“What if you did your best but it just wasn’t good enough”
This is often the question that athletes are faced with after a competition that didn’t go according to plan, or the outcome just wasn’t what they wanted. They did their best, everything went well, except the end result – the outcome of winning or losing.
People often only look at this outcome as the measure of success, without looking into the details and factors of the race that lead to that result, the opposition, etc. And they are quick to label an athlete a failure when they lose on the line, or have a puncture in the final km. This is unrealistic and quite unfair towards not only the athlete, but the coaching staff and supporters.
The problem with outcome goals as a measure of success or failure, is that they don’t tell the whole story, rather they only focus on a fragment of it, and use it as the pinnacle to sum up an athlete. I think we need to look at success or failure as the result of our process goals, i.e.: have we improved, did we ride at our absolute best, was our preparation the best it could be, was our mind set in the right place, and was everything in place the way it should be. These are all controllable factors and in our control to almost 100%. The other factors like the opposition, the referee, the weather, equipment failure, etc. are out of our control, and cannot be used as a measure of success. We need to differentiate between these factors if we have any plans of analysing performance, otherwise we will in fact be analysing outcome, and although related, they are worlds apart.
If we look at it in terms of all the above mentioned controllable factors being covered, it can be looked at as success, if not, regardless of the outcome, it should be looked at as failure. It’s against the grain thinking, and unconventional in terms of how the public and amateur athlete thinks, but in terms of high performance, it’s the only way. This is the attitude of the best athletes in the world who have had the longest and most enjoyable careers, notice the “enjoyable”, as many athletes have had long and successful careers but hated every moment of it, and if you look at them years later, have no part in that sport anymore, which is sad.
Now I’m not saying we should not celebrate a win, and mourn a loss. That’s after all the beauty and thrill of sport. But what I’m saying is that single factor shouldn’t be the one to define you as an athlete. A win is still what we aim for, and what we will celebrate, but not what we should define our self-worth and character on.
Do you see the actual definition of success and failure, and that even if you win it could be a failure in terms of personal performance; and even if you lose it could be a win in terms of personal performance, improvement, and the process?
At the end of it all, if you can enjoy the sport and the competitive aspect of it, if you can push your limits, if you can do our absolute best, and if you can improve; then you are successful. If you look at yourself and your character and can be proud of the person you are, then you are successful. Whether you won or lost is not in that equation and never should be.
If the above is not the case, then learn from it and aim to be that person, and not simply the winner. The glory of the victory fades away, but your character and the thrill, enjoyment and emotion that sport gives will live on forever and make you a champion not only in sport, but in life.
Matthew de Freitas