The Lesson Olympian Summer Sanders Learned Watching Her Daughter Lose
By Guest contributor Summer Sanders
My daughter is a better person than I am.
The lesson Olympian Summer Sanders learned watching her daughter lose. A seven-year-old smiled her nervous self through all four apparatus in her first gymnastics meet of the season. Her mom could tell she was nervous because, before each event, she would look at her coach with these bright, excited eyes and take a deep breath with a little chuckle; it’s the way she handles that stuff. She soaked up every single cheer from her teammates, and she put every ounce of her little body into everything she did. SHE. WAS. PROUD.
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Her parents were up in the stands cheering and clapping and catching her eye to give her a thumbs-up. She would look at her scores, and her eyes would light up because she was so much better than last year. She repeatedly counted out her score on her fingers just so her parents could really see what she had just accomplished. She congratulated her teammates, and her teammates did the same to her. It was amazing.
All the while, her mom kept thinking about what her daughter said to her the night before this meet as she put her head on her pillow. The little girl said, “I am so excited to win a ribbon or a medal tomorrow.” Her mom wanted to prepare for all possible outcomes, so she gently said, “You know, not everyone will get a ribbon, so if you want one, you have to think about all the little things and try to do your absolute best. But no matter what, daddy and I are SO incredibly proud of you because you have been working so hard. You have truly dedicated yourself.” The little girl smiled. She was already proud of herself, and she didn’t seem worried.
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The little girl was giddy as she walked from event to event, confidence building throughout the meet. And then, it came time for the awards. She was in the 6-7-year-old group. They handed out ribbons and medals up to 10 places, with 14 girls in the division. Our eyes were on one kid, our daughter, as they announced 50 names, 10 for each of the 4 apparatus and 10 for the overall. We watched, and our hearts grew heavy. We watched her eyes follow all her teammates as they went up to accept their awards and then sit back down next to her, admiring them. She didn’t smile, and she didn’t cry. We were wondering when it was going to hit her. When she was going to realize she was the only one not to win a ribbon or medal. It did hit her, and what hit me was that my kid is a better person than I am.
At seven, our beautiful little girl didn’t even hesitate to congratulate her teammates as they offered to share their medals with her. She didn’t shed a single tear. She watched her friends as they were comparing and examining their medals and never once felt jealous or wondered why she didn’t earn one. The first thing she said to me when I got a chance to give her a hug was, “I am so excited I did my back handspring!” Here I was, worried about my precious little girl and that she would be upset when she was much stronger than I ever was. She gets it! She understands what sport is all about! The true reward is achieving your own goals … and THAT she had done! Which, of course, broke my heart even more. It was at that moment when I realized my 7-year-old girl had learned an amazing lesson that would benefit her for life. Frankly, it is a lesson that a lot of adults have yet to learn. She was an incredible teammate. She shared in their joy and was motivated by it. The second thing out of her mouth was, “I can’t wait for our next meet!”
The team as a whole got 3rd place in the competition and won a beautiful trophy. I watched as Skye made her way up there with her team, smiling from ear to ear. And then her coach said she could take the team trophy home with her until Monday. Do you think she was proud of that? We went to dinner right after the meet, and that trophy came into the restaurant with us and was quickly placed on the table. I asked her about the meet as a whole, and she said she was so proud of all the new girls on the team because they had done so well. I know it will happen time and time again in my life as a parent, but I learned from my daughter that day. She is such a good person. And she inspires me to be better. Thank you, Skye, for reminding me of the true joy in sports and that it still exists, even amongst all of the medals!
Summer Sanders is an Olympic Gold medalist, a mom of two children, and a television personality. She is also the author of the book “Champions Are Raised, Not Born: How My Parents Made Me A Success.” Follow her on Twitter https://twitter.com/SummerSanders_or on her website http://Summersanders.net