Learning through Failure by Coach Kelly
A week ago I competed in my third Olympic Lifting meet. Many of you don’t know this since I was (conspicuously?) missing from the event photos. I could just let this moment pass by and most of you would never know why but I think there are lessons that can be learned through winning or failing. They’re all learned through trying and the better ones are learned through failing.
First let’s get some backstory and then we’ll get to the lessons.
The problem with winning gold and Best Female Lifter at both of my previous meets is that it sets up a precedent, an expectation to bring home the gold every single time. It’s an unrealistic expectation, but one that weighed heavily on me.
I also went into this meet injured. My knee has been causing me pain on a constant, daily basis so I haven’t been able to squat in the last 2 months. I have been training only my power snatch and power clean. I know many of you are thinking, “That sounds awesome! I hate squat snatches!” Well… for me, squats are my jam and this left a pretty big hole in my game.
I did this meet in the middle of my training cycle “just for fun.” The night before I decided to change my openers so I could try to PR both lifts at the meet. Essentially, I had the same openers for this meet for power snatch and clean that I normally do for the full lifts.
It was finally competition day. It was go time. I stepped onto the platform and made my first snatch! It was deemed a press out by 2 of my 3 judges so it was technically a miss. Bummer! That’s okay though. I decided to pull harder the second time. Unfortunately I pulled a little too much and, when trying to catch it, overextended my back and missed it behind. By then, my back was hurt along with my confidence, so I attempted but missed my final snatch.
I felt defeated. A bomb out. No medal. It was my worst lifting fear realized.
Thanks to an on-site chiro, I spent some time getting my back in working order. I didn’t want to finish the competition. Chad began to talk with me about the clean and jerk but I was so discouraged. Why even lift if I couldn’t submit a total or get a medal? He reminded me that everybody misses and the snatch was over with. As long as it felt okay on my back, I should prove to myself and others that I was capable. I was mentally strong enough to do this. Besides, what did I have to lose at this point? I was here and I might as well lift! I decided to do the clean and jerk.
I went on to make all 3 lifts and came within 2 kilos of my max power clean and jerk.
I’ve learned that for me, when I’m in a meet, I am competing and that means it’s less about the fun and more about how much I can push myself. That being said, being injured isn’t the time to push yourself (obviously). We should have dropped my opening snatch numbers to compensate for that and allow me to make at least 1 lift.
I’m frustrated and disappointed in myself because of the amount of time I put into training only to fail a lift I routinely make. I feel like I haven’t been able to demonstrate in competition what I’m really capable of lifting.
I know that ultimately this makes me not only a better athlete, but a better coach. If you do this long enough and push yourself hard enough, it WILL happen. When it does, come talk to me. If fear of this happening is keeping you from signing up for the upcoming Oly meet, don’t worry. I’ll be there to help you choose the right weights. Don’t let it stop you!
Although I’m not proud of my performance last week, I am proud of myself for the type of athlete I am. I kept calm and chose to complete the clean and jerk, despite knowing I wouldn’t total and no medal would be awarded. There were little kids competing (some of them their first meet) and I want to be a good example of what to do when you fail. You don’t give up. You tighten your lifting belt and press on.
They may not remember the person who won gold, but they just might remember that girl who missed all her lifts and came back to lift again.