I recently read an article describing two very different paths that two current US Olympic show jumping aspirants have taken to be in contention to win a spot on the USET for this summer`s Games in London. One was basically a barn rat as a kid, rode anything and everything, the classic tale. The other had good ponies, good instruction, then a string of expensive horses, the “other” classic tale. Neither one is right or wrong. The first would have taken the fast track, I`d bet, had it been available. Would the second have struggled, if the fast track hadn`t been there? We`ll never know.
What we do know, though, is that by whatever route someone gets to walk into “Yankee Stadium”, so to speak, they walk into that batter`s box all alone. Nobody can smooth that moment. It becomes “Git`er done time” and this is where we find out who has the guts and the toughness and the skills to either do it, or get driven back to the minor leagues.
There is a cliche moment every four years, or every two years if we add in the winter Olympics. This is when an American has won a gold medal, the American flag is creeping up that mast, and The Star Spangled Banner reverberates from the television. The face of the winner is juxtaposed, through sleight of photography, against that American flag, and every watching child in America wants to be that person.
In every Olympic sport, coaches hear the same earnest assertions from dozens of aspiring athletes: “I will give it everything I`ve got, because I have a dream that can`t be denied.”You know whereof I speak, if you`ve ever coached. But we all know that all the earnest yearning in the universe can`t change the stark reality that only one rider in each discipline will get that sash with that medal dangling from it, and there are riders from England, Germany, Canada, France, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Belgium, and hosts of other countries, and every one of those riders has the same undeniable dream.
Does this mean don`t try? Does it mean give up before you start? Does it mean your dreams have to lie shattered in the street? Yes, to all of those things, except for one big if. If you meant it about giving it everything you`ve got, then your dreams can stay alive, but that means you need to embrace the reality that there`s “No Free Lunch.” You have no idea how hard a task that truly is, I suspect, because so few riders actually go there, year in, year out, willing to keep struggling when nothing seems to work. But as long as you keep going, it might work. Here`s the thing. If you can`t accept this, you might as well quit now. If you keep struggling, there`s no assurance that you will prevail. But if you stop trying, that`s an absolute guarantee that you will fail. Winners somehow understand this basic truth.