When I was young, I loved to jump, run, play games, and race. It was rare that you'd find me doing anything other than using my body or trying to be a better athlete even as a kid... it was like my energy never ran out. I excelled in endurance sports and eventually came to love the team sport mentality that got me hooked. From middle school through high school I ran track & field, swam on many competitive swim teams, and played club volleyball and dreamed of getting offered scholarships for college.
In time, I discovered that dreams really do come true as I laced up my spikes as a university freshman who belonged in her uniform and got butterflies in her heart as she chased her goals. I ran the events that required the most suffering, lots of tenacity, grit, guts, and... unfortunately in my case - pride. In warm ups at big meets I would put on my favorite playlist and attack the hurdles as hard as possible while fans watched my practiced technique and speed. I took confidence as a natural added benefit of all the hard work I did in training. I loved cashing in the daily grind that no one but my teammates saw; all while making it to early morning weights and grueling practices in the hot afternoon sun. However, If I wasn't careful, the spotlights and cheers were going to eventually get to my head, and give me a heart with a tendency to be prideful.
Most athletes can relate to feeling a sense of pride when they have a great game or outcome in training... as we're taught that the most important thing is winning, competing, and being the best around. But here's the thing - most athletes don't win when they compete and not all athletes can be the best around - so then what? There are so many lessons learned in sports, which is how it develops character so quickly! So much happens in competing that is out of our control that we have to learn to cope with; which helps us grow into being resilient adults in the outside world.
In my case, it wasn't until I started CrossFit and got several years into my career that I learned the power of positive thinking and healthy competition. It took many moments of highs where I was at the top of my game and on podiums with the best of the best, and a couple years of injuries and set-backs where failure stings and makes you wonder where you're headed. There were times where I questioned the motives of my selfish ambition, especially when the glory after the competition faded and I was left having to face my own set of truths. But here's the good news: being humbled by a sport and being able to pick yourself up gives you perseverance and stamina. It will also make those moments when you're back on top just THAT MUCH SWEETER.
I have some advice for you to overcome obstacles and keep your heart pure while on the competition field of any kind, whether it's sports, success in your career, or excelling in the world of CrossFit and Fitness.
LOVE FOR THE GAME
Allow your passion to come from a strong love for the game. It's easy to get caught up in wanting to do well when ranked up against others, but remember what fuels you on the days you train even when you don't feel like it. Look at your training, and remind yourself that your confidence comes from years of preparation. Allow your years of seasoned experience to mature you as an athlete and guide others that are along the same road. Having a lifestyle of movement and health - it's definitely a gift! Honor your gifts.
Just when you feel a chance to be selfish and focus on only yourself and your own goals, allow yourself to be open to opportunity. Allow yourself for brief conversation with someone else, kindness is rarely destructive. It won't make your focus diminish, but could mean the world to someone else. Ask people how their day is, wish people good luck, and truly and genuinely care about the people around you. It puts things in perspective that when we're very serious and focused about something, at the end of the day people and being a person of integrity is so much more important. The kinds of humble athletes that serve others are very fun to celebrate when they achieve their goals!
Do your best, or else you'll have to live with the disappointment of settling. If you're a natural work-horse, you know how it feels to not give your everything and end up wishing you had done one thing or another. Throw the excuses out the window - those are never satisfying to dwell on! Responsibly prepare yourself in training, and confide in a coach for feedback and support. Don't worry as much about logistics but learn from them. Learn to focus on your effort level and what you're going to give for each event, and always give your 100%!
At the end of the day whether your game plan went the way you expected or not, accept the results. Do your best to learn a lesson from it that will propel you into future training and give you a desire to accomplish your goals. Know that your value doesn't come from what place you came in, you are worth incredibly more than that. People that are competitive are wired for this specific environment... it's not a coincidence! It's in our DNA to want to challenge ourselves constantly and do new things and learn more about ourselves in the process. Instead of letting performance define you, know that your true value lies in who you are as a person, and who you were created to be.
- Andrea Montalvo