Sunday, August 3, 2008

It's all about the "want-to"

If some of this is repetition of stories I have told you before, well, what do you expect? I have known you 21 years- how many worthwhile stories do you think I have? If it wasn't for recycling, I would run out.

So, hey Pumpkin -
Sorry I missed your call. We were at the Getty and then we went to mass and lit candles for you. Father Mike said he will send you an email before you fight.

As I was saying, before old age kicked in and I went to sleep ....

There are four things that determine who wins a judo match and the most important of them is who wants it the most. You might think that everyone really, really badly wants to win the Olympics, but that is not exactly true.

There is a difference between wishing for something and desiring that thing with all your heart. In Spanish, there are even different words, "Yo quiero" means I want but "Yo deseo" is more like you have to have it. Neither is the same as liking something "Me gusta" or loving someone "Te amo".

Wanting to win ranges kind of like that. There are people who like to win. Most of them don't make it to the Olympics. Those are the people who would like to win if it wasn't too much work and who go to practice and train hard except on Fridays when there are good parties, days it rains and the traffic is really bad, when they have a cold or their cousin's brother's aunt's nephew is getting baptized. Those people would really like to win the Olympics but you know that part about how it is 90% mental? Well, mentally, those people know they have not paid the price to win. Even if they don't admit it consciously to themselves.

There are people who want to win. They may even move across country like you did, however, they make their choices in a different way. Remember two years ago when you were deciding where you should move to train for this Olympics? You were calling everyone to find out what they thought about where they trained, turning it all over in your mind and you said,
"Well, I have a lot of friends in this place, I could be happy there, the weather is nice. I get along with this coach, and they would help me with funding in this place...."

And I stopped you and said,
"Which place would make your judo get better and give you the best chance of winning the Olympics?"

Without hesitation, you said,

And I told you,

"Well, it seems like you just made your decision."

Within two weeks, you had shipped your stuff to Boston.

I can guarantee you that not everyone makes their decision that way. A lot of people want to win but they make trade-offs with where their friends are, if the coach is nice to them, if they can get a free place to live there, etc. I know this because I have had dozens of conversations with up-and-coming judo players beginning long before you were born. When someone moves some place "for judo" because they "want to win the Olympics" but their choice includes all of those other factors, then I feel sad for them because I know their chances of winning are limited.

Some people really love to win and hate to lose. Those are the people who are at practice every day. They go every round. They move to the place that they truly believe will help them win. They make a lot of sacrifices, maybe delaying school or marriage, forgoing promotions at work. Those people are good and they win a lot. A lot of them make Olympic teams.

For the people who really want to, though, it is different, and I think only those people understand this. Winning is a need. It is that voice inside you that when you are behind in a match, when you are fighting someone who is technically better than you or is stronger than you, that just screams, "NO!" I like the French term, je ne sais quoi - I don't know what. It's something you can't describe but it makes one person stand out as different.

I always thought I really, really wanted to win. When I gave birth to Maria, I had some red marks on my arms and chest. I asked the doctor about it and he said that sometimes when a woman is in labor she is pushing so hard that the effort actually burst capillaries. This was an epiphany for me because I had been competing for years and never experienced that after a tournament even though I thought I had been doing absolutely the most that I could. It dawned on me that hey, if I could give birth, I could probably fight on an injured knee and in general do a whole lot more than I had thought possible. I did snap one of the ligaments in my knee in a final match the next year, kept fighting and won the match. Two years later, in the finals in the Austrian Open, I pinned the woman so tightly, when I came off the mat and took my gi off, I could see little red lines on my biceps from where I had actually burst the blood vessels in my arms.

A while after the world championships, about the time your dad and I got married, he said to me,
"You know, I was a little worried, because you only talked about winning. You didn't have a Plan B. I don't know what you would have done if you hadn't won."
I told him,
"Yeah, I didn't know what I would have done if I hadn't won, either."

It's all about wanting it so that it is the first thing that goes through your mind when your eyes pop open in the morning and the last thought in your head before you go to sleep. It is the wanting to win so bad that you almost feel like you'll go crazy sometimes. It is that completely illogical thing, the saying,
"A champion is someone who gets up even when he can't."
that makes absolutely perfect sense even though it doesn't. It is being stronger, tougher and faster than it is possible for you to be.

It is like the Sioux back in the old days, Erich told me, who would take a rifle and go out to battle saying,

"It's a good day to die."

I told Erich once,
"You know, not all Indians are Sioux,"
and he said,

"No, but they all want to be."

I don't know what it is, but whatever it is, you've got it, babe, in spades. I can tell it by that look on your face that says,
"That's my medal, b===, and you're not going to take it away from me."

You will win because that's so much of who you are. It's what you do.
See you soon.
Love you much,

1 comment:

Loren said...

In my notes from the clinic, I have a small note about the first time I saw Ronda. I have seen many pictures and videos of her doing judo and should be able to recognize her. But the note reveals that I didn't recognize her until she was running beside and away from me. The intensity and sheer force of "WIN" was so great that it completely enveloped her.

To me, that is just the outward sign and visible form of a champion. I don't know much about elite level competition, but, if there exists anyone who is not training as hard as she, no two ways about it, they're toast.