I’m not talking about throwing shade, copping an attitude or whatever the cool kids call it these days. I’m talking about a general attitude toward life and toward sport.
This past weekend I flew to Chicago to be a volunteer coach (i.e. coach in training) at the Dare2Tri injured military paratriathlon camp. It was a busy weekend, but I was so happy to be there. I had the chance to coach alongside Paralympic medalists and to learn from participant athletes of all levels. The weekend ended Sunday morning with the athletes taking part in Leon’s triathlon. The race director has a mission to honor military veterans and the whole race is focused on that; I’ve never seen so many American flags on one race course! It was really amazing.
The weekend got me thinking about why I feel so compelled to work with these athletes. Yes, they have disabilities they have to work around to be an athlete and that is no small thing. But at the end of the day, they are athletes like the rest of us.
I think it boils down to attitude.
Most of these athletes embody the attitude of “can” vs. “can’t”. They are willing to work hard and to suffer to reach their goals. When they see an obstacle, they see an opportunity to figure out a solution. I appreciate that. For me, this is what defines the truly dedicated, passionate athletes. [This can apply to any part of life, not just sport, of course.] Let me give you some examples of what I mean:
The “can” athlete finishes the race where everything has gone wrong and they have no chance of doing well or reaching their goals. Just to finish the race. Because ultimately that’s the most important goal.
The “can’t” athlete drops out when the race is not going their way, because what’s the point of just finishing?
The “can” athlete pushes themselves in training even when it hurts so badly their body really wants them to quit. Because they know that it takes hard work to reach their goals.
The “can’t” athlete never tests their limits – hey, it hurts – and wonders why they never improve.
I know which athletes I want to be around.
I’m lucky to coach athletes who embody this attitude, who will NOT quit. As a coach, I admit I enjoy dishing out the suffering to others. But I do truly appreciate what my athletes put into their training and racing.
I have one question that for an athlete, and myself, after any race: Did you leave it all out there? Because as long as you answer yes to that question, that’s a success in my book.
There you have my one piece of advice for life: Leave it all out there.