by Calli Newberry
I was never an All-American in college. I was never even an individual conference champion. I had set some pretty lofty goals that I didn’t achieve in my four-year career. Well, three-and-a-half, I suppose.
I ran track at Hillsdale College and as a freshman I had goals of running the 400-meter hurdles in under a minute because that probably would have qualified me for nationals. And as a junior, my coach had switched me to the 800-meter run, and I had goals of running 2:10, which also probably would have qualified me for nationals.
Instead, I was about three seconds short and came in second in the conference in each event. To say I’m still proud kind of sounds like settling, like I gave up on my goals and decided second place was good enough.
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And I think that would be settling if that’s how I trained for and approached each race, but that’s not what I did.
I didn’t do everything right, but I did the best I could. I never missed a summer training workout, I always figured out a way to get in a lift when we were on breaks, and I was diligent in how I ate and recovered outside of practice. I gave my all in practice and I controlled what I could when I wasn’t with my coach or team.
I’m not saying this to bring attention to myself, but rather encouragement to other athletes.
Sometimes I think we get too scared to set big goals. We don’t want to fall short and disappoint ourselves. We don’t want to seem too eager either and fail in front of our competitors, or even our teammates. Setting goals we’re confident we can achieve makes us feel safer and proud when we accomplish them, so that’s what we do instead.
But I want to encourage you to set the big goals. If you’re a freshman who wants to make your varsity basketball team, then make that your goal. If you’re a second-string player who dreams of playing at the college level, then that’s your new goal. If you have a big dream but you’re too afraid of failing, make it your goal anyway.
And then, do whatever you can and control what you can to get there. I can’t promise your very best will get you to that goal, but I can promise that you’ll feel proud of what you did.
After I graduated, I had about a week left on campus where I wasn’t training or studying. I was just lounging around, slowly packing my things and eating a lot of junk food. That was a weird week for me because I had never really done that before. Normally I’d feel guilty or anxious about not training or staying disciplined.
I think I was finally able to relax because I knew my career was over and I had given my very best. My coach always told us, “You can control two things: attitude and effort.” And that’s what I did. There weren’t things I regretted or wished I had tried harder on, and because of that, I had peace in knowing that although I never got to stand on the podium at a national meet, I had done the very best I could.
If I had slacked and settled, then those second-place finishes would’ve left a very sour taste in my mouth. But instead, I get to be proud of those silver medals.
Your best is all you can do. If you can genuinely and honestly say you’ve done your best and you’ve controlled what you could, then you have no reason to be disappointed. So set those big goals. If your best gets you there, great, that’s awesome! But if it doesn’t, that’s okay too. You won’t regret it and you’ll still be able to be proud of the progress you made and the accomplishments you earned.