The Motivation of the Near Win

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My daughter, 11, is a synchronized swimmer.  She also, recently, has become deeply interested in archery (along with most females her age who have read The Hunger Games).  So, it was providential when I ran across this video this weekend right after our Regional Synchronized Swimming Meet.

Last year, one of the routines my daughter worked on the hardest on was her solo. She received a lot of encouragement from several coaches that gave us hope that she would be a true contender in that event.  So, when she made 4th place (meaning that she did not qualify for Nationals), the news was tough to take.

This year, freshly invigorated, she made another attempt at the solo competition.

If you are not familiar with synchronized swimming, you might be surprised at the athleticism required for this sport.  An article in Popular Science states, “According the USOC, the synchronized swimming team practices more than any other sport. Between eight and ten hours a day, six days a week.”

Of course, my daughter does not practice that much, but dedicates at least 10 hours a week to synchronized swimming – a kind of perseverance that consistently astounds me.

This year, even more time was spent on extra preparation.  After all of my recent preaching about mindset and working harder, I couldn’t help but wonder if another disappointment might make me relapse into that fixed mindset of despair that we have any control over our own fates.

As I watched my daughter perform her solo, my heart soared at the smile on her face and the obvious enjoyment she felt.  Other parents in the stands commented on how fun it was to watch.  Several people confided that they were certain she had won.

When the results were posted, my heart sank.  She hadn’t won.

She got 2nd place.

Even harder to swallow, her duet got 5th place.

On the way home, I asked how she felt about everything.  2nd place in Solo, which qualifies her for Nationals, and was a vast improvement over the 4th place from last year, made her happy.  5th place in Duet upset her deeply.

And yet, “Oh, we’re already working on what we want to do next year,” she shared about the plans she and her duet partner have been making. “Yes, I want extra practice,” she agreed regarding her solo that isn’t quite good enough – yet.  No tears, just a weary sigh and new resolve.

My daughter never ceases to inspire me.  As I watched her line dancing with some of her teammates last night at a get-together for the competitors (I would have chopped off both my legs when I was her age rather than dance in front of complete strangers), I realized that I certainly haven’t mastered this job of being a mom, but the “near wins” have galvanized me to want to try.  As Sarah Lewis states in the video below, “Mastery is in the reaching, not the arriving. It’s in constantly wanting to close that gap between where you are and where you want to be.” 

In synchronized swimming, in parenting, and in teaching, the “near wins” are what motivate us to do better, to have hope that we can make a positive difference with the right amount of effort.

Watch the video below to see Sarah Lewis describe what it means to “Embrace The Near Win.”

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2 thoughts on “The Motivation of the Near Win”

  1. Kudos to your daughter with the way she handled her competition. I admire her commitment-at that age I don’t think I cared about anything with that kind of passion. Certainly the synchronized routines my sister and I used to choreograph at the public pool hardly compare! 🙂

    I love the part of the video where she talks about Duke Ellington and his favorite song always being his next one. When she talks about success and not necessarily mastery it makes me think of how we teach in early childhood. We have many successes in skills like phonics and addition, but they have not yet mastered those skills and probably won’t for a while! Thank you for sharing! 🙂

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