A tale of two competitions

So I whinge and I moan and complain. Then I whinge some more. And in all the midst of chauffering, sitting on the sidelines and trying to maintain a normal life, I forget that actually, for all my whimperings, there are, just sometimes, glimmers of why this sporting life is beneficial for sports baby.

Two meets this year. The first, it really was her day. She was performing at her best, the stars were aligned, it was an ideal competition for her and she triumphed.

She competed in four events – the first is not her speciality and she rarely truly succeeds in it but that day, she did well for her. She scored a personal best and came a very close fourth. Buoyed up, she went on into her own events, gaining a silver and then a very triumphant gold, putting the second place so far behind they were in the next county! Finally, she led her team to an improbable third place – a very unexpected result when looking at the entries earlier and comparing the ability, experience and training time of our team against the competition.

It was a wonderful day and I was proud of her. I was thrilled when coaches kept coming up to congratulate her as we were leaving, particularly on her gold medal. Her own coach was quietly proud, though careful to keep it in perspective – and pointed out to her how she could have got gold in the event where she came second. It was the kind of day an athlete dreams about and as a parent, you’re thrilled. Of course you are.

But how different the following week. A different competition. Same events but covering much wider area and with wider entry requirements. So sports baby had to compete against entrants from twice as many clubs and with a wider age category, athletes much older than herself, and a wider skill category, athletes who had achieved higher skill levels. We knew there was likely to be no medal rush but hoped for a good solid competition.

Hope destroyed instantly. The first event is never her forte – see above – but she doesn’t usually perform it as if wading through a vat of custard, in concrete lined boots wearing a blindfold. The scores were horrific. She stood sobbing. The first event is made up of four aspects and she had another three to perform. At this point, she was shaking and saying that she was going back to the changing room and going home. I was sympathetic and hugged her but said she couldn’t. She could withdraw from the individual events but she had a duty to her team to carry on.

Up until she was called to attempt the next part, a matter of minutes, I didn’t know what she was going to do. But she went, she did it and do you know what, she performed fine. Not spectacularly. But not dreadfully. She dried her tears, gritted her teeth, girded her loins and grabbed every other strength giving cliche she could and damn well got on with it. No, no medals. But in the end, respectable scores throughout and no humiliation.

Two years ago, she had a similar disaster at her first National meet. After making a mess of her first event, she went to pieces and sobbed her way through the rest of the competition, getting worse and worse scores!

I was proud of her with those 3 medals for exceptional scores and fantastic results. I was more proud of her for regaining her calm and refocusing. I was proud of her determination not to give in and not to allow negative emotions to destroy future performance. I was proud of her for putting her team first when she wanted to run away and hide. I am proud that these are lessons that she has learnt over the last two years and these are the valuable lessons she will take away from the sport.

That and a bursting medal rack.

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