Storybook Endings ~ we all dream of them. We plan for them, work for them, hope and pray for them. How often do they actually turn out? I like to think that if I work hard and smart at something, that eventually my determination and discipline will collide with a bit of luck and that elusive storybook ending will come to fruition.
The question is, what happens when I do all of that and the result falls short of a storybook ending? In Life, more times than not the book unfolds and it is up to us to craft which story we want to embrace.
These past two years, the UCLA Gymnastics saga has had all of the ingredients for an epic story. Strong charismatic characters, an abusive culture revealed, a lead character who stood as an advocate for the abused, two opposing teams that came together in support of abuse victims and competed in an event that transcended sport. It had one of the greatest comebacks in all sports history in the NCAA gymnastics championship last year. Cut to this year when the lead character reveals it will be her final year with the team, a gymnastics performance that was the most viewed sport video of any sport in 2019, more spotlight and celebrity poured on the team than ever in its history, and a team that got better and closer as the season culminated to the final championship weekend. The past 24 months had ALL of the ingredients for a storybook ending… UCLA GYMNASTICS WINS IT’S 8th NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP.
But that’s not how the story ended. The real headline read UCLA GYMNASTICS FALLS SHORT OF NATIONAL TITLE.
That is the book that’s been written, but that’s not the story I choose to believe. There are hundreds of quotes illustrating the character and path of warriors.
“Warriors of light are not perfect.Their beauty lies in accepting this fact and still desiring to grow and to learn.”~ Paulo Coelho
“A warrior does not give up what he loves, he finds the love in what he does”~ Dan Millman
“Only as a warrior can one survive the path of knowledge.”~ Carlos Castaneda
Our storybook ending is steeped with guts, grit, a strong team bond, and love. We fought with perseverance and resilience. When we made a mistake we quickly rebounded and reinforced the team commitment to No Regrets! At the end of the meet we were frustrated, angry, sad, and disillusioned. Staying true to our culture, we circled up, talked it through and could all agree that we had no regrets, we just had too many small mistakes that took us out of contention for the title. In hindsight, there was nothing I would do differently and nothing I can say was the cause for a less than stellar team performance.
It’s easy to use the excuse that the team wanted it too badly for their head coach’s final competition, but I honestly believe our team was fully prepared for that. If anything, they might have been striving for perfection versus excellence which took them out of their zone. And quite possibly, that shift in intention came from believing in the storybook ending.
This analysis will be analyzed this week from two different vantage points. One from us coaches when we debrief with the team, and the other from the “Monday morning quarterbacks” (or whatever the gymnastics version is called) who will come up with their own conclusion and story to tell.
For us, our staff and our student-athletes, we know our storybook ending is in line with our culture and foundation of our program. Our culture: to strive to chalk up more days than not during the year that we can honestly say “I did a great job today toward our goal of leaving the end of our season with no regrets.” We could have hung our heads at the end of the meet in frustration and beat ourselves up over all of the what if’s, but then we would have been writing the storybook ending of the agony of defeat. Instead, our team chose to celebrate everything they’d been through together since we first came together on September 7. They chose to celebrate a hard fought battle. They chose to come together in the way that bonds them the most ~ they chose to Dance.
And in that Dance, they gave permission to everyone who was watching them that it’s OK to feel good about yourself and celebrate a battle well fought even if you fall short of your goals. In that last Dance they wrote their storybook ending of a year of growth, maturity, and a team bonded through honesty, respect and love.
Thank you UCLA Gymnastics for giving me a storybook ending to my career.