Over the course of my sports competitions, there have been definite ups and downs: a winning relay, a slip on the blocks, a false start, a personal best time, a disqualification. The ability to get over the downs can be difficult at times. Two paths can be taken. One path is the easy way out, which is to quit. The second, harder path, is to use the setback to become motivated and achieve a greater goal. In response to setbacks, people have choices. I believe that setbacks can be positive.
The setting was the Men’s Swimming and Diving Sectional Meet at Downers Grove North High School. I was rostered to swim two events that day, the 100 butterfly and the 100 backstroke. It had been four long months of training but in the two weeks preceding sectionals, we were resting our bodies in hopes of qualifying for the state meet. I thought I had a legitimate shot at qualifying. Although I dropped time, I thought I had done poorly. I was mad. I can distinctly remember the moment when I decided I was going to “make state” the next year no matter how hard I would have to train. My coach came over to me and told me, “Don’t be disappointed that you didn’t qualify. I come out of this meet with a better Peter Bruton.” I realized the importance of his words much later, because at the time I was still mad. During the off season, I studied films of my races and worked out almost every day. I worked myself to near exhaustion every day by running, lifting weights, and swimming for 8,000 yards on an easy day. I could hardly stand being out of the water for longer than two days because I felt as if I was hurting my chances for qualifying. Eventually, sectionals came around again. Naturally, I swam the same two events. As the meet progressed, I became confident instead of nervous because I knew that I had done everything possible to train my body for these moments. I heard “take your mark.” I dove into the water and I felt energized. I knew that I was going fast. As I looked up at the scoreboard the time showed 55.77, a second under the state cut. I had turned it around.
I am 16 years old, and I hope to live a long and healthy life. There will be setbacks along the way, and not only with sports. Setbacks can include a bad grade on a test, a fight with a friend or parent, and being fired from a first job. All of these minor events can have a major impact on who we become in the future by the way we respond to them. I believe that setbacks, even minor ones, can be spun in the opposite direction and be used as motivation.
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