Monthly Archives: February 2014

Keep On Chugging (Don’t Get Derailed by Defeat)

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The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi can teach us all kinds of lessons.

It’s hard to comprehend that some very capable athletes will fall down, fall behind, and fall out of the running for a medal.  Maybe it’s nerves.  Or Mother Nature wreaking havoc on the slopes. Or the team’s choice of inferior performance clothing.  Maybe it’s something completely out of their control. Or maybe it comes down to the harsh reality that someone else is faster, stronger or more skilled.

If Olympic athletes, who possess exceptionally high standards for training and reaching their goals, must face setbacks and failures, then maybe it’s worth noting how they deal with it.   Teenagers, who are trying to fit in, discover their strengths, and not embarrass themselves while doing so, may benefit the most from knowing that Olympic athletes and professionals must pick themselves up and deal with setbacks.

Here are a few similarities between Sochi and life:

Not everyone who works their hardest will make the team.

The U.S. Women’s hockey coach had the difficult job of telling three highly  qualified players that they wouldn’t be making the trip to Sochi with the  team.  (The spaces were all filled).   In high school, not making a sports team is always a painful reality. There are only so many spots on a team, even taking into account substitutes.  (In high school, if no cuts are made, the result is inevitably reduced playing time or no playing time for some players).

No matter how well prepared you might  be, you can’t control the weather, a brewing  infection or individuals who  inadvertently trip you up).

It’s true that everyone is competing under the exact same outdoor conditions, but when the weather changes from hour to hour, affecting visibility and surface conditions, succeeding at skiing and snowboarding comes down to quickly adapting to variations in conditions, especially if those conditions are vastly different from the ones where training took place.  (This is similar to being knowledgeable enough to make a presentation even when the PowerPoint projector won’t turn on).

Cross-country skier Gary di Silvestri (representing the island of Dominica) contracted a bacterial infection from contaminated water in his temporary apartment. di Silvestri became so weak from the infection, he couldn’t finish his race.  Even sports reporter Bob Costas couldn’t have predicted a severe eye infection would prevent him from covering the Olympic games for a few days. (Unlike di Silvestri, Costas had a replacement).  Things happen.  A highly contagious  stomach bug brought down half of our high school’s  hockey team one year, weakening the team’s overall game.

It seems unfair that one athlete’s fall could become the obstacle that brings down another athlete but this is the nature of events such as the snowboard cross competition.  In an instant, a spill can result in a loss for two men and third place for an athlete who was trailing behind.  In men’s cross-country skiing, Noah Hoffman tripped and fell on a turn and while trying to recover got elbowed in the face.  He lost his goggles as well as crucial time in the race.

Even smart, well-prepared people make silly  mistakes.

Cross Country Skier Jessie Diggins, anchor on the U.S. women’s relay team, sprinted onto the track and into the wrong lane of the last leg of her race.  She had to stop and turn around before proceeding.  Although the U.S. women were already farther behind than they hoped to be, Diggins wanted at least to finish strong for her team.  How did she react to her error?  She said, “I’m really proud of how I skied. I pushed myself really hard. We pushed ourselves as hard as we could, and we believed in each other, and that’s what matters. I’m just really proud of the team effort.”

Not all judges will recognize and appreciate a job well done.

People may forever question how Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova walked away with the gold medal in figure skating in Sochi, upsetting defending champion Kim Yu-na of South Korea.  Unquestionably talented, Sotnikova’s final winning score  increased noticeably from her previous best arousing suspicion.  Although strict criteria need to be met to earn points, scores are still being entered by humans and subject to interpretation.

Maybe no one was more surprised by her scores than U.S. figure skater Ashley Wagner.  Waiting to view her scores, her exhilaration and confidence changed abruptly to shock and frustration when she viewed the disappointing results.  “Bull***t!” was her outburst caught on camera.

Sometimes highly skilled, highly  prepared people just fall short.

