I’ve been there. I have been the guy on top, the winner, the best at that time. I have also been the runner up, gone home without the trophy, been hurt, knocked around and beaten down but I am proud to say that I never stayed down. There is a philosophy of winning that goes against the notion of the top prize and that is to say that in order to win, you don’t always need to come first. It is true, there will be a winner, of that there is no doubt, however on any given day there may be one person out there who is better than you. So how do you reconcile that loss with your psyche? How do you continue to rise after each fall and as a coach how do you help your athletes to realize that winning isn’t about winning at all but about striving to be the very best you can be with no regrets? It is paradoxical to say that winning isn’t about winning. After all, there is a trophy and a payday for the winner, there is a place in history for the winner. Nobody knows who came second to Lance Armstrong during his 7 Tour De France wins, nobody remembers who lost to Michael Jordan during his 6 NBA Championships and you would be hard pushed to find anyone who could tell you the runners up who followed Michael Schumacher to the podium during his 7 Formula 1 World Championships. However, in the end, there can be only 1 and that leaves no room for error. So in order to keep ourselves motivated, in order to make sure that we have something against which we can measure ourselves winning becomes secondary. It takes a back seat to the individual struggle and victory over ourselves. There is a saying I used to repeat to my rugby players and to my gymnastics athletes that there is always somebody somewhere who is working hard enough to beat you and it is your duty, your responsibility to yourself to disappoint them. But it doesn’t always work out that way and when it doesn’t, there is only one thing that matters. The ability to look yourself in the eye, to look at your teammates, parents, children and friends and tell them that you did everything you could. There is no greater pain in the world than knowing that you could have done more. But in contrast, there is nothing that will comfort the sting of defeat like the knowledge that you worked as hard as you could, and gave it everything you had.
You may not think that you are a hero. You may not think that what you do on a daily basis matters in the grand scheme of things but you are wrong. Each time you do anything that challenges you, each time you take part in a project, a game or a workout that pushes you, you are taking stock of yourself and either building yourself up or tearing yourself down. From a fitness perspective, every time you cut your workout short you hurt yourself both physically and psychologically. Each time you finish the last set and wonder how you made it through you add to your stock as a person. You owe it to yourself to do your best, if for no other reason that at the end of the day you can look at yourself in the mirror and be proud. So pick yourself up one more time, push through the pain one more day and trust that in the end, victory will be yours.
Believe me, you don’t want to be in a place where you can’t look yourself in the eye because if you can’t be proud of you, nothing else matters.