I watched the recent Olympic Games in Sochi with more than just a passing interest. The hockey world is truly a small one. Having spent a dozen years coaching gifted females in the sport, I looked forward to watching players I had both coached and competed against. In particular I anxiously awaited the showdown between the Canadian and American teams who were clearly the class of the tournament. Despite what pundits might suggest, this matchup was too close to call with plenty of talent, courage and determination on both benches. It would be decided on the ice.
The eventual outcome, dramatic late rally by Team Canada and thrilling triumph in OT has been much discussed. Depending which side of the 49th parallel you reside upon, it was either one of the greatest comebacks or defeats in the sports short history. The media, which are drawn to drama like moths to your front porch light, seized upon the moment. I saw countless articles depicting the agony and ecstasy that unfolded. Some went so far as to suggest that the tears on the faces of the American players somehow called into question their character or fitness for the sport. Absurd. It lead me to wonder if these writers had ever competed passionately at anything in life?
I coached one of those teary eyed young American women for her entire collegiate career. Kacey Bellamy embodied much of what I spent a career trying to teach hundreds of other athletes. It would be impossible to summarize what she stood for in a few short paragraphs, but Kacey was the complete package. You could take Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success” or Lombardi’s ‘What It Takes To Be Number One” and check off one characteristic after another. Kacey had them, she believed in them and she lived them: Commitment, Leadership, Passion, Sacrifice, Teamwork, Discipline, Excellence.
Two things stood out about Kacey when she arrived on campus in the fall of 2005. She had big dreams and she believed in herself. Hardly uncommon for an elite division one college athlete you might say. What I discovered over the next four winters however was that Kacey had a enormous burning passion and will to be great. She was tireless, relentless, focused and determined. She knew where she wanted to go and had every intention of getting there. Just as remarkable, Kacey possessed more genuine humility than anyone I’d ever worked with. She had all the intangibles of a great leader and she worked at it every day.
By the time she graduated, Kacey was a star amongst stars in the college game. Her remarkable development thrust her into national team consideration and when given the opportunity to represent her country at the National Under 22’s in 2007 and 2008, she excelled. Her career as one of the elite defenders on Team USA was well established by the time she helped Team USA secure gold at the World Championships in 2008-2009. It was hard to fathom that the skinny kid that had arrived in Durham NH four years earlier was that women leading the USA to gold.
“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you’re doing the impossible.” Francis of Assisi
Kacey’s dream was to win gold at Sochi. Following the Vancouver Winter Olympics when Team USA watched Canada celebrate their gold medal victory on home turf, I’m sure that dream of rising to the top of the podium burned all the more brightly. Half of Team USA were veteran’s of the Vancouver games. You can bet each of them were fiercely determined to come out on top this time around. Is it really surprising that after making the enormous commitment of staying the course for an additional four years of intense training, that these same women might be emotional watching the gold medal slip through their hands?!?
Kacey is like many of her teammates: a champion. Coaches understand what separates these athletes from the pack. Muhammed Ali once said, “champions are made from something they have deep inside– a desire, a dream, a vision.”
I have no idea what road Kacey and her teammates will take now that the 2014 games are behind us. Some will likely retire from competitive play and enter into new ventures and pursuits. Four years is a long time and there is more to life than the pursuit of medals. It won’t matter what they decide, these women will make their mark on whatever organization or enterprise they choose. Even in defeat, they have shown remarkable class and dignity. Life is full of failure. The only difference is most of us don’t have those failures broadcast around the world.
What I witnessed on television following a heartbreaking loss, was simply pure emotion from some of the most talented women hockey players on the planet. Had the tables been reversed in OT, you can bet there would have been plenty of tears on the Canadian side. It’s sport, it’s passion and it’s why we are drawn to watch. So thank goodness they shed a tear. They cared. A lot. Thanks for the memories ladies. Thanks Kacey for sharing the ride.
26th President of the U.S. and
winner of 1906 Nobel Peace Prize
It is not the critic who counts; nor the one who points out how the strong person stumbled, or where the doer of a deed could have done better.
The credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who does actually strive to do deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, spends oneself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he or she fails, at least fails while daring greatly.
Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.