Today my high school is hosting its biggest track meet of the year, the Hornell Invitational. When I was in school is was much larger than it is now. Every time I walk out on the track I see it for what it used to be. Schools from all over came to run on what used to be the fastest track around.
I was a high jumper, I say that with a laugh because I am shorter than your average high jumper. This fact was pointed out to me at the Invitational my senior year by an opposing coach. His exact words were ” you’re awful short to be a high jumper.” At this point of the competition there were only three jumpers left, I am sure he was trying to psych me out. Let me tell you, the eight words he said had every impact he wanted. I missed at that height and his athlete got second.
Not only did those words throw me off-balance for that meet, but for the rest of the season and into college. When I started college I had not planned on continuing in athletics, but I am thankful I did. I will never forget one of the first few weeks of my freshman year sitting in the office of the my future coach while he convinced me to join the team. How could I have known then he would help me prove to myself that I was not too short to jump high.
My first track meet in college did not go much better than my last few in high school, but I did not give up and for some reason neither did my coach. By the end of my first indoor season I was stronger and more constant than ever. At the end of the season I got second place at the NCCAA track meet earning my first of three All Americans. I was still “awfully short to be a high jumper”, but somehow the sting of those words was lost. Many times in meets I was looked down on (literally) by other jumpers, than they saw me fly.
Words are dangerous things, we often take their meaning for granted and forget how others will interpret them. That coach did not say anything I did not already know, but hearing it said out loud and in that way was painful. On this end of the story I can say with pride “I was awfully short to be a high jumper” because now I can add to the end “but look at all I did inspite of it”.
Tomorrow will be a little bit easier and I will become a stronger me everyday.