Life lessons from a former D1 and USA Team athlete: Part Three.

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 three: 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.

8.The process is the most important. It really is. The process is more important then the end goal. Here’s a hard to swallow pill. If you put all the importance on the end goal, when you finally achieve it you will feel empty.

Ask anyone who has lost weight or finally reached a life-long dream. If that is what they have decided to hang their hat on, they will feel hollow on the inside. It will never feel enough. People can dedicate their whole life to a goal and once they achieve it, there is this, “well what now feeling”. That is why it is important to invest your importance on the process of getting there.

Now that I coach I see this so clearly. If all I have taught my athletes to do are dives, then I have failed. My job is to have them leave the sport with more than what they started, with the right skill set to take on life; grit, resilience, hope, and the ability to work through and manage disappointment, heartbreak, and challenge.

If you’re not careful, and put all your worth and focus in the goal itself, in the process of getting there, you could become someone who you aren’t proud. Don’t sell out trying to reach the top. One it is a lonely place, and two, you have what it takes to get there without sacrificing integrity.

You’ve got the good stuff, dig into it. Set your sights on process and character first, and I promise the goals will follow.

9.Grit, mental toughness, and character do not always equate with gold medals. I wrote my masters thesis on this topic, so it takes great restraint not to run away with this.

When we look at our athletic heroes, we often assume that the person on top of the podium has the most resilience, mental toughness, and grit, which are the qualities I respect most in a person.

While this often true because it does take those qualities to win, you can still be just as gritty and tough a competitor placing fifth as the person who placed first. You’re performance may not have been as good as the person who won, but that doesn’t mean your fight wasn’t as strong. It is so important to distinguish the two.

It is like beauty. The beauty in someone else, doesn’t make you any less stunning. Another analogy I like to give is this; who is more mentally tough, the person who runs the marathon and breaks the record, or the person who runs the marathon with one leg? Grit isn’t dependent on outcome.

You may not have as much talent or physical ability as everyone out there and that’s okay. But you can be sure to be as mentally tough and gritty as anyone on the field. You’ll never be able to control someone else’s talent, but you will always be able to control your mental toughness.

If you’re not sold on this concept, then here’s a quick 3 minute video of one of the most incredible feats of grit I’ve ever seen (grab your tissues): https://www.facebook.com/ESPN/videos/514583299091099/

10. It’s not even really about the sport. I believe in the importance of sports; they teach so many incredible life and character lessons that our culture simply cannot provide in this day and age. We’ve walked away from the hardship that develop these qualities.

I believe sports can help fill the gap because of their ability to create struggle, and only from struggle do we grow.

However, sports are just sports. At the end of the day I had to tell myself, it is just diving. This is not life or death. There is so much more to life like faith, family, relationships, outside passions, rest, and career goals.

Once I started reminding myself that diving was not the end all-be-all of my life, my diving ironically got better. It is SO important to keep perspective. Your sport is not who you are, it is something you happen to do.

When you are training, give every last drop of yourself to your training. But as soon as you walk off the field, or for me the pool, leave the sport there and remind yourself you’re more than just an athlete. Enjoy your life outside of your sport. Take the life lessons sport teaches and then apply it to life.

Because here’s the thing, sports are just the training wheels that prep you for the big stage; which is to live a life worthy of who God made you to be, a life that will require you to embrace change, step outside of fear, to take criticism, to give god glory when your face down, and to establish your self worth based on how well you live not how well you are praised.

Ultimately we are defined by how well we go through life, not where we end up. The beautiful part of all of this is if you live life well for long enough, you end up right where you were always meant to.

The end! Honorary Lessons:

  • Take care of your body. Seriously, start eating vegetables and go to bed early.
  • Be happy for others when they do well. You’re time is coming, and you’ll want them to be happy for you when it does.
  • Learn to communicate with your coach. They can’t read your mind and they can only help you as much as you allow them to. Communicate.
  • You may get yelled at by your coach. Don’t get mad, you probably needed it. And you’ll definitely thank them later for it. Even if it is years later.
  • Learn to laugh at your mistakes because the opposite is to obsess over them. Either way you recognize the error, so don’t let it consume you. Laugh it off and don’t do it again.
  • Some days you will kick some major ass and some days the goal is to survive. Both are necessary and both have value.
  • Getting better doesn’t always look like progress. Usually it looks the opposite; messy and frustrating. So if you feel frustrated and that you’re getting nowhere, just keep grinding, everything will click soon. Don’t give up before then.
  • Thank your parents. As hard as it is to go through the ups and downs of athletics, it is even harder for them to watch you navigate all these intense emotions. And more often then not, they get the short end of your frustrations. Thank them and hug them tight, its not an easy job. I know I owe my parents the BIGGEST thank you for all the things they put up with. It wasn’t pretty when I learned all these lessons, yet they never gave up on me even when I sometimes deserved it.
  • Enjoy it. You never know how long your career will be. So even in the sucky times, soak up every last minute of your sport because one day you won’t be able to do it. Soak it in and enjoy the ride.

The end. For real 🙂

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