Looking back now, I have a much different view than I did when I was in the middle of it. I look back at the success we shared together, the memories we made on trips, the banquets where we honored the hardest workers on the team, the jokes we played on our coaches and the life long friends I now have.
When I was in the grind, I remember trying to take the spot of the athlete ahead of me. I remember thinking we are in an individual sport and I’m going to chop you down some day. I remember being on the top of the ladder and people trying to take my spot from me. It was a day-to-day grind and I very much disliked the people who were coming after me. Hindsight is 20/20 and now I see that those people were the best part of my team.
Every teammate has it’s own role. Some people are there to push you and take your spot when you’re not living up to your end of the bargain. Others are there to call you out when you are cutting corners. And then there are those who are there to pick you up when you need a hand. And finally, the jokers who lighten things up a bit. The people I respect the most now are the people who were trying to take my spot. They pushed me to my fullest. The more I saw them getting closer the harder I worked; they were the best teammates I could have asked for.
This lesson is true, for life after competing in sports. You can’t surround yourself with “yes” people. You have to find people who challenge your beliefs and push you to be better. People who are even willing to take your spot if you don’t live up to your role.
I didn’t make the first Women’s Olympic team, but I was a training partner. I look back now and know I can celebrate in our team’s success that year because I was as much a part of that team as the athletes who walked on the mat. We all celebrated and cried together after because it takes more than just one individual to have success.