Green Means GO! What Being Elite Actually Means.
Updated: Jun 20, 2020
Nothing holding you back, the excitement of competition, just waiting for the whistle or the gun to go off. There is no better feeling than the crossroads of your nerves crescendoing and the action beginning to make you feel alive! Hours of sacrifice and hard work leads you to that moment. The question is, will you be ready for what happens after it all gets started?
Performing at a high level is more than just scoring a lot of points, running a fast time, or leading your team in goals. To truly be a high level performer, you must look outside yourself to see the true impact you have for your team. Are you a positive influence or do you take energy away from those around you? Winning means nothing if those around you are hurt in the process.
This doesn't always mean just your teammates. To be a high level performer, there are many people who help you get there. Coaches, athletic trainers, sports psychologists, doctors, teachers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings, and, of course, your parents. I know that it may not seem like it at the time, but all those hours spent driving you to and from practice and games, to that special clinic or private session, they are there more than you understand. This isn't always the role filled by parents, but by any true caregiver who loves and supports your dreams.
Performance to some means executing a given skill at the optimum time. When I was a newer coach, that is what I would always believe. However, there is a moment in my coaching career that I will probably never forget. It has very little to do with the numbers, but to me defines high level performance and it happened this past March.
It was at the New England Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston that I saw the true representation of high level performance. Now you are probably thinking that it is due to the great competition and the awesome times or marks and don't get me wrong that part was awesome! However it was the exchange that happened between two of my athletes after they were done competing that really made an impact.
These two aren't just teammates. They are best friends, notorious laughers, and two of the best examples of sportsmanship you'll ever see in sports.
On the left is Sydney Garrison. She is one of the most unique athletes I have ever coached, and I mean that in the best way. Her growth as both an athlete and a spectacular person has been absolutely fantastic to watch over the past four years. She went from a quiet freshman who wouldn't stray away from her flock of friends, to the girl who sits next to her competitors, learns about their lives, and supports them if they don't do well. Syd the Kid, the nickname that stuck since her freshman year, doesn't do her justice because if you saw her clear 5 feet 7 inches at this meet on her last attempt to win it all, you would think she was anything but a kid. This jump was when the first of two "elite" performances happened.
Fast forward 30 minutes and the young lady on the right, Trinity Cardillo was in the shot put final chatting it up with her training friends, competitors, and honestly anyone in a 20 foot radius because thats just who she is. Trin is the life of the party, even if she is the only one there. She has been a vocal leader for our team and I can safely say that her impact on our team will be felt for years. Now she won the meet on one of her first throws (44'03.25") and that is when the second "elite" performance occurred.
Now please understand, elite performances come in many shapes and forms and I fully understand not everyone feels the same way as me. However, I have been fortunate enough to be the coach of a Conference Championship winning team, the program's first State Open Championship (with only 4 scoring athletes), and numerous school record performers, but if you ask me about those days and how I felt I probably couldn't describe it in a way that would be worth writing down. It doesn't mean that at the time I wasn't ecstatic and that those moments were anything less than spectacular, but like all moments, feelings fade and we move on to the next goal.
The reason I mention this is because if you look at the photo of the girls 10 years from now, you won't see the excitement from their parents, you won't see me clapping and giving out high-fives, you will see however, two friends who care more about each other's performance then their own.
When Sydney finished her jumps, the first question she asked me was "How is Trinity doing?" Not, "can you believe I won?" Not, "do you think I could have done better?" Her only concern was for her friend. As we watched Trinity throw her winning throw and then waited until the competition was over, Trinity runs over to Sydney and immediately asks "How did you do?!" They both hugged and celebrated in a way that only best friends who struggled together for years to reach their highest level of performance can celebrate. Laughing, crying, jumping around, and, of course, asking for food from their parents (always a priority), were the only things going on in their world at that moment.
Now I know that this story contains elite level performance for high school athletes and it can be argued that they wouldn't have felt the same way if they both finished last in their events, but to me the friendship and compassion they show for each other is the true elite performance. The point of sports is to help teach us to overcome obstacles, learn life skills, and become better versions of ourselves. These two incredible young ladies prove that to be true.
Having missed their chance to compete at the National Championships and an entire Outdoor Season their true ability and talent was never discovered. Luckily, they are both joining incredible college programs that will continue to help them reach their highest level of performance. Sydney is joining the University of Hartford, while Trinity is heading to Northeastern University, and even though they won’t be together at school I have no doubt their friendship will only get stronger over the next four years.
I wrote this post because I wanted to show that elite level performance is more then just numbers and trophies. It is about the bonds that are formed, the lives that are changed, and the memories that are made with people you care about the most that truly determines if your time in the game was elite.
Just for fun, here are two pictures of Syd and Trin from their early years on the team. Sorry ladies!