You’ve signed up for the local race, a day of friends, water, standup paddling, often a good cause to support and the chance to hone your skills. It'[s a recipe for a great effort and a great day. Oddly, before a race there’s often a ripple of disclaimers as the competition draws near:
- I’m tired (sore, out of practice, not feeling well)
- This board is too heavy (long, short, tippy, slow)
- It’s windy (rough, hot, cold)
Sarah Castle has an entirely different perspective on attitude when it comes to competing. She’s captain of the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team. That’s right, players competing in basketball that’s practically a full contact sport from their wheelchairs. No excuses, no disclaimers – just a team focused on pushing full-force for the entire game. Not only that, the team is really diverse in terms of age. We all know how challenging it is to maintain competitive endurance as we age. (New disclaimer – oh, by the way, I am older than you are) Imagine adding that challenge to the fact that every team is out to get TEAM USA because they nabbed gold in the past two Olympics.
Team USA comes into the London 2012 Paralympic Games as the two-time defending champions, winning gold at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games and the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. One thing is certain, they bring their best game every time. “We bring our best game and we play our game, every time. That’s all we can strive for,” says Sarah Castle. No matter what the outcome of any event, that’s a “win” that really matters.
So, back to the litany of excuses we often hear, and might even voice, when we come to our competitions. How can players compete at the elite level and avoid that pitfall of negativity? Surely, we at our level can bring a better “game” to our events. What do we need? Preparation, focus and passion for the “game.”
- If you didn’t get out on the water or to your training routine enough before an event, you left preparation at home.
- If you’re worried about your equipment or the weather, you’ve got focus out of whack
- If you’ve got an enthusiastic passion for paddling at your best today for the entire route or course – then life is good!
Deciding what is okay, and what make a grin flash across your face can make all the difference. For someone who went from being an active healthy 11 year-old to adapting to after-effects of a disease that brought paralysis and the need for a wheelchair, Sarah Castle has focused on following paths that inspire her, working hard and getting her “grin” on. What’s right for you? Sometimes the most remarkable thing an elite athlete or the weekend warrior can do happens outside the event. Have you ever:
- Noticed a fellow standup paddler with a crazy case of butterflies – and said just the thing to calm them down. I was so fortunate to have a moment with Candice Appleby before the Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge when she chased my massive butterflies away.
- Shared some insights on the personality of a lake or river that instilled more confidence in a newbie? Brit Oliphant at the age of 17 had the maturity and kind heart to do just that for me.
- Made sure to smile, laugh and grab the gusto of simply being on the water on a board and having the amazing good fortune to have a paddle in your hands!
We love our sport! Better yet, we love the heroes, leaders and players that inspire us to bring our own best game every time – and to be okay with whatever that is. Take the time to watch Sarah and our amazing US Team.
For more information on the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Team and Paralympic athletes, competitions and sports in the United States, visit http://www.USParalympics.org, the official website of U.S. Paralympics, a division of the United States Olympic Committee formed in 2001. U.S. Paralympics leads the Paralympic Movement in the United States.
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