An introspective look inside the head of a 16 year old athlete working towards Rio 2016.
If you read much of my blog, you know that I continually strive to be positive and clear in my posts and in all honesty I try and do that in my life as well. I know that a positive attitude is critical to success in the sport, and just in general in life and so I strive to stay focused on what is going right, what is working and with my eye always on the prize! Today I am going to give you a rare look into my thoughts as they relate to my campaign…and my life as I strive towards Rio 2016.
I am 16 years old. Everyone knows that but what many may not know is that since I have started sailing with an idea of an Olympic Campaign that my life changed quite a bit. When I was sailing in the Optimist class dinghy, I was sailing with a huge group of kids my own age. Kids sail that boat from when they are 8 years old until the year they turn 15. Obviously, the majority of the competitive sailors are at the older age of that range. So when I would practice, or race, or just hand out at the yacht club I was always around kids my age. Several of us were in virtual school so we literally could hang out and be together every day. Just before I turned 15, I realized I was too big for the boat and I made the decision to move on. I knew at the time that I wanted to shoot for Rio 2016 knowing that I would be the youngest person campaigning and that it would be an uphill battle all along my path.
Entering the adult world of Olympic Class sailing, I was the youngest by far. Most people I am sailing with are in their mid 20’s to mid 30’s…and I am not quite 17 today. In order to give me the best chance to be successful in my campaign I decided to continue virtual school so that I could have my days available to go to the gym and to practice on the water. So today I live my life with limited interactions with kids my age in school (i’m online) and almost no one close to my age while I am training. I am living in an adult world.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining. I chose this life and I love every minute of doing what I do. I am simply trying to give you a little background of what is inside my head.
I am extremely self directed with my schooling. I have to do my work according to my schedule and my parents insist that I keep my grades high so that my options in college remain good. Sometimes I am good about getting work done, but I am 16 and sometimes I put it off…for too long and get buried in too much work. I don’t have teachers to push me or to check my work, I have to get on myself to get it done before the end of the semester.
By the way, I am a little shy. When I am around people I don’t know I tend to keep to myself and not talk much. I know that sometimes people think that I am stuck-up or just don’t like them but the truth is that I just feel a bit awkward and don’t know what to say to start a conversation. I really don’t like that about myself, but it is part of who I am. When I get to know people, I tend to be the opposite, but those first few interactions in person are typically a bit awk.
So if you have ever been 16, you know that most of us have a bit of self doubt…about everything in our lives. We are hypercritical about our appearance, our looks, our voice. We see the great things about everyone around us, the positive attributes and we compare them to the worst in ourselves. It’s not a positive thing to do at the least, but it is typical teenage thinking. Now put the pressures of sailing at an elite level with the worlds best athletes around me all the time, they are the people I am comparing myself to. You start to get the picture of what is racing around in my head all the time? “Will I ever be good enough” “Will I be strong enough” “Could I ever beat them on a start, on a leg” the doubt is endless as it is with every teen all the time.
I don’t let this discourage me. I know I am sailing with the best athletes in the world. I know I have to work harder than them all. I know that I have to spend more time on the boat than everyone, that I have to go to the gym more often and work longer than everyone else. I know that in order for me to become better then them, I have to put in more effort, more time and be more focused…and that just gives me a fighting chance. It’s alright though, I love what I am doing. I love the people I am sailing with and I am learning more about life in general than most people my age. I will keep all these lessons and memories with me for my entire life.
Since I have to work harder and longer and more than everyone else, my campaign is a bit more expensive than the average athlete. I need top level coaches and to train more frequently and to be at regattas earlier to practice so that I can give myself a chance to be as good or better than the competition. All this increased coaching, travel, equipment and everything means that I have to spend more money…which means that I have to raise more money than the typical athlete. Think about this for a moment: how do athletes that campaign for the Olympics raise money for their training? They typically rely on contacts they make in college and in their careers so that they can make presentations to individuals and corporations that can be influenced to donate to their campaign.
I am 16. I havent been to college. The people I know are mostly 16, they don’t have money, they aren’t connected to executives and decision makers at huge companies, they are teenagers like me. When I do get in front of companies…I am 16 and filled with self doubt and anxiety and they literally hold my future in their hands. Yes or no is the difference between coaching or sailing alone. It is the difference between top of the fleet and mid fleet finishes. It is a lot of pressure. It is a lot of work. But I know it is what I have to do to be successful, so I charge in there, pick up the phone and make calls to companies to try and tell my story. I constantly tell myself that I can’t let anything stop me from reaching my goal!
On the race course, I am able to block out pretty much all of the pressure, all of the anxiety and all of the worries I have ashore. I get into the challenge in front of me and I love sailing fast and looking in front of me and seeing noone up there, just open water and clear breeze to move me ahead steady and fast. There are a lot of times that I wish I could be on the racecourse when taking a test, or talking to potential contributors or in other situations where I feel less than adequate. But I love what I do and I am lucky to live the life that I do.
I know that I am the underdog for going to Rio 2016. I know that I am fighting an uphill battle and that I could breakdown at any point in my campaign and not have enough money, or support or anything to continue. That is the reality for me, and really for everyone involved with Olympic level sailing. I don’t think I am better than anyone, I know that I am fighting for every opportunity I get. I am sure that there are better or smarter people in this sport, in this world that could beat me at any point. But I also know that there is noone that can stop me from working my hardest, from pushing myself further and harder and more than the competition. I know that I can accomplish anything I am willing to work my ass off to achieve, and Rio 2016 is something that I am not willing to give up on. Rio 2016 is what I look towards in everything I do. It is exactly what I do every day and who I am right now in my life.
I am dedicated
I am focused
I am determined
I am strong
I am willing
I am working hard
Over the next couple of years I will continue to put 100% of my effort into winning the birth for Rio 2016. I will do everything I can to be strong enough, smart enough, tough enough and good enough to represent my country and my generation on the waters of Rio 2016. Thank you for being a supporter and a fan of my campaign. I hope you continue to watch as I trudge the road towards victory in my Olympic efforts!