Stand in My Shoes

Someone-elses-shoesI 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.

TIMES UP!

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.

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9 thoughts on “Stand in My Shoes

  1. I was also really big into sports at my high school, I did both cross country and track. Losing or do worse than you really wanted to can make you feel horrible. It can be upsetting after a bad race, especially when your friends and family try to sympathize with you in the wrong way. I’m glad that you had a friend who knew exactly what to say to you after your lose, it can be really comforting during a time like that.

    1. Oh very cool! What events did you compete in? And yes everyone always thinks “its going to be alright”. In reality it will be but not something you want to hear right after losing a race.

  2. I can certainly relate to this to the maximum extent. There were several times throughout high school when I would put a substantial amount of stress on my own shoulders to perform a certain way in tennis. But there was one tennis match specifically that I still remember to this day as if it happened this morning. It was the qualifying match for the State Championships during my sophomore year. I had just assumed that since I qualified my freshman year when I had no clue what I was doing, that obviously I would qualify my sophomore year when I had a better understanding. But needless to say, it turns out that’s not how the world works and I didn’t get to go to State that year. But I completely understand just wanting to be by yourself in silence because no one else understands what you’re going through. But similar to you, my dad had a better understanding than anyone else and was the only one I chose to listen to for weeks following that dreaded match. It’s a good thing we have our dads to get us through those tough moments. 🙂

  3. I was big into sports at one point in my life and not accomplishing something you’ve trained so hard for is a tough feeling to shake. Much like you and your dad, my dad and I had a sport in common (soccer), and when I was moved down from one of the best teams in the league to one I didn’t necessarily want to be on, he immediately knew what he needed to do. In most cases, that was to let me simmer down as he put himself in my shoes (or cleats).

  4. Individual sports are tough. They teach you a lot but also all the attention is on you so its hard to put all that pressure on yourself. I played tennis since I was the age of 5 and played all in high school just like you and I can relate to how hard it is sometimes. There is no one to blame but yourself sometimes and its hard when you are very competative which I am too

    1. They really are tough – but also are the most fun and rewarding I would say (when you are winning). In those moments of defeat its hard to allow someone to comfort you since you put your all into. Being the competitor I am and as you indicate you are – it takes the right approach to get your mind in a better place.

  5. Being an avid surfer and growing up surfing competitively, I totally understand the self pressure that you can sometimes put on yourself when dealing with an individual sport. I was always so angry with myself after a lost heat and never wanted to talk to anyone. And the simple reason was because I didn’t lose with anyone else, like in a team sport, instead it was always all on me. My Dad was always the one who lifted my spirits once I opened up, its lucky that we had such great fathers around during those times.

  6. I really like your style of writing! It kept me intrigued the whole time during your story. I also ran cross country and track during high school and my first year of college..my speciality was the 400!

  7. I really enjoyed reading your post! You have an awesome competitive spirit that bleeds through in your writing which is really cool. Especially enjoyed the DJ Khaled reference. I ran track and played soccer in high school so I can definitely relate.

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