“A Problem Is A Chance To Do Your Best”–Duke Ellington
How do you bounce back from disappointment? Do you beat yourself down or do you pick yourself up and learn from it? This week, Olympian and SMACKANISTA Sara Hendershot shares her recent experience from a sub-par race with a positive experience that showcases how mental strength can propel us forward towards our goals.
I wanted to contribute to our SMACK! Talk blog this week because I think it’s incredibly important as an elite athlete to share not only your success, but also your struggles and failures. Training at the top of your sport isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, and any athlete that tries to tell you that is simply lying. The last week of my training and racing has been met with disappointment, a few questions and a lot of reflection.
After a 12-month cycle of injury in 2013, I left the tried and true way of training for the National Rowing Team at the Princeton Training Center, and broke off with one partner to see if we could find a different way. For the past year, with the help of some awesome coaches, I’ve been experimenting on myself to try to find a combination of training that would allow me to be fit, strong, and healthy enough to compete with the country’s best.
About a week ago, our year peaked when I competed in the National Selection Regatta with my partner in the Women’s Pair event. This regatta determines which U.S. Pair will go on to attempt to secure a spot on the World Championship team. It also determines which athletes will be considered as a part of the summer selection camp from which the World Championship “big boats” will be selected (the women’s eight and quad). The racing field was full of Olympic champions, Olympic medalists and World Champions. We knew what we were up against and we were ready to race.
Our performance was disappointing. Our goal was to win (it always is), but we finished 9th,, falling short of a victory as well as a selection camp invitation. I walked away unsatisfied, embarrassed and wondering if I’ve made the best decisions. Yet, despite these setbacks, the silver lining is that this racing experience exposed all of our holes. It gave me a ton of information and forced me to take a good look at all our experimenting, and evaluate where our weaknesses are and what we have the ability to change.
Although there’s been somewhat of an ego bruising and there’s still a period of uncertainty to come, I’ve learned some valuable things in the past week. When I look back at the choices I’ve made, I realize that I haven’t been afraid to put myself out there. I’ve taken a lot of chances when I knew it was going to be hard, and I did it without any fear of failure. And so far, the failure that I have faced is simply forcing me to find another way. I still have more than a year until the Rio Olympic team is named, and I’m prepared to do whatever it takes to get there.
In true Sara form, she is already back in the “kitchen” and tinkering with her recipe to ensure that she gets it right for her next race.
Be sure to follow and cheer Sara on in her journey to Rio!