Sometimes, in life, Things Are Difficult. I'm not referring to the standard, every day tasks such as trying to find the time to fit in cooking a proper dinner for the family, cleaning the house, or even getting out of bed after a heavy night on the town. Instead I mean the longer term things such as building a relationship, a blog following, or even learning a new skill.
Working toward your dreams, goals, and aspirations shouldn't be easy - if it was easy it would be taken for granted - and sometimes it can seem unbearably difficult. Yet, overcoming adversity is the sweetest of all successes, whether it brings monetary gain or not. Let me share with you two stories which really bring this to light.
Story One: Frozen
(this picture has nothing to do with the story, but I couldn't find a picture that did, so you get this one instead)
Some years back, when my daughter was still in grade school, she joined a school academic team and entered an Odyssey of the Mind ("OM") tournament. If you are not familiar with OM it is a very intense tournament. The teams are required to build a project on their own with no help from the coach (which, in this instance, was me). This was our first OM tournament and we really did not know what to expect. The rules were pretty wide open, with the one very clear rule being that everything that the students created must have been their own idea. If the coach assists with anything at all, the team would be penalised. So, for example, if they decided to put on a play and needed costumes, the coach could teach them how to sew, but could not sew their costumes for them; the team would need to do that.
This was a year long project with multiple meetings every week. The day of the tournament was just as intense, with multiple dozens of teams (each of which had 5-7 team members) and probably just as many adult observers. My job, as coach, was to shepherd the team to each competition and meeting they needed to engage in. There were multiple meetings with judges, multiple performances and, very importantly, a "spontaneous" problem, each of which were scored.
My team's first item on the day was the "spontaneous" problem. The thing about the spontaneous problem is that the team does not know what it will be until they enter the room. Without the coach. It might be a physical problem where they need to build a structure with toothpicks and tape, a logic problem they need to solve, or anywhere in between. The key is for the team to learn to be creative in their answers.
Example problem: Sit in a circle, and in turn, name a bird.
Member 1: A robin. (this would be worth 1 point, because it's a bird)
Member 2: A blue bird (this would be worth 1 point, because it's a bird)
Member 3: A bird in the hand! (this would be worth 3 points, because it's a creative answer)
And so forth.
We had practiced all sorts of spontaneous problems all year. One of the points I really tried to teach the team was that, in the case of verbal answers, just say something. Say something.
So when the team got into their spontaneous, as I am told, the following happened.
They were sat in a circle.
They were given a verbal problem.
They were told that they must answer in turn, and only answer after the previous person had completed their answer.
I'll repeat, we had practiced this all year long. Just say something.
The first girl froze. Didn't know what to say. Panicked. Didn't say anything.
The spontaneous score is worth a total of 25% of their final score. They got a 0. That essentially eliminated them from competition, and that was only their first event of the day.
They were troopers, however, and went through the rest of the day the best they could. They performed admirably, but at the end of the final competition everyone went home feeling somewhat defeated and dejected. No one went to the awards ceremony.
At the awards ceremony my team was honoured with an "OMer" award for dignity and teamwork; despite being crushed first thing in the morning, the team did not blame anyone, stuck together, and continued their day with pride. An OMer award is the highest form of award, since it needs to be nominated that day and approved by a unanimous panel. Very prestigious.
And no one was there to accept.
Story Two: Soccer, and the Sweet Taste of Victory
Once upon a time I had signed my oldest son up for soccer in a U8 (Under 8) league. This was his first time playing soccer. It was also my first time coaching. Being a U8 league with limited children, each team fielded only 5 players: 3 forwards and 2 defence. All I really knew about soccer/futball at the time was "kick ball, make go far." But I did know ice hockey and the concept of 3 forwards and 2 defence. I figured I could do this.
(If you care to know, that's my son in the yellow)
My team was brand new. No one on the team had met previously. Many of them had never played soccer before, my son included.
The other teams had all been together at least one year and were familiar with each other. It showed. We lost. And lost. And lost. Then got trounced. And then lost. The team was losing faith.
Now, the neat thing about watching children play any sport like this is that they all want the ball, so when the ball gets kicked into a corner, they all go running to the corner. When the ball gets kicked to midfield, they all run to midfield. And so forth.
Each and every practice involved the same drills and, most importantly, the concept of positioning. I'm sure they got really tired of hearing me bellow out from the sidelines, "keep your position!".
One game, the ball was in the corner and, of course, the entire team followed. Except for one. He looked at me. He looked at the corner. And he trotted to the front of the goal.
One of his teammates had the ball. He looked up. He saw a teammate wide open in the front of the goal. Like, wide open. Enough to grow a garden wide open. He passed the ball. It was received. It was kicked into the goal.
Their first goal. They were ecstatic. I was ecstatic. Something got through to them! And it worked!
They still lost that game, but they began to score goals. They learned to pass. They learned to work as a team.
They won their very final game of the season. Their only win. It was like winning the championship for them. I was very proud of them. Despite starting the season awfully, they finished on a high note. They didn't give up.
Naw, there is no story three. Just a final thought.
If there's something worth having it's worth hard work and dedication to achieve. If you want to be successful at anything, dedication and hardwork will pay out in the end. And it will feel good. And even if you don't think you're going to "win," show up. You might be pleasantly surprised.
(c) All images and photographs, unless otherwise specified, are created and owned by me.
(c) Victor Wiebe
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