By: Stephanie Huff
The 1996 Olympics solidified my love of gymnastics. Yes, the flips were super entertaining to my seven-year-old self, but it was witnessing the resiliency, the surging pride, the power to over
come adversity, that really stole my heart. I’ve always loved sports- the competitiveness, the sense of accomplishment, and the comradely of working with others for something bigger than yourself. Sports teach you lessons, without you even realizing that you’re learning.
And then one day, you realize you can gracefully accept defeat because you’ve lost before; you can fail over and over, but persevere because you know how it feels when you finally succeed; you can work with different types of people because you recognize what skills they bring to the team; you’re able to communicate effectively and operate under pressure because sports have taught you these lessons. You’ve grown to become a student of life.
This is why “teaching life lessons through sport” is one of my favorite core values at Thrive. During one of the last team practices in the gym, we were talking about fear. It’s natural to be scared of something new because you don’t know what to expect, and what if you mess up, or get injured? Recognizing fear or anxiety is valid, but dwelling on it can halt progress. It’s what you do with the fear that determines your outcome.
I asked the gymnasts to look around the gym for ten seconds and find as many blue objects as they could. Then they had to close their eyes and recite as many as they could remember. They rattled off a whole list in a matter of seconds. With their eyes still closed, I then asked them to name the red objects in the gym. Nothing for a few seconds; one or two random guesses. They opened their eyes and immediately started looking for red objects (to “win” the game).
“Why was it harder to recite the red objects?” I asked.
Feeling defeated, “because you only told us to look for blue!” They said.
(I know, I know; mean, tricky coach. But don’t worry the lesson is coming…)
I explained: When your mind is so focused on looking for one thing, you block out the rest. When you’re only focused on the fear, you’re unable to see the good that can come from it, or the creative solutions to overcome it. By only focusing on the negative, we close our minds to the positives happening around us. A shift in perspective may be the key to overcoming the mental blocks, or succeeding in a challenging situation.
“Hey, that was a life lesson through sport!” one of my gymnasts exclaimed. <Enter a small spike in my own pride right here>.
And I hope you’ll always remember it, whenever you need it.