No one wishes for heartache. No one daydreams about massive disappointment. You don’t hear about anyone making goals or grinding for change that’s in a direction going away from their plans and dreams. No one marks the calendar for the day they hope what they want most is shattered on the floor.
But we try to prepare our kids, our players, and ourselves because those things are a part of life. They are coming, not once or twice but consistently as we journey through days, weeks, and years.
“THIS IS NOT MY PLAN. WHY HAS THIS HAPPENED?” has been uttered by every human on this planet at one time or another. My puppy was neutered this morning, I think I even heard him saying it when I picked him up….
How can we prepare our athletes to use disappointment, heartache, and sudden changes as a springboard? How do we build resilience, mental toughness, perseverance, and perspective when all they can see is an ending?
I seem to relate a lot of my life to the game Boggle. Perhaps too many family nights spent hunched over that little tray of letters trying to dig out words left an imprint on me. I was the youngest in a family full of word-nerds and as competitive as I am, I had to learn to scan for words quickly.
When you play the game, there is a sand-timer that is flipped and then the tray is uncovered and you hold onto that pen, your pad of paper, and you write furiously while seeking words in any and every angle you can. We are looking at letters in a sequence we’ve never seen before. The goal is to fill up the page. To connect the letters and make sense out of it. The goal is to find what others can’t.
Life is a little like that. Heartache, disappointment, and sudden change outside of our plans are not the end of something. They are the beginning. We usually can’t see what they are the beginning of, but they are the catalyst for bringing us to something bigger, something important, something life-changing. These events are the sand-timer flipping, starting the clock. And our job is to start scanning what’s in front of us, looking at things from different angles, see things others may not see, and to start writing the rest of the story.
Setbacks for athletes can feel like an ending, but they don’t have to be. Give your athletes something different to keep in their team bag this year. Give them a small sand-timer, a pen, and a notebook. When they feel overwhelmed, defeated, frustrated, or hopeless, tell them to pull out the timer and flip it over, a new beginning activated by this challenge. Then start writing until they see something bigger than that crushing blow or seemingly impossible obstacle in front of them. At the top of the page, write DAY 1. Becuase that disappointment is meant to be the beginning of a new story. At the end of the season, their career with you as their coach, they should have a series of journeys that started with an unexpected event or challenge, and reasons to remember to flip the timer and start new.
While I don’t wish heartache on anyone, I wish your heartache brings you closer to an incredible story and new adventure. Flip the hour-glass and start something incredible…..
Dedicated to Lizzie. May the reality of your journey be bigger than your imagination can show you. May your dreams be too small for what actually lies ahead.