This happened to Shani Davis, who was hoping to earn medals with his fellow U.S.  speed skaters in Sochi.  Davis and his teammates headed into the 1500 meter race without having earned any medals at that point and instead of putting this reality behind them they wasted time wondering if the suits they wore could have slowed them down.  Instead of gearing up to increase their speed in the 1500 meter race, they went into it still feeling defeated and disappointed in themselves and it showed in their lackluster performance.

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All teens want to succeed.  With sufficient preparation and interest, teens that have the desire and courage to do well – at a college interview, job interview, driving test, presentation, tryout for a sports team/musical/ band/ leadership role or any activity they deem important to them – should first and foremost feel proud that they took a risk to even try. (Some teens let fear of failure or embarrassment prevent them from trying at all).

When things don’t go as hoped, disappointment is normal.  But instead of dwelling on what went wrong and letting the disappointment prevail (as Shani Davis and his teammates did), a better reaction would be to state the following with conviction:   I did my absolute best under the circumstances (much like Jessie Diggins).  Again, the courage it takes to prepare and try one’s best should be reason to celebrate and permission to move forward with a new plan.  As Kelly Clarkson says, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Finally, no matter how disappointing or unfair the outcome of a task may feel, lashing out verbally or physically is not a classy way to react to disappointment, especially if television cameras are recording it for the world to see.  (It’s hard to forget the behavior of people like John McEnroe and Tanya Harding).  A smarter reaction to disappointment?   Stay calm and know without a doubt that you did your very best.

Saying Yes to the Prom Dress

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I have a confession to make.  I cannot seem to peel my eyes away from the show Say Yes to the Dress.  I’m intrigued by everything about this program:  the relationships between the brides and their bridesmaids and families, the endless drama, the dress selections and rejections and the amount of money these girls are sometimes willing to spend on gowns that they will wear only once.  Some of the girls try on dozens and dozens of dresses, only to find some reason to not to like them.  I often wonder if these women, who look stunning in many of those rejected gowns, have lost touch with the true meaning of the upcoming occasion.

I wonder if something similar is happening in the prom dress industry.  I recently got a text from my daughter, who is a high school senior. The text had an attached picture of her in a gorgeous royal blue prom gown.  We both loved everything about it.  Well …. almost everything.  Royal blue, figure flattering, coverage of a key area, elegant but youthful and fun,…..

Six hundred dollars.    Wowza!

It’s perfect, read my daughter’s text. I love it.  This was followed by some very logical attempts to win my approval. (She knows I’m practical). She has been to a few proms and has never spent a lot for any gown:   At one prom she wore a bridesmaid gown from a wedding that I was in.  At another she bought a beautiful gown at a consignment shop for half of its original price. And last year her Lord & Taylor gown rang up on sale for $69.99.  (We practically squealed at the register).

$600.

There’s no denying this $600 dress was exquisite and surely required many hours of labor by a skilled seamstress to achieve this level of quality.  (I admire people who can do this kind of work.  I can only sew buttons onto clothes).  Yet no matter how valid her arguments seem, I cannot justify spending $600 on a dress that will be worn for a few hours.  Not when we both know there is a gorgeous gown at a fraction of that price on a rack somewhere, waiting to be discovered.  Would that gown measure up to this one in quality?  Probably not.  But would anyone be thinking about this at prom?  Probably not.

I understand how exciting it is to get dressed up in formalwear. (I would like to be invited to a black tie event some day).  Special occasions call for fancier clothing, hair, makeup and jewelry.  But no teenager should feel the need to pay $600 for a gown in order to feel unique and beautiful at prom.

I have told my daughter a few times, and I know she agrees with me, despite these recent pleas:  No matter what gown she chooses to wear to prom ~ as long as it complements her size, shape, and complexion, and carries with it no risk of having a wardrobe malfunction ~ she is going to look exquisite and probably have a wonderful time.  Five years from now, no one will remember what she or anyone else wore to prom, only that it was worth all the preparation and it was a memorable time.

Remember Cinderalla?  Here’s a girl who made her own gown (before it was shredded to bits by her jealous stepsisters). But if you think about it, even before her magical transformation, Cinderalla was thrilled to be going to the ball, even in her simple, homemade dress.

I like her attitude.

 

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