by Samantha Schell
It’s hard not to equate any ‘failures’ on the mat as transcending into your everyday life. When I come up short in my goals I set for myself, I’m not going to lie, I struggle internally with battling feelings of depression over my failures and setbacks. Obviously, we are so much more than our competition results, but that does not stop any feelings of depressive melancholy from taking place.
Competition season for IBJJF is in full swing, and with the world Master’s tournament in Las Vegas last month, there were a slew of things I was able to witness and experience first-hand, the highs, the lows, and even just the indescribable. It’s incredible the leaps and bounds Jiu-Jitsu has progressed over the years, and all the women who helped pave the way for a number of Master’s competitors, including 11 total registered in the Master’s 7 category, to make history.
Your reputation precedes you, meaning many people may be familiar with your name on the Flo Grappling screens even without ever having personally met you before. Whether your name carries some merit is determined by you, however, and what a shame it would be for your competitive adversaries to associate your name with one of someone without moral integrity (I have definitely had my fair share of encounters on that part, but I digress).
On the other end of the spectrum, what a delight it is to come face to face with the admirable and brave women I know only by name, but am now able to have met firsthand. I will wholeheartedly admit that this is the best thing about the BJJ community I have encountered, and I am truly awestruck and inspired by the incredible women overcoming outrageous feats and debilitating obstacles in order to even be present at these events, let alone win them.
What is even more amazing is when someone approaches me and knows who I am because they have read something I wrote. It is the most humbling experience imaginable whenever I am told that something I previously wrote resonated with someone, or inspired them, or made them feel less isolated and alone. Hell, even if only one person ever reads what I wrote and it impacted their life in some way or form, then everything I have ever done, hardships and all, is worth it.
I saw many cries in and out of the bullpen in Vegas, some with joy and some with disappointment. Many triumphant yells, fists punching into the air, a number of downcast eyes heavy with tears, lots of consoling hugs, an incredible number of promotions on the podium, and lots of respect shared for competitors and athletes alike. Many enthusiastically overjoyed with all of their hard work coming to fruition. And worse, many feeling like a let down to their coaches, their teams, and to themselves because one costly mistake lead to defeat after weeks upon weeks of hard work. But as Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue which counts.”
No matter what the ensuing results of this past competition season was, whether it was your 4th world championship at yet another new belt rank, your first major win after dozens of times coming up short, or even your worst showing to date because of one minuscule yet grievous error, it is not the entire content of your character. Some losses are utterly heartbreaking and the cause of shoddy refereeing, some are pure bad luck, and others are extenuating circumstances, but they all sting bitterly regardless. We are far more than what our competition record shows and it is always important to remember that.
Whilst I did not do terrible this past competition, I also did not attain the goal I had set in mind, and to admit that feeling absolutely sucked and caused some tears f I am being honest. But I do know that I carried myself respectfully and ensured that my presence to others was well-received so that people may not remember my performance, but they will remember how I made them feel when they met me and to me, that is much more important.
I absolutely loved cheering on my teammates, my friends, and my social media acquaintances, because one of the best feelings in the world is being able to share in the joy with others. Just because it wasn’t my time this go-around, does not mean it won’t ever be my moment in the sun. After all, I would want people to share in my joy the exact same way I am sharing in theirs, and I promise I have enough volume in my vocal chords to yell and scream for everyone.
Coming up short in competition is far from failing. You put in the time, the work, and the discipline, and you have increased your skills in Jiu-Jitsu whether you garner that win or not. I promise that one match, one competition, and one tournament does in no way define you. Let people remember you for the person you are rather than your win/loss record, and you will be a champion in their eyes every single time.
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