It was a Sunday in May, 2014. I was competing in the finals of a local tournament against a girl I had fought and beaten before. The first 90 seconds of the fight were dominated by her. For some reason, I just couldn’t get any techniques to work. Whatever I threw at her, fell short. Whatever I tried, was countered successfully. Eventually, I scored a point but I was still 3-1 down. Four seconds to go and in very Monique fashion, I thought it would be a fabulous time to chuck in a spaghetti head kick. It was a bit of a classic manoeuvre on my behalf, usually done when I had put myself in a position that I would rather not be in. It landed perfectly and I was 4-3 up. I was pretty content and it left me feeling quite happy with myself.
One second to go and a punch flies past my head.
It came down to the referee’s decision.
Of the hundreds of fights I’ve had, that one specific fight has stuck with me like no other. Being so close, yet so far. It’s a feeling that many athletes resonate with and as bad as it is, I think every athlete should have to go through it for their own benefit. There’s something almost torturous and cruel about having to work your butt off for something, come so close to finally getting to where you want to be and yet, in a split second, it gets taken away from you. Whether it be unlucky or via your own mistake, it’s unfair. That’s for sure.
It’s most certainly a test of character. It’s a lesson that teaches you resilience, strength and humility. From that fight, I began looking at my losses as lessons. Not that I didn’t before, but I did so more consciously and applied it in every area of my life.
It seems weird that of all the state, national and international fights that I’ve had, it was to be a local one that has taught me the most. Of course, a combination of all my past losses has built me up into the person I am, but this one was the icing on the cake. I think it was the mixture of having not won a tournament in over a year, being riddled with injuries and thinking a few seconds too far ahead that made it as painful as it was. I was so close, yet again, so far and honestly, it was frustrating.
I learnt a lot about myself though and I use the memory of that fight as a reminder.
Firstly, it reminds me to not see a loss as something negative. Instead of wallowing in my sorrows, trying to make excuses and almost giving up thinking there wasn’t much point in continuing, I look at what I did right and what I did wrong. I think of what I can do to prevent the same mistakes. Usually, the more painful the mistake, the more likely you won’t repeat it again. Well, the key word being ‘usually’. It could take you a couple of times to get that part sorted. Instead of thinking, “ugh, why?” I think “okay, now where do I start? What do I do? How do I fix this? What do I need to fix up?”. It’s taught me that I have the potential to go all the way, but it reminds me that I’m still susceptible to mistakes.
Secondly, it was an incredible test of character. It most certainly tested my resilience and my ability to learn from my mistakes. I could have easily just given a million excuses for why I lost. The punch wasn’t even a score- it went straight past my head. I stepped out of the ring so the fight should have been stopped. She threw no clean punches. I could go on, but I won’t. What’s the point of excuses? Yeah sure, they provide a bit of solace for a while but at the end of the day, a loss is a loss. You didn’t win. You will forever have come second in that moment. The test of character comes when you decide whether you want to be that person that will just complain about why they lost without admitting their mistakes, or whether you want to grow from the experience.
When you’re in a high stakes environment, it’s essential that you learn how to deal with losing. Are you going to just whinge and complain? Or are you going to continue working towards your goal, ensuring you don’t make the same mistakes again? Are you going to stay negative, or are you going to tackle it with open arms, excited to be able to learn something and be a step closer towards your goal? It’s your choice. It’s up to you whether you’re just going to leave your loss as a loss, or whether you’re going to turn it into a lesson.
That’s all on you.