Growing up I was never amazing at one particular sport. I usually placed in all of my competitions, but when it came down to the big tournaments or the big competitions, I usually did not win. In swimming, basketball, and volleyball I considered myself above average, and in some instances pretty good. However I was always aware of the fact that I was never going to be a professional basketball player and I would never make it to the olympics in swimming. However on that same note, I could usually pick up quickly on most sports and hobbies that I tried (except soccer, I can't kick a ball straight to save my life). Whenever I lost in high school and beyond did not take it too terribly hard, probably because I was used to being a "bridesmaid" and in many cases I came in second place to one of my best friends. In particular I think about my summer swim league team. Good ol' Nantucket.....One of my best friends growing up was Casey. We had everything in common. We were fairly inseparable growing up and we also played the same sports. Summer swim league was pretty much what we lived for each summer. I don't think I ever beat her in a single race. Maybe every once in a while I would inch her out, but she usually won every event we swam together. At the end of the season she would get the high point trophy and I would get the runner-up trophy for point accrued over the season. At the time I was jealous of course but every year I would say "this is my year." This runner-up song and dance happened every other year (due to me being 2 years older sometimes I would be in a different division). I think this is how I learned how to lose, how to be so close to winning, but just not quite there. In my mind I knew that I was a strong swimmer, even good maybe. But I knew I wasn't the best.
When I started BJJ I wasn't surprised that I was able to pick it up more quickly than some of the other white belts I started with. My very first competition as a white belt I was fired up. It was the Lutador Grappling tournament and I had been training for 2 months. Traven and Jeff seemed fairly confident in my abilities and I was confident as well. I got my ass whooped. My first no gi match I was able to pull off a triangle that was a fluke in every sense of the word, literally the girl fell into it (I think she tripped). My second match was against my now teammate Denise Houle. She licked my hide. Finally the match came to an end when she had me in an armbar that would most definitely have been my end if I wouldn't have slammed her. Yeah I know. I thought this was legal. Idiot! I was disqualified and I put on my Gi to get ready for the next division. My first Gi match was against a girl from Alliance. I think the final score was 30 to 0, no joke. Afterwards I was upset, of course no one likes to lose. But then I knew okay, you thought you were okay at this, but you're nowhere near it. Back to the drawing board. So I trained, and trained, and trained. I ended up placing 3rd at the Pan Ams 6 months later and then 2nd at Mundials. I received my blue belt when I won my division at Lutador in the fall. The following Pan Ams and Mundials I placed 1st in my divisions at the blue belt level and I was surprised to say the least. I was not used to winning big competitions. It had finally happened!! I felt great and the following year Professor Traven gave me my purple belt. Then I won Pan Ams and purple belt. Then Mundials came around. I knew I was stepping up in level and some of these girls could potentially have trained twice as long as I have. I lost my first match. I didn't just lose my first match, but I lost via armbar within the first minute I believe. I was so embarrassed. I felt awful right after it happened and I should have tapped sooner as I ended up having a hurt elbow for 3 weeks following that match. Then a few days later I felt okay. I can't explain why, and I wasn't sure if at the time if this was a healthy reaction or not. I talked to my parents, I talked to a few friends, I talked to my brother. I think they were all surprised at how well I handled it. I couldn't rationalize in my mind why I felt the way I did and why I was not as upset as I was. I'm sure some people thought I was gonna crack, but I was okay. I couldn't train BJJ for a few weeks, then last week I was able to train again. I have been able to do techniques I was never able to do before, and I am attempting things that I was hesitant to do for the last few years. I feel awesome. I feel strong. I feel like I have my mojo. You can't win everything, and I completely understand that. The only rationalization that I have for feeling the way I feel is that I learned how to be decent at a sport but still lose at that sport when I was younger. Is my goal to win? ALWAYS. No one likes to say that losing is good for them, come on, it sucks! But you really do learn from it. You either shut down and quit or you learn from it and get better. I choose to get better! I have asked Jeff in the past...would you rather be amazing at one sport, or pretty good at a bunch of sports? My client Brooke and I had this discussion today, and this is what made me want to blog about this. I choose being good at many sports. Granted, I would have loved to be in the Olympics for the 200 IM, but it just wasn't meant to be. Instead I believe that being okay at many sports has instilled the attitude I have today. I am more accustomed to getting 2nd or 3rd place than getting first place, and many times not even placing at all. When I do win, its freaking awesome I'll admit! Although I played many sports growing up, I have found the one sport that I LOVE, and that is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Win or lose, I will not quit, I choose to continually grow as an individual and a teammate in this sport and get better with each training session. So Casey Hudson, thanks for always beating me in summer league, this one's for you. And boom goes the dynamite.