Merriam-Webster says that a defining moment is a time that shows very clearly what something is really about.
What happens when you find yourself falling short of the goal or expectation that you and others place on you? Do you give up? Do you give in to the failure or do you rise above your disappointment and try again?
Last year on February 12, to be exact, Amy was competing at the NCHSAA State Championship 1A/2A. She was seeded 2 and fully anticipated finishing 1st or 2nd. Through her warm ups it was evident she was tight, not relaxed and rushing her throws. I was attempting to relay information to her, mostly through hand gestures, because we weren’t close enough to talk to her. All we could do was watch and hope and pray.
She delivered her first throw. Then her second. Then her third. None of her throws were terribly awful. The throws just weren’t hitting the distance she was capable of throwing. She was just trying too hard and not relaxed. The good news was she was in the finals and had three more throws. Her next three throws were much like the first three. She finished the day in 4th place. A very disappointing 4th place. She asked me not even to take a picture. I don’t always listen. Regardless of her finish, I was proud of her and I knew in time, she would see it as a blessing.
Angry. Hurt. Disappointed. She felt as if she’d let everyone, coach, teammates and us down. She definitely had let herself down. I think for a few minutes, maybe more, she even contemplated foregoing the sport she’d grown to love. She certainly wasn’t loving it at that moment in time.
She didn’t even want the medal but I kept it anyway.
As soon as indoor season was over, outdoor season began. She had a new outlook and new goals. A new determination and better work ethic. She was finally beginning to see that her loss was actually a motivator to perform at a higher level.
Stress still plagued her. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but I knew something was wrong.
On the drive home from her first track meet, which arose the “mama bear” in me, (maybe a story for another time) she again was disappointed in her performance. She had finished 2nd in both the shot put and discus. She does not like to lose. She’s highly competitive. Once again I found myself listening to, “I should just give up. I should just quit. I’m just not good enough. ”
I reminded her, “Amy, you know that Cale’s invitation for you to be on the team at WCU is still on the table. He sees potential. He thinks you’re good enough. I know you weren’t convinced after your visit but maybe you should reconsider.”
I left it there.
A week or so later she made her decision official. She was going to WCU. She was going to be a collegiate athlete.
She continued to compete and performed well. She finished 1st in shot put and discus at Regionals. Then she went on to finish 2nd in shot and 1st in discus at the NCHSAA State Championships. She still fell short of the goals she had set for her but she certainly overcame the defeat and dissatisfaction from the indoor season.
She hung her new medals on the rearview mirror of her car, and mysteriously the 4th place medal found its way out of the cabinet and into the car with the other ones. At that moment, I knew what had been, to her, one of the hardest days of her life, would be one of her most defining moments. A moment that clearly defined her character.
We all have times when we fall short of expectations, either ones we’ve imposed on ourselves or ones others have set before us. The key in overcoming our feelings of defeat and failure lies in the attidude of how we respond. Initial progress may seem slow; however we must press on and keep on. The choice is really ours. We can overcome or we can be overcome. It all depends on our response.
John Wooden says, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”