Embrace the Journey [series]: Olympians

Last month, I flew down to Miami (I’m basically a world traveler now ha) for the world university netball championship games as one of the key covering journalists.

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The game – though it stands on its own as a sport for more than 2 million people around the world – is most comparable to basketball. It was a huge fanfare, with eight nations competing for the gold – USA, Jamaica, South Africa, Namibia, University of Worcestor (England), Uganda, Australia, and Trinidad and Tobago. It was quite an international affair between the competing countries, and staff from all around the world.  I made new friends, learned a few traditional Suriname dances, attempted to speak in Afrikaans (South Africa’s main language) and was able to closely follow this game I had barely known before arriving.

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One of the perks of being a covering journalist is that I got to speak to sports officials and coaches from all over the world and hear their best practices. Coaches would attend games that their teams weren’t playing in and take copious notes on the competition.

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Love my camera’s shots!

What compelled me most, though, was a conversation during a game with a presiding official who has overseen thousands of games, in many different types of sports arenas  – “You see how defense is following the shooter’s every move so now her own eyes are off the game?  That’s not good play – she’ll never be able to steal the ball when it comes. The moment you allow another team to disrupt your own rhythm, you lose. Defense has got to take that goal circle and make it their own. When you man someone else, they rule the game but if you move around, they’re forced to follow your lead.”

I believe this was USA Justin Gatlin‘s mistake. He got caught watching his neighbors, and worse yet – trying to copy one. He was a competitor in this week’s Olympic 200 Wednesday semis and was even considered a viable challenge against Jamaica’s Usain Bolt. But, in the middle of his run, he took a moment to look back, and the milliseconds lost in that glance cost him the chance to even qualify for that final. As one article put it, every moment counts in a race this short. From a possible 200M gold medalist to finishing ninth. It was a serious loss.

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Gaitlin looks back. Getty

There’s a lesson to be learned there. Stay in your lane. #Wanderlust, engagement rings and booming careers on social media can make you feel behind in your own game. Meanwhile, half of the people you follow are hollow shells behind the screen and are searching for freedom themselves. Carefully curated content, ya’ll. I remember waiting eagerly to meet an IG influencer and feeling bewildered at the vast difference of confidence in real life.

As you look around, you’re forfeiting your own win. The moments we gape at others are the moments we need to win our own game. So stop checking your ex’s page, because that race is over. Limit your overall social media scrolling time (Sonia Harris on my post here shares how to do this). Read. Start connecting with people who inspire you – if you hang around five inspiring people, you’ll become the sixth. Five wealthy people…hello! Your coins are waiting.

Sports has taught me that consistent, focused players and teams are triumphant even if the clock has you at last.

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