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August 3, 2012 / Karen R Adams

things I learned from the Olympics

Ok, I confess, I’m completely caught by Olympic fever.  I’ve noticed an awful lot of bloggers have used the Olympics as springboards for what they write, and I’m sorry to be so mundane as to do that, too.  But gee.  The Olympics just offer unending philosophical possibilities.

So I decided to go with the crowd and share some of what I’ve enjoyed.  Since there’s so much to watch it’s overwhelming, I focused on two sports that I really like: the equestrian events and men’s soccer.

The first soccer game I managed to catch was Brazil playing somebody-they-ran-circles-around.  Now, while I’ve been exposed to soccer for  almost 15  years because my children played and because I lived in England, I don’t really know the game, if you know what I mean.  But I can recognize good team work when I see it.  Brazil’s game was a beautiful example of skilled passing, and in so doing, completely controlling the game.

What did I learn?  When you play with others with similar skills, you can’t win by yourself.  There were one or two people with exceptional abilities on that team, but if they had done all the work themselves, they would have been exhausted, and overwhelmed by the other team.

And when you are lucky enough to play with others who share your goals and nearly match your abilities or are better than you, you as a group can control the game.

Also, playing back is an extremely useful strategy.  That is, when you can’t go straight for the goal, sending the ball to teammates behind you allows you to buy time to set up your next attempt.  In other words, the road to your goal may not be straight ahead, and that’s not only ok, it’s really rather brilliant because when you play back, you get a new view of an ever-changing field, and can come up with new ways to be successful.

The equestrian events are completely different from the soccer.  While there are teams, the work – and success or failure – hangs on specific pairs of riders and horses.  In order for horses to compete at this level, they have to be so fit they almost can’t contain themselves.  There were any number of cross country rides where the horse was clearly running away with the rider who had to have the skill, finesse and timing – and the capability to look ahead – to make sure they made it around in one piece.

That takes tremendous focus on the part of the rider.  There were several delays when a rider had to be stopped on the course because someone ahead was in difficulty, and you could almost see the rider shaking his head, trying to get out of the zone enough to stop and wait – and then get back in to finish the course.  That takes a highly disciplined mind.

In fact, all the athletes have to have almost unbelievable (at least to me) focus to get where they are.  I wonder what it would be like to apply that kind of focus and commitment to everything I do in my life.  I bet those athletes roll out of bed on a cold, wet morning and still do their training because they’ve made a commitment to themselves, and they have a goal they want to attain.

I bet I can do that for lesser things, like getting my walk in every day, focusing completely on each patient, gathering the energy to work in partnership with them to effect healing.  I bet I can do that around food, and writing this blog, and hanging with my kids and grandkids, and just about anything I choose.  I bet I have teams around me all the time that support me and share my goals, and will take over while I rethink and re-approach.  I don’t have to be an Olympian at it, but I can learn and apply these skills.

ps  The other thing about the horses?  The joy, the sheer joy of running they exhibited.  They were pleased if their riders were pleased – at the end, but they would’ve run regardless.  Talk about riding the wind!

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