Pivotal Moments in your Career- Liz Johnson
A poignant subject as we enter a period in which many athletes involved in Summer sports will find themselves vying for Olympic or Paralympic selection… Trials season- very often an occasion that an athlete will identify as a career defining moment for the simple reason that if team selection is achieved it is seen as a success and if selection is missed then this is seen as a failure but, nothing is that simple. I’ve come to understand this through my career as an athlete which has spanned 20 years and has been packed full of highs and lows, peaks and troughs, taken me on a journey of self discovery and educated me in a way far beyond the capabilities of any textbook that I’ve read or academic course that I’ve taken.
The realities of being an athlete are that we take comfort from the structure that our regimes dictate and we thrive on being the dictators of our own destiny yet those moments that often have the biggest impact on our careers are seldom within our control.
Pivotal career moments can develop from both positive or negative experiences and it is important to remind ourselves that we are not defined by a single moment in time. We cannot control every situation that is going to arise within our career –or lifetime for that matter – but we can always control our response. I like to use the mantra that “obstacles create opportunities” and have found that it serves as a reminder that there is always a way to succeed even if life throws you a curve ball which makes your original or preferred plan of action unviable. There are certain occurrences within everyday life that will pose the biggest challenges in the life of an athlete; demands of education, loss of a loved one, changes in relationship status, financial stresses, relocation. If we add these to the factors that massively impact the athlete lifestyle such as injury and illness, victory, defeat, missed selection, realisation of a long term goal, work/life/training balance then it becomes evident that there are so many factors that could potentially present situations that require career impacting decisions.
There is no right or wrong choice in any of these cases, all that is important is what is the correct decision for you. I’ve been very fortunate (or unfortunate depending on how you look at it) to experience all of the above situations and it would be very difficult for me to pinpoint only one as a pivotal moment in my career as each experience had a significant impact on how my career progressed and fitted into my path like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. I have always tried to use the disappointments of a missed selection and a missed podium from my early teenage years, at the beginning of my international career, to fuel my ambitions and desires to succeed which I think has served me well during the later stages of my career. The most significant season in my career was one in which I graduated from University, broke a World record, got injured and then achieved my swimming dream of winning a Paralympic Gold medal just 10 days after losing a parent to cancer. I could never have predicted everything that was going to happen that season but it made me a stronger, more resilient person and I gained more insight and perspective than ever before. I survived.
There have been seasons where preparations have been perfect but the results have not. That’s life. You can only judge yourself on the execution of things that you can control, trust your instincts and believe in yourself. Whenever your faced with a difficult decision, always think back to the young child you were when you fell in love with your sport and decided you wanted to participate. Do it for them.
Posted on 14/04/2016
by Sara Heath