How do humility and competition fit together?

15 Jul

As I dive into the spiritual leadership trait of humility, I want to explore how female athletes with loads of kinesthetic intelligence can shine with humility.

How does mainstream fame fit into team spirit? The answer is humility. When we embrace it, we don’t make a fuss over fame or failures; we consciously get out of the way to make way for others. In today’s post we look at present examples of team spirit and a past story of women athletes who were pioneers in their field.

With the 2015 Pan Am games having begun, Canada’s own Fab IV divers, Pamela Ware, Meaghan Benfeito, Roseline Filion and Jennifer Abel, have been promoted as both extremely talented athletes in their field and superstars soon to dazzle not only a country, but the whole world. This team of women have, up to the start of the games, won a combined 41 medals and the expectation is heavy.

photo credit: Diving Canada

But despite this, the aspects of teamwork, humility and determination make them stand out above all. Roseline Filion was quoted by the Toronto Star saying, “We’re really down-to-earth girls and our main goal is training and competing and performing.” And honestly, it’s not hard to believe that as true because without humility you’ll never have team spirit.

Here’s my take on how humility can nourish team spirit in competitive sports. In the everyday life of twists and turns, ups and downs of a high performance life, there are going to be moments where you put your pride, and even your pain aside.

I was struck while reading that interview about these women how they persevere for the team and for themselves. There was a story shared by Meaghan Benefeito about how she remembers hitting the water during a dive stomach first, falling downwards at 35 km/hour before a 2007 swim meet. When she arose from the dive gone wrong, she spat out blood. But she didn’t give up. She climbed back up to the diving board, and went again: “It is scary. I’m not going to lie.” she says. “It’s 10 meters high and the water does hurt but you have to go back up right away. If not, you’re never going to get over it.” The Toronto Star

They push hard, but even as they do, they remain close. “If we have problems we can bounce ideas off each other and help each other. If one does well, we all want to do well. as stated by Ware in a FAB IV CBC interview.

This reminds me of six sprinters, the charismatic Bobbie Rosenfeld, Jean Thompson, Ethel Smith, Myrtle Cook, Ethel Catherwood, and Jane Bell, who were dubbed the Matchless Six. These members of the Canadian Olympic team became national heroes after their performance in 1928 as women were permitted to compete for the first time in Olympic games.

Here’s one story from Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame that reminds me of the Fab IV’s words about loving your teammate, even while they are your competitor:

“…Nineteen-twenty-eight marked the first year that track and field events were open to women at the Olympics, and Rosenfeld was a vital part of the “Matchless Six,” Canada’s first and most famous national women’s track team. She won a silver medal in the 100m race. In the 4 x 100m relay, Rosenfeld and her teammates claimed the gold medal in a record time of 48.2 seconds. Though she was not trained as a distance runner, Rosenfeld entered the 800m event in order to help Jean Thomson, a fellow Matchless Six member who was injured and ailing, make it through the race. As Thompson started to fade, Rosenfeld ran beside her, coaxing her to a remarkable fourth-place finish. Though she easily could have reached the podium herself, Bobbie claimed fifth place behind Thompson, a testament to her sportsmanship and unwavering team devotion. When asked about her amazing placing in an event she had not intended to enter, Rosenfeld brushed off her accomplishment and addressed officials in her usual joking manner, telling them that she only trained twice a week and kept her strength up with at least two pints of beer a day…”

There is something being done right when an athlete is trained to push so hard, and want it so much, and yet still loves those around them ardently. Humility is indeed a great virtue, and as it helps these women succeed with passion, so it can help us to succeed in ours.

 

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