coasting in to an easy win.
So I learned to lose well. To never give up mentally when things were falling apart in a meet, to give all that I had until the very end, to stay positive and respectful to competitors, teammates, and to never throw in the towel.
Even when it feels like you’re face down in the mud, don’t stay there. Get back up and keep going because he’s not looking at your performance, he’s looking at your choices. Choose integrity.
And here’s the real kicker, don’t even start waiting until the competition to glorify God. Glorify him in tedious day-to-day life that is an athlete.
Be on time to practice, show up ready to give all you have with a positive attitude every day, lead your team with character and compassion, be respectful to your competitors, refuse to dwell in self-pity, set the standard of work ethic and attitude on your team. Say thank you (and mean it) to your coaches, strength trainers, nutritionist, physical therapist, or anyone who is helping you be the best you can be, you’re not entitled to their services regardless of how talented you are. The beautiful thing is, you don’t need talent to do any of those.
The color of your medal doesn’t matter, the content of your character does. Win well, loose well, train well. Circumstances shouldn’t determine how you conduct yourself.
Points 8-10… TO BE CONTINUED.