Youth Motivation: Learning to Lose
At what age did you learn how to lose?
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A young kid steps up to a barbell, just 12 years old they have no idea what to expect, their parents forced them to come to do something physical because they only ever played one sport throughout school. The look on their face is completely foreign. Not only have they never touched a barbell, they also never endured any semblance of physical discomfort. The workout ensues, 40 minutes later, the child is closing in on shedding tears, not sure how to handle the feeling in their muscles. Five years later, that child becomes the youngest female weightlifter to clean and jerk double bodyweight in the history of the United States. What happened?!?!
Learn to Lose
There is one key that the weight room teaches every single youth athlete. They learn how to lose. They learn the importance of losing, they learn the struggle of losing and they learn the motivations behind losing.
This creates a fight inside children, a yearning to continue to grow and conquer the challenge that is the barbell, that is the dumbbell, that is the physical challenge that they face when inside the walls of a weight room.
These lessons teach the most valuable lesson a child can learn. The result doesn’t matter (in most cases). The FIGHT is what matters. The struggle to improve and progress is what matters.
For six months, I had my mindset entirely focused on bench pressing 300lbs. I was in tenth grade, I played three sports and all I could focus on was bench pressing 300lbs. Four times a week I would head into the weight room, I would smash weights and two of those days I would focus on improving my bench press.
I would organize my programming, I would focus on my goals for the day to improve my bench press and I would calculate my lifts according to what I believed would get me to my goal.
Bring it On Home
Finally, the day came to break the 300lb barrier. I will never forget it, I had chalked up my hands, put on my favorite Led Zeppelin song so that the beat would drop just as I was taking the bar out of the rack. I put my hands on the bar, the spotter gave me a pick and the bar lowered to my chest.
It didn’t budge. I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t know what to do. I had benched 285lbs prior to this attempt but 300lbs felt like 400lbs! I was furious but internalized all of my energy. I went home, told my Dad what happened and his response was epic.
“Welp, just get back out and train and you will hit it soon.”
That moment still sits deeply with me. I asked my older brother if he would go out and train in the Garage with me, we went outside and got back to work, blaring 90’s rock and just getting tons of volume on the incline bench.
Two weeks later, I was back at square one and smashed my goal of 300lbs. It felt so good, like there wasn’t any weight on the bar. My next attempt? THREE PLATES! SMASHED!
I felt invincible. But as I reflect back on those moments, it wasn’t my result that made me feel so strong. Instead, it was my ability to learn how to lose.
The Fight is the Reward
The 300lbs barrier and 315lb barrier were broken when I was 16 years old but it wasn’t the barrier that mattered. It was the fight.
It was the lesson of, “Welp, just get back out and train and you will hit it soon.”
It was work. That is what separates the best athletes, the young athletes that learn that you must lose and make progress from those losses, those are the athletes that develop into champions.
Hayley Reichardt didn’t become a phenom weightlifter because she wanted to clean and jerk double bodyweight. She became a phenom weightlifter because she was engrossed in working. She lives for the struggle. Hayley gets work done, every single day without truly even thinking about the result.
The result is not a reward. The reward is the internal growth, the development of structured life, of a habitual existence that is physically demanding and mentally difficult. That is the reward.
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