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What Our Athletes Can Teach Us About Recovery!

This summer in particular, we had some pretty spectacular athletic competitions in England, France, and more recently, Rio. Whether you follow cycling, tennis or any of the competitions that took place in Rio, it is hard not to be inspired and learn from some of the stories.

Stories and Goals

First, all athletes come with a story. If we spend any time reading about and/or watching the athletic events we have been blessed with this summer, we begin to become a part of these people’s lives.

Athletes are single, married, divorced, rich, poor, in good health, struggling with health challenges, have different skin colors, facial features, body types, sexual preferences, and come from different cultures/religious preferences for starters. What the athletes have in common is goals. They all have goals. They hold their goals in different conversations and they have different commitments to their goals, but they all have goals.


Let’s look at the stories we create whether as an athlete or a “recoveree”. Unfortunately, we are sometimes blind to the aspect of our story which may sabotage our success. I believe all athletes believe their goal – whether cycling, playing tennis, or participating in any of the sports in Rio – is to win their competition.

I believe, as a recoveree, our goal is to be successful in our recovery. Now sometimes we have to learn what it really means to win or be successful. We don’t know the obstacles that are going to be thrown our way or our reaction to these obstacles. Obviously, we can’t really control the unexpected obstacle, we can only control our reaction.

One cyclist was involved in a motorbike altercation which destroyed his bike. He grabbed his broken bike (you can’t win without your bike) and started running toward the finish line. He eventually dropped his bike without penalty, was (finally) delivered a new bike and completed the race. Now he also went on to win the overall race. We can speculate he came to win; he was going to do whatever he needed to win and he was going to do whatever needed to be done to handle the obstacles thrown his way. Does this sound like the journey for a successful recovery? Does this sound like the type of commitment needed for a successful recovery?

Handling Disappointment

In many of the events this summer, the athletes were dealt a huge dose of disappointment. Maybe they thought they were prepared “for everything” and they didn’t factor in what “everything” might include. Maybe something failed and it was just life being life. Maybe they had a health challenge when it didn’t serve them to have a health challenge. Remember the part they can control is how they deal with disappointment.

One athlete described her reaction to a disappointing challenge. She had to regroup in 24 hours; she questioned everything about herself. Maybe she wasn’t as competent as she thought. Maybe she hadn’t trained enough. For a moment she lost belief in herself. We have all been there. She came back to win because she didn’t stay there. She dug deep and found resilience, her belief in herself, her confidence and everything else she needed to win the next day.

Coming From Behind

Coming from behind can include:

  • Your first competition
  • Not having a support system
  • People never thought you could win
  • Not having the best equipment or training
  • Health challenges
  • Anything that makes you the underdog

In the sporting events this summer, so many underdogs surprised people by overcoming all obstacles and winning. How inspired were we when refugees against all odds made it to Rio to compete? Most of us couldn’t imagine being alive after hearing what these remarkable young men and women accomplished in order to be alive. Using their athletic gifts to help them recover from their adversities is a lesson for all of us. Making it to recovery and then having a successful recovery is a similar journey.

Sabotage or Success

Now the last lesson I want to speak about here is living like a winner/recoveree throughout your life. In both these challenges, you will learn a lot about life – the choices you make, your stories, integrity, disappointment, resilience, the “feeling alone” part, sabotaging beliefs, success – and it will be your choice whether you live your life from the learning. At least one athlete made some really poor choices after enjoying success in his athletic performances. Unfortunately, at this point, those choices have sabotaged his successes.

Can you find your story here somewhere? Can you find your lesson here? Have you ever:

  • Neglected to believe in yourself
  • Neglected to believe you have everything you need to accomplish your goal
  • Neglected to pick yourself up and dust yourself off and get back in the game
  • Neglected to remember what you have already learned
  • Neglected to always set your goals higher than you think you can attain

If you answer yes (and I certainly am guilty as charged) then please remember:

  • You are perfect just as you are!
  • You have everything within you will ever need!
  • You can beat failure by getting back in the game!
  • You have the collective knowledge available to you!
  • You are always bigger than you think you are!

Our athletic events are more than just athletic events. They offer us inspiration, lessons, humanity, passion, tears, stories, success, disappointment, resilience…and so much more!


Image Courtesy of iStock

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