There are benefits to social media beyond being able to show you what I had for dinner or complaining about the challenges of commuting in the largest city in the world that doesn’t understand commuting.
Social media is sort of like a never ending class reunion. You run into people you haven’t seen in a long time, you catch up, you meet their families. And sometimes you share a moment.
We have friends in Halifax who we were once quite close with – we worked together, shared dinner parties, that sort of thing. We moved away, life goes on. They have two kids – now young adults, a boy and a girl. Both were competitive paddlers, and one – the daughter – is a nationally carded athlete.
She won multiple gold medals at last summer’s Pan Am Games and is a tenacious competitor. Trains hard, competes hard, studies hard. Ever since she can remember, she chased the dream of being an Olympian.
And this week her life’s work came down to one race and she didn’t make it. Pause and think about the only goal you have had for a dozen years coming down to one race, a few seconds of your life.
I stood in the kitchen the other night and read her Facebook post about the Olympic trials to Laura and frankly it made my voice crack. Not because of just the words, or because we know the family, but knowing as the parent of an athlete all the hours and pain and thrill and failure and success and highs and lows that served as the foundation for her words.
Knowing the price she paid.
Her post wasn’t a pity party or woe-is-me or anything like that. She wasn’t quitting or retiring or turning away or making excuses (but losing weeks of training to chicken pox in the run up to the Olympic trails was devastating).
She was facing the music, telling her friends and her world that she had no regrets. She put everything she had out there and it wasn’t good enough. And that’s how it works when you pick Olympic teams.
I sent her mother a note, the gist of which was, your daughter is quite a woman. I shared the story of a young man in my house who, seven weeks before a London Knights training camp, came down with mononucleosis. He had an enlarged spleen and was ordered to stop skating, stop training, stop everything. Sit on the sofa and rest and wait and urge your spleen to get smaller.
He was gutted. As his parents all we could do was watch. Whether that team was realistically in his future is moot. They invited him, he worked hard, it became a goal and then …
By the time he was cleared to resume training, it was too late. He went to camp but wasn’t ready, he wasn’t strong enough. There was a speech on the long drive home about one door closing just means try another door.
All of which people like him and Hannah the paddler know.
Today, days after my text exchange with the paddler’s mom, this morning while on the train she texted me with a simple note that said, you know, it’s nice to talk to a parent who “gets it.”
Oh, we get it.
Our guy had other opportunities to chase major junior hockey and he passed on them, took another path and still found a hockey home at a higher level that incorporates university, too. It’s hardly contending to be an Olympian, but the commitment to go on was not dissimilar.
Hannah? Wait and see. She will win more medals with a maple leaf on her chest and could still one day be an Olympian, just not at Rio. I would not bet against her.
But if either of them walked away from it all tomorrow, I think they and others like them would agree it’s been worth it for them, and the parents everywhere, which I thought about a lot on Mother’s Day.
Just as an example, there aren’t many places in Canada where Pad could go without knowing someone he met through hockey who wouldn’t want to meet him for lunch or a beer. Cripes, he was in Cuba for a week and came back with stories of meeting guys he played against in the OJHL. They didn’t know each other personally, but they do now and they sat under palm trees and shared war stories.
I can imagine no greater gift from the game than the people. His hockey family never stops growing, or looking out for him.
At this time of year at ATC, the kids from college show up again. The pros from hockey return as their teams are eliminated. They are all just kids, like Hannah.
They work hard, aim high, and most don’t take defeat lightly in any form.
I have no doubt given the chance to do it again, every one of them would say whatever it takes, whatever the outcome, I’ll keep going.
Not everyone gets invited to the party. The cost of admission is high. You will fail more than you succeed.
And for a special group, it is a price worth paying.