What Does it Mean to Be a Champion?
Being a champion isn't just for when you are winning. Being a champion is a full time job. You could even call it a lifestyle. A champion is someone that has achieved excellence and continues to work hard at it even when they are losing. Whether you are a champion or not has nothing to do with how many competitions you have won, or how many you have lost. Every great champion loses eventually. All of our great heroes eventually taste the bitterness of defeat. Even the ones with an undefeated professional record have dealt with their own losses on some level or another. In fact, I measure the quality of a champion not by their wins but by how they deal with their losses. We all admire great champions as we measure them by the great trials and obstacles they conquer. However there is much more to it than that. We all take our wins and losses in the pursuit of our goals in life. The losses can stack up way higher than the wins at times.
The measure of a champion is how they take these losses. Will they use the loss as a learning experience to fix problems with their training? Or do they lash out emotionally and blame everyone and everything else for the failure? Champions take responsibility for their losses and recognize that sometimes that they can do everything possible to prepare and still lose. It is okay to lose to a better opponent. After the loss, what do you choose to do with it? You really have two simple choices: let it beat you, or use it to make you even harder to beat next time.
If you compete long enough, you will come across other athletes that have superior athletic gifts than you. You will also come across those whose gifts are less than yours but will beat you with shear hard work and technical skills. Sometimes we even defeat ourselves with our own bad attitudes. Since we are all human, we even have our "off" days when we simply don't perform at our best. When you are defeated by an athlete that is better than you, a real champion should recognize the other athlete and show them the utmost respect instead of being the proverbial sore loser. The better athlete just gave you another goal to conquer. An athlete that acknowledges the greatness in others find that they also have greatness inside of them waiting to be unlocked.
Whether you win or lose, always act like a champion. Be gracious, be grateful, and most importantly be respectful. Sun Tzu said that "often in chaos lies the opportunity for victory." A great champion will take their time to heal if needed, emotionally let go of the loss, and start training for the next chance at victory. Sometimes we need to take time to recover from our losses and get our mental state where it needs to be. Don't be overly critical of yourself if you go through this. We are all human and we all deal with our emotions in different ways. The trick is to feel what we need to feel and then make sure to let go of it when it is time. Don't be defeated by your own emotions. Many champions have let themselves be defeated by their own emotions and never recovered from it. This is the hardest test for a champion and it comes for us all.
If you find yourself dealing with this and nothing seems to help, make sure you get a good support group to help you with this process. Your teammates, coaches, training partners, etc., should be there for you. Sometimes just being with friends and taking time off can be a great way to find your inner fire again. Remember, only you can re-ignite the fire of your inner champion. Your team and your friends can help, but the final choice to act like and remain a champion is entirely up to you!