Fast forward 24 years and here I am sitting in the stands at the senior nationals with the SAME friend. He tells me he has been out of judo a while, and asks me, since my daughter isn't fighting, who is there worth watching. I tell him I think Katelyn Bouyssou is worth a look. We watch her win the finals. Then we watch her win in the first 2 out of 3 fight off for the world team. The second match, she loses. I lean over to my friend and say,
"This next match will tell us something. It is hard to come back after a loss, more so when you are young and used to winning. Watch this. If she comes out a little intimidated, a little hesitant, that is normal. If she comes out pissed, she's something special. It's hard to be fighting for the world team at 14. It's triply hard when you have just lost a match. You can tell a lot from a person about how they come back from a loss."
Katelyn came out for revenge, won the match by ippon and made the world team. I would put money on that one.
This reminded me of a story when Ronda was about 14. I am old and this was years ago so if I don't have all of the details exactly right, that is not the point. Maybe her opponent was 21 as opposed to 20 - as my 11-year-old says - WHATEVER!
Ronda wanted to go to New York to visit her friend and fellow judo player, Lily. I am very reluctant to let my children stay anywhere overnight, especially if it is judo-related because I am well aware of the danger of teenage athletes being molested. However, I had known Jim Hrbek, Lily's coach, for over 20 years, and Lily's mother and sisters were extremely nice, so I let her go.
Ronda had gone a long time, certainly over a year, without losing a match, and with a run like that, and a young player, you wonder what it is going to happen when, as is inevitable, they do lose one. Will it completely burst their confidence, or something else.
Here is the story I heard from people who were there...
Near the end of Ronda's visit, there was a tournament and she competed in the women's black belt division, although pretty far from being either a woman or a black belt. She lost a match. She was choked out by a player, who was 20 years old or so and probably number one or two in her division at the time. Ronda had never been choked out and she hadn't lost a match in a year. Ronda went outside and cried (Ronda cries over EVERYTHING, by the way - she can't find her car keys, her sister got the prize in the cereal box, she won by an armbar instead of uchimata). Then, she came back up through the losers bracket, since it was double elimination fought the same player again and threw her for ippon. The final match, when they fought for the third time, Ronda armbarred her opponent and won the tournament.
It is always difficult to come back from a loss. It takes the ability to pull yourself back together in a short period of time and to try again with all your might at something you just failed at. Seeing that maturity in a young player of 14 or 15 years old is exceptional. It is not the only thing to look for in identifying potential, but it is a sign.
As my friend said, long ago, when he got it,
"It's all about the want-to."
Years ago, someone criticizing me and my daughter said to me, angrily,
"Are you proud of your daughter? Are you proud of that little fit she throws whenever she loses?"
For the record, I AM proud of my daughter. She doesn't throw a fit when she loses. She has the "want-to" win so bad that when she loses, it hurts her in a way that person could never understand. I bet Katelyn could understand it, though.