As the Tokyo Olympics approach, I have been seeing more and more ads and news stories about the preparations that athletes are undergoing. It’s remarkable to learn just how many hours of work go into an Olympic performance. An article in the Canadian Olympic Committee website reports that it takes “most Olympians 8-12 years” to reach this threshold. For 23-year-old Canadian diver Jennifer Abel training is a full-time job. According to Olympic.ca, when she is not at the pool, Abel is busy with dry dive training – rehearsing dive movements with the use of a harness. Abel also dedicates time to reviewing videos of her dives to spot areas for improvement. Her week is capped off with strength training, yoga, and pilates.
It’s too easy to watch an Olympic diver standing on the podium, receiving a gold medal (and perhaps a lucrative endorsement deal), and think “Not bad for a few seconds work!”
The public part of any kind of performance, whether it is an athlete leaping off a platform into a pool, a lawyer presenting an argument, an actress delivering her line, or a teacher modelling an activity, tends to receive a disproportionate amount of attention. Rarely does the audience/public consider all that went on behind the scenes. And that is a shame because, more often than not, behind the scenes is where the real difference is made. If Jennifer Abel wins a gold medal this summer, it won’t be just because of one perfect moment. It will be the result of the hours of moments (perfect and not-so-perfect) that occurred beforehand.
As I watch the summer games this year, one of my takeaways will be to keep in mind that excellence is a journey – and sometimes that journey is time-consuming. When I try to add new skills to my teaching repertoire or build new relationships, I can’t allow myself to feel down if things aren’t perfect right away. Like an athlete hugging their competitors after a tense event, I will extend grace to myself and to those around me.
Good luck to all the athletes competing at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics and to all my colleagues preparing for a momentous 2021/2022 academic year!