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There are 2 minutes on the clock and the score is tied, I have the opportunity to seal the fate of the game.

Every athlete dreams of an opportunity like this.

Michael Jordan’s Iconic Game-Winner In Cleveland, Jerzy Dudek’s clutch penalty save to lift the European Cup in Istanbul. The point is, that every athlete dreams of the perfect outcome.

Fans screaming your name, your teammates holding you up high like some hero who’s just saved the entire planet from destruction.

My dream, however, was disguised as a nightmare. It was the final intra-team friendly that the Great Britain Lions American Football team were to have before the final team selections for their fixture against Italy. This game was supposed to be my ticket on the plane.

I had done some great things up to that point. Having put on a good show for my girlfriend and her parents who had traveled to see me play, I felt confident in my chances to make the final selection, then it happened. 

I won’t bore you with all the American Football Lingo and to keep it simple, the coach made a play call which saw me completely wide open on the right side of the football field. The quarterback checked off all of his chances, which were completely covered, then rolled out toward my direction. 

We locked eyes for a second which seemed an eternity. I couldn’t believe it, I was going to get the ball thrown at me, I was going to catch it and I was going to win the game.

As the ball drew nearer to me and further away from his hands, I could taste the glory in my mouth, salivating at the opportunity. There are over 100 players on the field, plus a few hundred more spectators on the sidelines. There would be no doubt as to who deserved a spot on that plane, there are over 400 witnesses.

The ball landed on the tip of my fingers, I desperately tried to restack my hands and find control in those crucial split seconds, but my cards had been dealt. The ball split right through my hands with its final destination being the floor. I heard a cry of disbelief from the sidelines, a sound that stuck with me for many weeks to come. 

The game was over, but my pain had only just begun. As a fitness coach, I deal with my clients struggling to attain their fitness goals and aspirations daily. It is my job to motivate and guide them through their lowest moments and encourage them to stay positive. I was at my lowest driving back home from that game, embarrassed, and ashamed. I was even lower when I got the call a few weeks later from my positional coach explaining that I had not made the final selection to travel to Italy.

I buried my head in the sand, I felt inadequate and felt like the world was mocking me. Fast forward to a year later and that moment no longer haunts me.

Accepting it

The most important thing you can do for yourself when facing failure is to embrace it, accept it, and wear it. In the past, whenever something would go wrong, I would continuously replay the moment in my head like your least favorite music streaming playlist, where there’s only one song and it’s looped. 

I would relive the moment in anguish over and over again, hoping for a different outcome where I’d caught the pass, made the defender miss, and scored the winning touchdown.

However, life doesn’t offer such comfort. The reality of the situation is that there have been many other times in my life where I could have dropped the ball, but instead, I caught it and scored in front of 40,000 fans. 

Or flopped at a very important job interview, but instead, I aced it and got the job I had always wanted. The point is, that the good comes with the bad, and the quicker we begin to accept that we live in the present, the quicker we can begin to impact our future. 

Learning From it

After I dropped the ball,  I started questioning my abilities in all aspects of my life and became defensive. I wanted to deflect my mishap and blame everyone but myself.

My friend doesn’t speak much English, but I remember driving him home one night and we had the radio switched to a jazz station. 

A song came on with the lyrics echoing “Something will happen, something will be learned” he turned to me and asked what the words meant, and their symbolic meaning. I didn’t know it then but I know it now. 

Whether the outcome of an event presents itself as positive or negative, there is always a lesson to be learned when “something happens”. Be accountable, own your mishap, and learn from it.

Moving On From it

When I initially got the call from my coach to let me know I had been cut from the team, I wanted to question the team’s decision and argue my case, but I didn’t. For months leading up to that moment, I had been dwelling on retiring from the game of American football, but I was afraid that the game held my identity.

I wanted to walk away from the game on a high note, at least that’s what I kept telling myself year after year. 

Sometimes life gives us the outcome we need, not the outcome we want. I wasn’t happy with football and hadn’t been for many months, but I kept pushing because I felt it gave me purpose. It was only when I stepped away from the game, travelled back home to Congo to watch my big brother marry the girl of his dreams, that I saw the bigger picture.

I realised that yes, I dropped the ball and it was painful to feel such disappointment.  But no, I wasn’t going to let that moment define me. If I wanted the chance to catch that ball again, I would need to stop looking at the missed ball rolling on the floor, and look at the next one coming from above.

Maybe it’s time you did the same?

This article was written by our coach