Olympian grateful for experiencing failure as a young athlete
By Greg Bach
Christian Taylor, the two-time Olympic gold medalist in the triple jump and the reigning world champion, may not have ever reached the pinnacle of his sport without experiencing heartbreak as a teen athlete.
It’s an afternoon he’s never forgotten.
And one he’s thankful for encountering.
It’s why one of the world’s greatest athletes encourages all young athletes in all sports to fully appreciate both the great and the not-so-great results that accompany competing in sports. And for coaches and parents to help children find the value amid the disappointment – because there is so much that can be learned from losing.
Years ago Taylor was competing in the National Scholastic Indoor Track and Field Championships at the famed Armory in New York City as a 16-year-old.
“I was ranked No. 1 in the country and I was feeling on top of the world and I didn’t even make the finals,” Taylor says. “It was just not my day. It was very disheartening, but it ended up being one of the greatest things that ever happened to me. You learn a lot from your failures and I am grateful for that.”
Taylor learned a truckload of life lessons that afternoon, ones he has used to carve out an amazing career stuffed with world class performances, including winning gold medals at the past two Summer Olympic Games in Rio in 2016 and London in 2012.
“What I tell everybody is that I have the best job in the world because I’m getting paid to jump in a sandbox,” he says.
He also uses his status as one of track and field’s greatest ambassadors and most respected athletes to help youngsters understand that you’re not going to win all the time, or even come close to winning all the time. There are going to be lots of losses, assorted disappointments and countless struggles along the way.
But that’s what makes competing in sports so special.
And the journey life-changing.
“If you don’t enjoy the process I think you really miss out on the most important part,” Taylor says. “If you go from A to Z and you skip all those things in-between I think that’s what true growth is all about. It’s recognizing every stage of the process.”
A big part of embracing that process is learning that the journey is going to be rocky at times.
“The biggest thing is accepting that not every day is going to be a winning day,” he says. “You win some and you lose some. You know what you are working toward and that you’re not perfect, but you focus on having fun and regardless you know that you gave it your best and there’s room for improvement. I love what I do and when you truly do love that really nothing can take the wind out of your sails. We all want to win, but at the end of the day if you love what you do then it really doesn’t matter.”
“DO IT WITH ALL YOUR HEART”
Taylor played a variety of sports growing up and the message his parents delivered to him whenever he tried a new one was simple, yet powerful.
“My parents said that if you are going to do something to do it with all your heart,” Taylor says. “I wasn’t going to go out there and waste my time. I figured if I’m going to do something I might as well have fun with it and if I wasn’t having fun with it then I should stop.”
It’s the message he shares with children every chance he gets.
“Anytime I’m speaking to kids I tell them to just enjoy it,” he says. “Just enjoy yourself and see how far you can go while having fun. That’s what I think is really most important.”
Now those are golden words, for sure.
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