Life Lesson #12: Work

Me and Tay
When I arrived at my ten-year-old Taylor's tryouts today for soccer she was visibly upset.  It was day two of four sessions and the girls looked tired in the heat.  She turned when she heard my voice and she was red in the face and her brows were deeply furrowed, I knew immediately she was troubled.  "Hey Tay," I said casualy rubbing her back.  "What's up?"  Her bright blue eyes welled with tears and she just shook her head and walked away, back onto the field.  I sat and watched her finish up her last fifteen minutes, her head was clearly not in the game the entire time and she half heartedly finished out her time on the field before trudging back, head down.

When they were dismissed she grabbed her bag and angrily moved off towards the parking lot, tears threatening to fall with each angry step.  I walked behind her, pointing to the car silently so she knew the way to go not speaking.  When she got in the car she kept her eyes cast down.  I took a deep breath and said simply, "Tell me."

In a tearful rendition, she told me that she'd been working with a larger group and then moved off to a smaller group that she felt was an indication that they were no longer looking at her for the day and it made her feel, "Like a terrible soccer player." She said she thought she'd done well and didn't understand why they didn't see it too.

I listened quietly for her to finish her story and then I said, "Is that why you quit your last fifteen minutes?"  Her eyes flashed in anger.  I think she expected more comforting words from me in that tearful moment, but it was clearly a teaching moment.

Knowing we needed to talk it out, I took her to breakfast.  We sat across from one another and thought very hard about what I needed to say. As an adult it's easy to understand that sports and life will throw curve balls you can't expect, you aren't ready for, and you don't want to deal with.  How you'll feel like no one sees you or sees what you are capable of doing and it will feel unfair.  How it's hard.  But how do I express that to a ten-year-old?

Distill it down.  What is the heart of it?  Doing work. The glory isn't in the recognition, it's in the work.

Work, and the desire and motivation to work, work hard, consistently, is a virtue and worth more than anything recognition can bring.  It's extra time on the field or in the gym when everyone else has gone home.  It's demanding excellence, even when no one is watching.  It's swallowing your pride when you have an off day and not shrinking when you fail at something the first time but getting up and doing it again.  And again if necessary.  And then one more time.  It's making sacrifices.  It is not caring that it's thankless... but recognizing that when everything falls away and you're left with yourself, you have in you everything you need - because you put it there.  It's doing it for the sake of doing it, and not just because there is a destination ahead.  Making the work not just an exercise, but a habit.  And more important than wanting to work is learning to enjoy it... because it's hard but it's FUN.

Sweat Angels - Post WOD
As an athlete I've never been the best on the field, I was never a coach's favorite or a super star.  I've never been the fastest, the smartest, or the strongest. What I did have was the capacity and the desire to work hard.  I learned early that being the best wasn't the only way to be successful.  Outworking and out-wanting it was something not everyone had.  Not everyone was willing to go the distance and it has always paid off for me.

In my CrossFit classes I'm not the strongest... by a long shot.  I'm new and learning and often have to scale at least one of the movements in our WOD as I learn form and as I improve my coordination.  But I show up and get after it, and I still throw up respectable times, because I play to my strengths, I'm fast with powerful lungs and legs, and I refuse to quit or accept limitations.  I don't know how I am supposed to perform so I just go until the buzzer goes off or the WOD is done.  I have a long ways to go and a lot to learn, but that's part of the appeal.  I have a gap to fill.  I love the challenge.  And I'll get better over time, but I'll never lose that fire to push hard.  And I hope that makes me dangerous one day when the skill catches up.

There is honor in the struggle to solve the problem not just knowing the solution right away, there is a delight to relishing the challenge in and of itself, outcome aside, and there is pride in being the underdog, because you're only as small as you imagine yourself to be.  I loved being the underdog. I loved being counted out and being behind.  To this day, when I run I still pick out rabbits to chase down.

I told her to never give up on herself.  Because at tryouts, it wasn't the game she was quitting, it was so much bigger than that.  She let that moment move her to give up on herself.  The challenge will always be there or another one will take it's place.  Someone will always think you're not good enough.  Life will never be exactly as you want it to be.  It's YOU you're quitting and getting knocked down is part of the deal.  Just get up.  

We got home and I told her to head upstairs and shower.  She said, "In a few minutes, mom."  And with that she walked out the back door, soccer ball in hand, and started to practice.  I watched her through the window, ball at her feet, dribbling, shooting, juggling, and putting in the time instead of throwing in the towel.

She was even smiling.


  1. Besides being a good lesson, this is also a heartwarming story. You're clearly doing a great job as a mom. It's so true what you said about putting in the hard work. I've always been in the same boat physically, willing to endure more pain than the other guy. I sometimes feel like my success came at a higher price than my athletic peers, but I don't think willpower is a limited resource.

    Thank you for sharing this moment with your daughter. It's a lesson we all need to remember no matter how old.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts