Sunday, July 05, 2009


Andy Roddick played the two best tennis games of his life and he ended up second. There he was with sweat dripping off his ballcap, trickling into his stinging eyes, focused on fulfilling his dream of being the Wimbledon champion, against a man who had already won 14 grand slam events. He played brilliantly! He was ON fire!! Then, the game went into overdrive...........breaking all records for the most games played in a match (77!!!), most games played (30!!!) in the 5th set. It went on and on and on. Federer never broke Roddick's serve, until the very last game. BRUTAL!

In sports terms, he lost. His personal dream goes unfulfilled. HOW much closer can one get to blasting open the joy of standing on top of a dream????

I read this week that Roddick had made huge changes in his preparation and practise which led up to this final day of tennis. All as his very best attempt to fulfill his dream. He hired a new coach. He toned up and dropped 15 pounds. He worked HARD.....unrelenting practising I'm sure. He mixed up his routine, made shifts in his approach as a means to go for the covetted gold cup with gusto. I was excited for him and quietly paid attention to his progress all week. I do like an underdog and as much as he's a brilliant tennis player, I guess I've always seen him as a bit of an underdog.

Near the middle of the 5th set, I started wondering about how much more difficult it would be to "comeback" emotionally from a defeat for Roddick than if Federer lost. I'm sure they both have the same dream win. You don't get that far on a whim and physical talent. You've got to have a drive and a thirst. You've got to have focus and hunger. You've got to have the whole meal deal to succeed at elite sport. But, I couldn't help but feel that if Roddick lost the match, he would be torn up much more than if Federer had lost. The guy had already won 5 times on that centre court.

It was painful to watch someone miss by a shot ........ Roddick sat stunned, exhausted, and devastated on his chair as I'm sure he tried to gather up his thoughts before he stood to receive his silver platter. He held back his emotion, trying his best to maintain his composure, which only cracked just a little.....a couple of breaths that choked....his eyes turned red and misty..... just for a moment. He then gave a little speech.... even found his humour. Who knows what pain he feels tonight as he tries to find the silver lining in his silver platter. Are there echos in his head that blurt out negative thoughts of failure? Is he replaying the game in his head. More than likely. Behind a closed door, this man with a big whopping dream is hopefully letting it all out.

We have all experienced dreams which have gone awry. We've all been forced into a pit of disappointment. Or not. Disappointment only happens if you allow yourself to dream. Success and fufillment only happens if you allow yourself to dream. Some folks don't have the guts to. They don't want to risk feeling the negative feelings associated with disappointment, so they also miss out on the exuberance when dreams are met. Sometimes when you've hit a wall and realize that your dream isn't what it was cracked up to be..... that what you wanted was not attainable or maybe even realistic, you can register this, mourn the passing of a good dream and move on.

But do old dreams just disappear? Do they float off into the ether leaving you discombobulated and empty? It truly depends on one's state of mind.....on how you look at the experience.

Broken dreams? They are learning tools. They are reflectors. Not only that.....they are our stepping stones. They may even make up the consistency of the silver background of a mirror.

I've met many people whose dreams have gone horribly awry. Some were because of bad choices, but most of the time it was beyond their own control. Other forces come into play that they simply had no control over. They somehow found themselves sitting across the desk from me in the welfare office trying to come to terms with their situation.....with their failures.... with ALL they have had to cope with.

For many, there is a domino effect. A traumatic life event or two or three send them spiralling into an abyss they have a tough time pulling out of. Depression kicks in.... and clear headed thinking disappears. Several choices, mostly made as a means to try to survive and clear out of the dive bomb they are in, tank miserably. It can go on for years, generations even. I have learned that being on Welfare is the least of their worries. There is a grander, more deeply felt story or two to process that is way more important. Quite often, this is where I meet the point when the stories are ready to be shared.

These same people have taught me something else. They have taught me how to be strong and how to be resilient.

99% of the time, the human being across the desk from me brings with them humour, hope and a spirit of survival that feeds their resiliency. They may have fallen down many many times. They may have faced violence, abuse, illness in their family.....have lost jobs, can't read, grew up in poverty, been to jail and may still be wrestling with addictions. But, my God they are resilient dreamers! They have the desire to get back up and to try again. It is very rare that I encountered someone who had completely given up. Sure, there are some who have no clear direction or havent come to a place yet where a new dream hasn't been conjured up. But after a couple of conversations... of sharing and regaining trust in themselves their resiliency shines through loud and clear.

Sports plays a big role in many of our lives and I believe we become spectators because of the drama which unfolds between our team and the other team. We learn so much from watching and being involved..... so much about dreaming, resiliency....of how to react and respond when our dreams are fullfilled AND when they go terribly awry.

We soak in the play, and vicariously emote through our favourite players. We love the action, the strategy and the sweat inducing drive to play to win. If you've ever been on a team or played an individual sport, you know the adrenaline rush it is to give it all you've got and leave your best on the field. You have felt what it's like to win and how it feels to lose a close match. Though its hard to lose. No one likes to lose in life or in a game. But, if you're in there to PLAY? If you're in the middle of living with a bunch of dreams you want to scrimmage for? When you lose, you end up more determined to return to try again. Maybe with a new approach. Maybe with a whole different kind of dream. But, the motivation sometimes when you lose is even greater than if you've never tasted defeat before.

Just like life......sometimes you learn more from defeat and how you handle life tyrannies than when things are smooth sailing.........

Andy Roddick? He's tasted a big gulp of defeat today and may he wallow in it for awhile. The guy has earned it. If his dream of winning Wimbledon is as strong as he projects? His resilience was just fed a hearty meal. He will be back next year to give it a go again and may he make it to the finals to play the next best match of his life. I'll be cheering him on.


Anonymous said...

Ah! I love your take on defeat and resilience. I was an athlete as a child and teenager. My step-dad was my coach. I felt that defeat meant failure.

How wonderful to see it as an opportunity to grow and improve.

I'm always cheering for the underdog, too. :-)

Gilly said...

I felt so bitterly sorry for Andy Roddick yesterday. He so wanted to win - his first at Wimbledon. Federeer just wanted to break a record.

Some just live in their defeat for the rest of time. Roddick isn't like that, I hope. We can all learn from him if he gets up and plays again.

And we can all learn from what Awareness has said. I'm still re-reading and digesting it. Maybe I need to get up and go again.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post Dana. I haven't been watching the tennis but there is nothing like seeing the underdog pull off an amazing victory against the odds. I'm sorry it didn't work out that way for Roddick :(

It always amazes me how the people life seems to throw the most terrible blows at are always the ones that keep rebounding. They just get up, dust themselves off and live to fight another day. I take my hat off to them.

Awareness said...

Jen... I'm sorry you were left with that persistent feeling after you experience in sports. Defeat hurts and I think there is a strong sense of failure, but once we have a chance to shake that off, I believe we do have opportunities to grow and to improve.... inwardly too.

Gilly... I can think of a whole slew of athletes who never made it fully to the top or were on a team that won the ultimate title and it must be extremely frustrating. The hockey team my family root for hasn't won the championship since 1967! So many of those players from the past are brilliant players, but never had the opportunity to hoist the big Stanley CUP!

We still root for them.....crazy us! And every year before the team gets going, we all dream of them winning the championship, knowing full well that when it happens, it will be that much more sweeter!!!

Gypsy....Me too! Their resiliency and sense of hope is inspirational. More often than not, they aren't even aware of how strong they are until someone points it out to them.