When Preparation Meets Opportunity

Casin - Guston, Kentucky
Entered on March 28, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: sports, work
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“You were just lucky, that was just pure dumb luck, and you will never do that again.” People have told me time after time that I am lucky. What is luck anyways? Good fortune? A game of chance? A coincidental happening? No.

Whether luck exists, I cannot be the judge. But I for one know that I am not lucky. I believe luck had nothin’ to do with it.

When I was a child first learning about sports, I strived to be the best at everything. I have spent thousands of hours taking penalty shots and dribbling a soccer ball. I was determined to be the next Michael Jordan, or the next Pelé. I knew that I was going to be known world-wide for my athletic achievements. Unfortunately, as every year passed and I became older and older, that goal slowly dwindled into a fairy-tale dream. But I had learned two of the most important lessons a young person can learn: hard work and dedication. Both have become a lifestyle.

A few years ago my team had made it to the finals of a soccer tournament. The night grew darker and darker with every passing minute, and the air became cool as ice. It was an intense game that went into overtime, sudden death, and then a penalty shootout. I won the coin toss and decided it would be best to shoot last. After much discussion amongst my teammates, I was chosen to take the last penalty shot. For the first shot, my opponent stepped up to the ball—his hands were shaking—his knees trembling—and I sensed fear in the air as he missed the goal entirely. My teammates proceeded to making their shots as well as the remaining players for the opponent. I was left. The score was 4-4 and the team’s fate rested in my hands.

The referee handed me the ball, and I positioned it in the same spot I had the thousands of times before. I stepped back, steam began rising from my body, sweat was running down my face, but my hands and knees were steady. My eyes slowly rose to meet those of the keepers. I didn’t need to look to where I wanted to place the shot, I already knew. I knew the spot where the ball would come to rest in the back of the net; I knew the sound the ball would make as it hit the post. I knew I couldn’t fail. I wiped the sweat out my eyes one last time, took two steps toward the ball, and smashed it with my laces. The ball sailed through the air and ricocheted off the inside of the left post and fell into the net.

As I proceeded through the line to shake hands, the only thing I heard was how lucky I was that my shot went in. I laughed to myself and couldn’t help but reveal a smile. I recalled those countless hours that I spent practicing, pushing myself to the limit to become what I am today.

It’s funny you know. It seems the more I practice, the luckier I get. Luck was not something I was born with, it was something I had achieved; it was not given, it was earned; and it was not chance, I deserved it. Luck had nothin’ to do with it.