True, there is the bad luck of getting injured or catching the flu the day before the tournament but...
on the other hand, sometimes sickness and injury are a convenient excuse. You can fight through sickness and injury if you want to bad enough.
When Ronda was thirteen or so, she had the flu. We were already in the city where the Junior Olympics was to be held when she got sick. I am 100% certain that Ronda was not “faking it” and it was not psychological. I made her compete in the anyway. She came in second. She was very mad at me for a while. I told her then that maybe one day she would be at the Olympics and be sick and have to fight anyway, so go out and do what she could do.
When she was competing in Europe, she was really sick, lost in Sweden and came back and won gold in Finland. Afterwards, she emailed me and reminded me of that time I made her compete, said she had thought of that and knew she could fight, and win, sick or not.
Julia, who is twelve, had the soccer playoffs a few weeks ago. She was pretty sick but insisted on playing anyway. Her team won the morning game, and she was even worse after running two hours in the cold. She came home, lay in bed under blankets, drank nasty Theraflu medicine and gobs of water, then would not hear of anything but going back out on the field and playing in the second game in the afternoon. Of course, she got even sicker after that and spent the next two days in bed.
In general, I think if a kid (or an adult) is sick, they should stay home in bed. However, there are times when it is important to win, if nothing else to let yourself know that you can pour it out even when the luck isn’t running your way.
As a coach and a parent, you need to make decisions for athletes, too, when they are competing to learn to fight through adversity and when they are just being a damn fool. Age makes a difference. If they had been six or eight years old, I wouldn’t have allowed them to compete.
The possible downside makes a difference, too. Ronda had surgery to replace a ligament shortly before what was supposed to be her first senior nationals. The surgeon said she could not compete until September. She said,
“There is an international junior tournament in August.”
And he answered,
“Well, you won’t be competing in it. Your mom brought you to me because I can say honestly there is no one who can get an athlete back to 100% faster than me and I’m telling you that you won’t be competing until September.”
She finally got her wish to fight in the senior 63 kg division in September, was on the U.S. team six weeks later and ten months after that was in her first Olympics.
That little story reflects the real kind of pure luck that does affect the outcome and that most people never even consider. That is, being lucky enough to afford great health care, live in an area where there’s an excellent orthopedic surgeon.
Completely aside from injury, having a parent, or better yet, two, willing to drive you to practice several times a week, come up with the money and take the time off of work to travel to the tournaments, that’s pure luck. Living in a town where they have one judo club, much less 50, like around Los Angeles, that’s pure luck. Walking in to start judo at a club that just happens to have a great coach, that’s luck.
Most of what is truly luck happens long before the tournament, we never even think about it or thank the people who made it possible.
So think about it now. I'd call my mom and thank her but it's about 4 a.m. in Florida and I don't think she'd really appreciate me waking her up.