Failure doesn’t mean time to stop being great

Kids fail.

Every day.

As do we adults.

The questions are rather simple, what do we do when we fail and how do we get over the fear of failure.

There are varying levels of failure – the kids who get 98 on a test have failed to get 100. Yet, it’s still an A.

Kids also fail to study for an exam and tend to fail that exam.

A PGA Tour player can shoot 68-68-67-65 and still fail to win. Yet, he gets a nice paycheck.

If I fail to slow down on the highway, I get a ticket – if caught. If I don’t get caught, have I failed to get a speeding ticket?

Read the Twitter timelines of a lot of college students and they are failing right now to get enough sleep on a regular basis.

Some of that is self-induced punishment because they are on their own for the first time in their lives, and staying up until 3 a.m. sounds rally cool, until you stop getting up for that 8 a.m. class and now have a huge hole to climb out of.

Some of that sleep deprivation is because college freshmen have a whole new level of studying that they are not accustomed to. You know, actual reading and note-taking. Those days of sliding through high school classes are over and 20-page papers can be due in multiple classes in any given week.

And, those college professors do not care whatsoever the amount of work you have in other classes.

So, when college students fail to manage their time correctly, the black hole of college life appears and those red-letter grades appear that aren’t nice to see.

I can’t count the multiple ways I have failed as a husband and a father.

And, I do so every day.

That doesn’t mean I stop.

By today’s standards, Lester Carney would have never been an Olympic athlete.

He won one race in high school.


That means he failed to win – a lot.

Carney ran track at Wintersville High school and did so because it was a requirement from the football coach (imagine that in today’s world).

“There was one kid I just couldn’t beat,” he said.

He didn’t quit.

He didn’t have someone in his ear making him quit – “Why do you keep running? You never win.”

That’s wasn’t happening in his house – unlike today’s world.

He kept running.

He kept getting in the blocks.

He kept working.

He kept failing.

I would bet Dwayne Bowe money that he never stepped into the blocks saying, “Not sure why I’m doing this cuz I’m going to lose again.”

Lester Carney was encouraged to keep running (a little different than one Forrest Gump).

He never let the fear of failure stop him.

Fearing to fail will paralyze you. It will overtake your thoughts and emotions to the point of just not caring and that is not a good way to live.

Carney has been inducted into the state of Ohio, Ohio University, Ohio Valley Athletic Conference and Summit County Halls of Fame.

Sounds to me like he didn’t quit.

He took all those failures and persevered.

“I had a coach who kept telling me I was good,” he said last week while in town to be honored as the Indian Creek Board of Education named the new track in his honor.

Carney won the silver medal in the 200 meters at the 1959 Pan-American Games.

Next came qualifying for the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.

There were 12 heats in the first round. The top two runners in each heat advanced, as well as the next four fastest runners. He qualified first in his heat at 21.1.

There were four second-round heats and the first three in each heat qualified for the semifinals. Carney was clocked in 20.9 to win his heat.

The top three in each of the two semifinal heats advanced to the final. Carney ran 21.1 to finish third in his heat. His time would have placed sixth in the other heat.

Seventy-four athletes from 54 nations entered the 200 in Rome in 1960. Sixty-two athletes from 47 nations eventually competed as Italy’s Livio Berruti became the first 200 Olympic champion not from the United States or Canada.

His 20.5 time tied the European World Record and nipped Carney by one-tenth of a second.

“I just missed beating him,” said Carney.

Any silver medal in his future if he focused on all the failures?

Sports is littered with failures.

Tony Gwynn is one of the best hitters in MLB history.

He had 10,232 plate appearances, 9,288 at-bats and 3,141 hits.

Gwynn failed to get a hit 6,147 times.

Didn’t stop him from going to the plate.

Michael Jordan took 26,315 shots and made 12,773, a shooting percentage of 48.5.

That means he missed more than half the shots he took, or, to be precise, 13,542.

Didn’t stop him from taking shots.

Nolan Ryan finished his 26-year career 324-292 with 5,714 strikeouts and 2,795 walks. He was a 20-game winner twice and threw seven no-hitters. He never won a Cy Young Award.

Didn’t stop him from going to the mound.

So, where does failure paralyze people – in the moment.

If a PGA Tour player misses a 4-foot putt on the fifth hole Thursday, no one really cares or even sees it.

Miss that same putt on the 72nd hole Sunday in front of the world and life is a little bit different.

Someone blows a save on June 4 and it’s just one game in 162.

Blow that same save down the stretch when your team is fighting for a playoff berth and life is a little bit different.

Miss a free throw early in the first quarter of the second game of the season and it’s just a missed free throw.

Miss the same free throw in overtime with your team down by 1 and no time on the clock and life is a little bit different.

Miss a volleyball serve when it’s 4-3 in Game 1 and no biggie.

Miss the same serve when it’s 13-13 in Game 5 with a chance to win a playoff game and life is a little bit different.

So, what’s the difference?

All of the situations are the same.

A 4-foot putt is a 4-foot putt.

A blown save is a blown save.

A missed free throw is a missed free throw.

A missed serve is a missed serve.

The situation doesn’t change, but the moment does.

The moment makes athletes do things differently.

The moment makes athletes go to a different place mentally.

The moment makes everyone in the stands sit on the edge of their seats.

The moment does things to people.

Sometimes the moment is too big for the athlete.

So, what do you do?

Professional golfers have routines in preparing for a shot, so if it’s Thursday on the fifth hole or Sunday on the 18th hole, the routine stays the same.

Athletes must embrace the situation, the challenge, the pressure.

Athletes must stop listening to mom and dad and step back and make the same volleyball serve they have done a million times in practice.

You see, some 350-ish volleyballs can fit into a volleyball court when sat side-by-side. So, how does one not get that one volleyball into a spat than can occupy about 350?

The process goes away and the outcome is first and foremost.

If the outcome is your thought process, and the process has gone away, failure is more likely.

If you study your behind off for a math test and go through all the steps in finding an answer, you cannot eliminate those steps during the test and expect to come up correct.

The process is imminent in the outcome.

It’s one thing to miss a serve because you missed a serve.

It’s another thing to miss a serve because you are afraid to make a mistke and miss the serve.

That is the outcome overriding the process.

Failing does not mean you can’t be great the next second, the next pitch, the next free throw, the next pass, the next test, the next homework assignment, the next putt, the next serve.

Greatness is still inside us all.

Don’t allow failure to quell that greatness.

Dear all local high school administration, athletic directors, principals, coaches and board of education members, when Bobbyjon Bauman comes knocking on your door looking to establish a Fellowship of Christian Athletes in your school, open the door, take the meeting and, please, do what he asks.

The FCA is there to make kids be better kids with core values of Integrity (Proverbs 11:3), Serving (John 13:1-17), Teamwork (Philippians 2:1-4) and Excellence (Colossians 3:23-24).

Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another (ESV).”

Kids need to sharpen kids and this is a great setting for that to happen. Kids can come together as athletes and realize how much they have in common outside of the sporting world. This will do nothing but enhance your school and the sports program.

This will help your kids find another avenue of responsibility.

This will help your kids challenge each other to be better in all facets of life.

Being around other FCA members will open their hearts to understanding how others live and how God wants all to live.

The FCA will teach another level of accountability, whether it is in the form of a team, a study group or doing chores at home.

It’s a place for kids to see that they are not alone, that other kids believe in the same things they do.

My favorite verse: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” – Philippians 2:3

The FCA will only enhance your students, your athletes, your school, your community – a blessing for all, you might say.

Don’t fail.

Can’t wait to see “Woodlawn.”

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at mmathison@heraldstaronline.com.)


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