Monday, March 15, 2010

A Learning Experience

Saturday was tough. But, then again, one would expect the Texas State Championship to be extremely competitive. First, congratulations are in order. Sydney received silver medals in both sparring and forms. Believe it or not, this qualifies Sydney for the US Junior Olympics in Orlando Florida at the end of June. Graham, however, had a tough day. He finished out of the medals in both forms and sparring. He will need to attempt to qualify at one of the 4 remaining national qualifiers if he has any hopes of competing in sparring at that level. The good news is that, even given his performance, he was guaranteed a spot to compete in forms at the US Junior Olympics.

So, Graham, what happened. Simply put. Graham was out of it. It started off poorly with Graham not paying attention. He was off in la-la land. They had to announce his name 4 or 5 times just to get him on the mat. That was not the way to start and that was at least one mark against him. He has won several gold medals in competitions with his form. He knows it and he has it down. His only problem truly seems to be that he turns his hips during his snap kicks causing his shoulders not to be square. In scoring, this is a small deduction but usually is not enough to cost him anything less than silver. Technically this was Graham's only physical mistake during competition on Saturday. Unfortunately, his lapse was mental and for some reason he decided to do his form at about a third of the speed he normally does. Graham usually has a great pace but this was excruciating to watch. It was this slow pace that put him out of the medals and into fourth place. Honestly, had he had his usual decent pace he would have finished with a silver medal but this was not to be his day.

Sydney's form was technically correct, however, her facial expression and overall demeanor was what cost her the gold medal. It was not that she was not polite and attentive. In her case she just looked like she was put off by the whole thing. It is hard to explain, but with every move came a facial expression that looked like a teenage girl that had just been told by her father that she had to where a longer skirt. Her head was cocked and she just didn't have her usual intensity. That is what cost her the medal. Had she been engaged and sharp she would have had a chance. Although, the gold medal winner was pretty impressive. It would have been close.

Sparring. What can I say about Graham? Technically, he got royally screwed by the parings. His would be the first match of the day and it was against the future gold medalist. The boy he fought was fierce. Some kids just have fight in them and this kid definitely fit that mold. He came after Graham with a ferocity that I don't think Graham had ever seen. The little boy dominated the first round leaving Graham several points behind. This fueled Graham and apparently woke him up because he came out in the second round ready to fight. Graham ultimately won the second round but unfortunately it was not enough to make up for the points he lost in the first round. He ended up losing 13 to 9.

Given the number of kids in Graham's division and the fact that they were running way behind they would ultimately change the format to single elimination. Given the way the brackets broke down this meant that Graham was done and all we could do was watch. The next bout included two kids that Graham had already beat in competitions before. In fact, one of the boys, the eventual silver medalist, Graham trounced in his last competition 13 to 2. That little boy won this match and made it to the Gold medal match but lost to the little boy that Graham fought 9 to 1. The third place finisher would lose 13 to 4 to the gold medalist. Because of the way the brackets broke down and because they switched to single elimination Graham would not get another chance. He was done for the day. It was especially frustrating to Graham who did not understand why and who also knew that he could easily beat everyone else that was competing. I know it sounds like sour grapes but when you are competing to qualify for the US Junior Olympics I think it is ridiculous that they have single eliminations. Oh well, next time we will have to hope for a better draw and a better first round.

Sydney's age division went on almost simultaneously to Grahams. In fact, I had to watch her ring from quite a distance. Ultimately, Sydney psyched her self out. Prior to her gold medal match I could already tell that she was worried about the other girl. She fought very smart as Sydney always does. She listened to her coach well and did everything asked. Her problem? As is often the case, Sydney simply was not aggressive enough. In the end she would throw about a quarter of the kicks that her opponent would and even thought they were well placed it was not enough to overcome the points generated from her opponent. For Sydney to win at this level she will need to become more fierce. She will need to be more aggressive. To be honest, I don't even know if she has that killer instinct. However, I think it is a good lesson for her to learn. She has the smarts and the technique. For her the battle is mental. This journey will be a great mental lesson for her. It is simple. If you think you can win - you can. You just have to believe in yourself. If you don't have the confidence - fake it.

In all, it was a somewhat disappointing day from the standpoint of the Dungan family medal count. However, it was a tremendous learning experience. In some ways, I must admit that I am happy that Graham lost. I know that sounds horrible but, in this day when all kids are winners, no one ever gets the privilege of learning from the agony of defeat. This is a good learning experience for Graham. It will motivate him. It will making him stronger. It will make him better. It will bring us closer. Yes, on this front, it was a very successful day. Sure, it would have been great to have the gold medal around his neck but, in growing a great little human being, I think this was a great success.

Can you tell? I am a big believer in failure.
"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
~ Michael Jordan
Like with purpose, our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.

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