Between the Sheets: The Lessons of the Medal – Perspective

This is the final post of a three part series, “The Lessons of the Medal“. Sport teaches so many lessons that can be used in everyday life – its understanding those lessons and applying them to your daily life that is the difficult part. In my first post of this series, “Teamwork I explored just how important team is, whether you win or lose. In the second post, “Pursuing Your Dreams I explained how important the journey is compared to the end result. In my final post of this series I will talk about how important perspective is to a teams success.

Team Bernard at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver

Our team had been put together 4 years prior to 2010 with the goal of representing Canada at these Olympics. It’s a 3 year qualifying process and each event you play will award you points…the better you do the more points you get. At the end you either qualify for the sweet 16 (16 teams play off for 4 spots in the “Roar of the Rings”) or 4 teams directly qualify for the Roar of the Rings….we wanted one of those 4 spots. So we went hard. We played in as many events possible. We were on the road a ton…I think the last year we were 90 some days in hotels…over a 6 month period. We trained with our coach any weekend we weren’t on the road. Then we added in weekday morning practices before everyone went to work. Yes we had jobs, families and children on top of all of this. We trained alone after work..On our days off. We adopted a pretty tough fitness training program – hired personal trainers. And after 2 years we had done it – we were in the Roar of the Rings in December of 2009. We were exhausted, burnt out. We weren’t doing well in events…just hanging in..qualifying, but then losing out. Then we started to worry. We couldn’t go into the toughest competition in our lives (Roar of the Rings) like this. Then the pressure started to get to us…fear and concern. Then one day, I was walking up on Nosehill with my dog.. trying to understand what was wrong…why we were struggling..and it hit me…we didn’t love the game anymore..we didn’t love the practice – we weren’t enjoying each other….we had lost perspective. So we had a meeting..and we talked and talked, and we got more and more excited, because it resonated with all of us. Why do we do what we do out here? Because we love it. What if we don’t win the Trials…well then we go back to our life, which is full of great family, a great life win or lose. We made a deal to start having fun again, to remember why it is we play this game…to laugh more to do this all without regrets. We needed to relearn how to want it…but not HAVE to have it. The following quote might be my favourite about loving the game. The author is unknown, but Corey Grant who played 10 years in the CFL, (mostly for Saskatchewan) wrote this in his CFL column. “Love the game. Love the game for the pure joy of accomplishment. Love the game for everything it can teach you about yourself. Love the game for the feeling of belonging to a group endeavouring to do its best. Love the game for being involved in a team whose members can’t wait to see you do your best. Love the game for the challenge of working harder than you even have at something and then harder than that. Love the game because it takes all team members to give it life. Love the game because at its best, the game tradition will include your contributions. Love the game so much that you will pass on your love of the game to another athlete or child, who has seen your dedication, your work, your challenges, your triumphs…and then that athlete will, because of you, love the game.” Perspective was our key word. Yes tonnes of practice, preparation, competition, building team chemistry, hanging in there, and not beating ourselves. But embracing perspective may have been our turning point on dealing with pressure and seeking that edge. We were so focused on making the Trials that up until a year ago it was almost paralyzing. Funny thing was, that perspective allowed us to win. And we won big, first the Trials and then the silver medal at the 2010 home in Canada. It’s been life changing ever since – but small and big reminders keep things in perspective each and every day. Yes we were disappointed in not winning the gold. Who wouldn’t be? But having this perspective not only helped us play better, we saw the sport as a game, and not a job or what defines us. This perspective also helps us to quickly realize that we won an Olympic silver medal! You ask any serious athlete on the planet when they started out in their sport if they could not only be called an Olympian but to win a medal – would they be disappointed? I don’t think so. Our team is filled with so much gratefulness. Another great thing happened after our gold medal game at the Olympics that reminded us to cherish our achievement. We asked our driver to stop at a Starbucks in Richmond…we were all in baseball hats and jeans –so we head into this Starbucks and place our order. While we are waiting, the barista behind the counter making our drinks begins to sing….Oh Canada- loud as you can imagine – all by herself. Then one by one, customers started to join in – then people off the street joined in and they sang the entire national anthem to our team – they were so proud. We just stood there with tears in our eyes. Moments like that stay with you forever. I think the proudest though, that we were of each other was in April – just 2 months after the Olympics. Like golf we have many majors throughout the year and 2 months after the Olympics (with a month off completely from throwing) we regrouped and prepared for our final event of the year. The Players Championship – which is the top 16 women and men teams in the world. It was so hard to get back up, to “want it” to train again after the huge high of the Olympics. But we sat down and reminded ourselves – that we still had something to show everyone, but mostly ourselves. So in April we won the 2010 Players Championship- as well as the 2010 Capital Cup for most consistent team of 2010 – and in addition our peers voted us Team of the year…it was a dream ending to an amazing year. It’s hard to believe the Olympics are now over – but what they left in their wake will, I don’t think be forgotten anytime soon. The Canadian athletes inspired a nation – and ignited a movement of national unity and pride. I was never so proud to be Canadian. The games reminded us of the power of sport – leaving a legacy of inspiration for Canadians young and old. Competing in the Olympic Games on home soil was a great gift – not just for the athletes and their families – but for all the young athletes that had the opportunity to watch. It has undoubtedly inspired them to dream big – not just in sport, but in life. I feel I am now a better spouse, step parent and citizen because I have learned to incorporate the lessons learned from sport, (team work, pursuing my dreams and perspective) into the rest of my life.