Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Agony of Defeat

The Seahawks had a second Super Bowl victory sitting in the palm of their hand.  With less than a minute to play, they had three plays to gain just one yard to win the title.  They also have one of the league's best running backs so breaking that goal line seemed like all but a done deal.  But instead they threw the ball and we watched in disbelief as a repeat Super Bowl win slipped through our fingers.  It was a punch to the gut.  But the lingering misery of that loss was nothing compared to the pain of watching Alyssa experience her own personal agony of defeat.

How would it be if all of the Seahawks had won the Super Bowl except one player?  Only one player on the team lost and it was your kid.  I believe we know that feeling.

Of all the places the Western National Championships could be held, Spokane is not likely the most exciting.  But we were grateful to not have to fly anywhere and the girls can have fun anywhere.  The local mall hung a huge banner welcoming the gymnasts that would be coming from all states west of the Mississippi.

Lys had fun posing for pictures with her friends.

Jon and I designed the cutest shirts for Lys and her teammates.  On the front was a gymnastics wordle with each of the girls' names in it.  On the back we printed their nicknames.

Here are a few shots from the workout session that is held the day before competition starts.

That night, the girls were treated to dinner with their coaches.

It's tradition for the coaches to present the girls with a Pandora charm bracelet as a gift for qualifying to this level of competition.  Alyssa got her bracelet last year but added this year's charm, which was a silver apple.  Such an amazing gift!

Three of the girls competed on Friday and we were there to cheer them on since Alyssa and the remainder of her team didn't compete until Saturday.  They were absolutely amazing!  All three placed on multiple events and in the all-around.  While Alyssa was very happy for their success, she started to worry.  She didn't want to be the only one to not have a good meet. And though Lys is typically a steely competitor, the pressure got to her this time.

She started on beam, which has been her strength this season.  With her nerves unchecked, she fell on her acro series.  Then it was on to floor where she'd fallen at regionals.  Self-doubt led to a fall on that same pass she'd missed then.  She just sorta crumbled after that.  She was planning to do a new skill on bars but with her self-confidence in the gutter, it was impossible to pull it off successfully.

Meanwhile, the rest of her teammates were ripping it up.  One even went on to be a national champion in the all-around and on bars.  All placed well and on many of events.  All but Alyssa.  Her teammates earned the second most medals of any gym in the competition.  At the national level! That's how good they are and were that day.  All of the girls hit all of their routines.  All but Alyssa. All came away with giant medals.  All but Alyssa.  All finished with ear-to-ear smiles.  All but Alyssa.  Parents aren't allowed on the competition floor, but when she was finished, I called her over to the guard rail and reached over the bar to hold her sobbing little body in my arms.

She pulled herself together, as she always does, and was able to gracefully receive her certificate when her name was called.

The days that followed were difficult for all of us.  I have never seen Alyssa hurt that much.  The pain was real and it was deep.  She will have to wait 8 long months to redeem herself.  But thankfully, her determination is as deep as was her agony.  The best of athletes experience failure and rise up from it.  I've seen her do it before and she can do it again.

I'm proud to call you mine, Alyssa.  You make me proud in victory but even more so in moments of defeat.  I believe in you and what's better, I know you believe in you.  I look forward to what happens next.