I know there is a handful of you out there reading this that have played a sport. I know there is another handful of you that have experienced some sort of disappointment due to a sport. Before you start saying, “Yeah, I’ve been there done that”, just stop and stand in my shoes for a minute.
I wear size 13…
So it might be a little roomy.
It’s only a race..
At least, you made it to the Regionals. You know it’s only a race, you’ll be here again. One word: sympathy. Something I am not a fan of as it “drives disconnection” – taken from the words of the amazing Brené Brown.
It’s not just a race.
It really was not just a race. It perhaps was one of the most important races of my life (or so I thought at the time). Perspective is important in understanding the significance of (or the significance I put on) this race.
Sports, and specifically Track & Field, was what shaped me as a young kid and was what I enjoyed doing the most (and still is!). I started running track at the age of five and continued on to my highschool years. So it safe to say that sports has produced many tough moments in my life and caused a lot of disappointment (along with triumph).
On Your Mark…Get Set..Go!
So here I am, number one in San Diego, top three in the Region and primed to go to Nationals to represent (top three from each Region go on the National Junior Olympics). I was in the Youth Boy division, 14 years of age at the time. The race, the 400 meter dash. It was my best race and a race I took from my father who was a Division 1 sprinter at UNLV and San Diego State.
So here I am, in the blocks confident that I am going to either win it or at the very least finish in the top three. I cross the line forth when it is all said and done. It was one of those tragic moments in my young life.
One thing about me, is I hate losing. That killed me, it was the last time I would ever run the 400 meter dash as a youth track athlete and my goal which I worked toward the whole season was shattered (in a matter of seconds). Did not qualify for the National Junior Olympics (baby Olympics for those who don’t know track) and that was it. There was nothing I could do about it except eat a funnel cake and forget about it I suppose.
The Man Who Thinks He Can
I did not want to talk to anyone after the race. Just wanted to be alone and so I did. My dad knew I was hurt and he being a track athlete himself had been through his fair share of events such as this.
So he gave me time to calm myself and when he felt I was ready he decided to stand in my shoes, and see what I was experiencing. He went on to say I don’t know exactly what you are feeling but I understand how this can hurt. That was perfect and he also provided me with a poem that helped him get through such events while he was competing.
The verse I remember most, which sticks with me to this day, is
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But sooner or later the man who wins
Is the one who thinks he can.
Empathy vs Sympathy
The difference is a major key as our good friend DJ Khaled would indicate. The way in which my dad approached me versus the way in which other parents and athletes approached me was very different. I enjoyed the approach my dad offered as he took the time to understand and see from my lens what was going on rather than trying to just make me feel better. That went a long ways and the poem he provided me has stood the test of time and is one I go back to when things don’t necessarily go my way.
It is important when dealing with people in times of trial, that you take the right approach. Being empathic is often times the best way to comfort a person.
Well, your minute is up, so I’ll take my shoes back, but through standing in my shoes you can realize the difference empathy makes.