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when to celebrate a loss
Track is a fascinating sport that requires mental toughness and the ability to overcome adversity. The Greeks knew this and chose Track and Field as the key sport for Olympic competition.
Track is not a complicated sport. Track athletes don’t need to learn complicated plays, study films to determine team tendencies, or change offensive and defensive techniques every week to exploit the weakness of the competitor. Track participants main goal is to convert innate talents, strong discipline, and hard work into maximum performance.
Track forces participants to confront personal character flaws, demons, personal weaknesses, and insecurities. Jesse Owens says about mental toughness "The Battles That Count Aren't the Ones For Gold Medals. The struggles within yourself - The Invisible, Inevitable battles Inside all of Us - That's Where It Is At." Patti Sue Plumer agrees saying “ Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves. It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go. It helps us to find out what we are made of. This is what we do. This is what it's all about."
The quote "Sports do not build character- It reveals it" defines track and field participants. Track athletes deal with “invisible, inevitable battles” and a gut check every day.
Track is the only sport that athletes reveal their character to the fans as the event unfolds. In the picture to the left Von Letscher’s struggle is visible.
The Importance of losing
Quite frankly I don’t know if Von finished first or last in this event. Winning or losing both have value, but it is not the message in the photo. The message is much deeper. This athlete combined work ethic, talent, practice, commitment, and discipline to maximize his performance. He is a winner even if he finishes last. Augie Garrido the Longhorn head baseball coach until 2016 says winning should never determine your self worth . He said that athletes whose " character is forged in failure" usually are more prepared for college baseball than the high school recruit who has only experienced winning. Augie says failure can be as positive as winning . He states in his book "Life is Yours to win" that failure has benefits. "If you handle failure with the right attitude, it can lead to success. Coach Weis the Longhorn women's Golf coach from 1969-1993 agrees. She says "As long as you feel you've given your best, that you've given 100 percent effort on every shot, no one can complain. There can only be one winner!" "Winning simply cannot be your only goal". John Wooden the UCLA coaching legend said that if his team played "their best and fulfilled their potential .......... and lost, Wooden considered the game a success. There are many Longhorn track athletes who have experienced this story line and each one of them has written their tale in the history of UT track.
My respect for track participants is deeply rooted in my past. I understand the comments of Jesse Owens, Pat Weis , Patti Sue Palmer's, and I experienced Von Letscher's struggle. My senior year in high school I set personal best time in the 100, but finished Last in my heat. As a 17 year old boy, I was surprised that I was happy finishing last, but this epiphany help me re-calibrate my definition of success for my life journey.
There will always be someone more successful than me, but that does not mean I am a failure. Track taught me to accept finishing last in some "life events" as long as it is my personal best.
No one can articulate this message better than Augie Garrido. Even though Augie's comments in this video focus on the internal struggles for baseball players, his comments also apply to track and field.