I enjoyed watching the Summer Olympics more this year than I have in the past. Maybe it was because I had a greater need to see the positivity, passion, and sportsmanship displayed throughout the games this year. There were so many examples of courage, teamwork and personal integrity that I turned off the television at night feeling inspired; remembering how much good ripples out to the world when we step into our bigness and encourage others to do the same.
One of the moments that struck me the most this year occurred while watching the U.S. Men’s Gymnastics team. After qualifying in first place at the team finals, they were hoping for a bronze medal or better, however it was not meant to be, and the team struggled during the team performances. It was difficult to watch the slips and falls that occurred that night, but I was struck by their support and encouragement of one another, and the sense of team they continued to display throughout each performance mishap.
At one point, when John Orozco’s performance on the pommel horse ended with a very disappointing score of 12.733, he returned to the sidelines, head hung low, trying to maintain his composure. His teammates walked up to him and patted him on the back reassuringly. One team member could be heard saying, “Don’t worry John, I got you. I got you.” Then he was off to do his best to carry the team forward.
The words stayed with me, perhaps because I was so not expecting them. How easy it would be–when all you have been practicing and sacrificing for is within reach, and your teammates are not performing up to their usual standard–to be annoyed, to blame or let them know they let you down. “Don’t worry, I got you.” Five little words with the power to do so much good; to take someone from isolation and despair back to a team of support and respect.
The U.S. Men’s Gymnastics team came in 5th place that night; no medals, no excuses. Danell Leyva later stated, “It would be easy to mope and be depressed but what we’re about is getting back up and fighting harder. We had an off day, but we never lost our spirit.” They never lost sight of each other either. They had each other’s backs throughout the team event, and cheered each other on in the individual events to come. When Leyva won the bronze medal in the Men’s All-Around competition, John Orozco was heard saying, “I’m so proud of him.”
I am always in awe of the physical strength and skill the Olympic athletes bring to their respective sports, but their actions outside of the events can be even more inspiring. Words are powerful. How we respond to one another during the challenging times and life’s disappointments can make or break our success as a team; whether in our personal or professional lives.
The U. S. Men’s Gymnastics team did not have their best day at the Olympics this year, but I think their commitment to one another and personal integrity was golden.
About the blogger
Denise Hellekson provides EAP counseling, training, consulting, and crisis response services for The Village Business Institute. She has a master’s degree in Community and Rehabilitation Counseling from St. Cloud State University; and is a Licensed Independent Social Worker and a Qualified Neutral under Rule 114 of the Minnesota General Rules of Practice (Mediator). Hellekson has many years of experience in counseling, advocacy, and consulting services.