In the book The Mental A, B, Cs of Pitching by H.A Dorfman, one of the recurring themes is the power of positive, yet controlled thinking. What that means is that you don’t get ahead of yourself, and you keep things in perspective.
One game at a time becomes one inning at a time, one inning at a time becomes one out at a time, and you keep going down the chain until you get to the sport at its most basic form: One pitch at a time.
The mantra (a word that recurs quite often throughout the book) is meant to temper expectations and to show that, whatever happens before or after, you should be concerned with the here and now: That’s your biggest concern with the largest impact on the future.
And remember: You can't change the past.
It’s a good thought process to have, because so often we—not just athletes—get tied up in expectations and the hopes of exceeding them. Never quite happy with what we’ve got, we’ve got to keep going, keep jumping to that next ledge, and striving for improvement.
Not necessarily a bad attitude to have, so long as it’s tempered with guarded enthusiasm.
Unfortunately, the Vancouver 2010 Olympics weren’t approached with those kinds of expectations because of three simple words:
Own. The. Podium.
For Canada, the Olympics were supposed to be theirs in 2010. They were on Canadian soil at one of the most scenic locations there is. At world-renowned tracks, courses, and arenas, Canada was supposed to strut their stuff and push their athletes to levels they had never seen.
Canada was meant, or at least intended, to "Own the Podium".
The expectations were high and exceedingly dramatic. Failure simply wasn't an option.
Looking at the results, it’s easy to see that hasn’t happened. At the time of this writing, the United States (unsurprisingly I might add) leads all countries in the medal standings with 24. They’re tied with Germany for first in gold medals (seven), while the Germans are the closest to unseating the Americans, sitting just four back.
Third is held by Norway with 13 medals, while Canada is tied for fourth with South Korea, each holding just nine medals to their credit.
The Canadian Olympic Committee even admitted on Monday that Canada is “going to be short of our goal.” Not something that a country full of people intending success counted on hearing.
You can also bet that the C.O.C claiming they didn’t expect such strong showings from the United States, China, and South Korea went over about as well Canada’s Men’s Hockey loss on Sunday night.
Looking at the positives—while the medal count doesn’t show it—Canadian athletes have done fairly well for themselves.
Of course everyone knew Jenn Heil was going for the first gold medal on Canada soil, only to be outdone by American Hannah Kearney by almost a full point . There wasn’t a Canadian who wasn’t singing the praises of Alexandre Bilodeau when he took home his gold in Men's Moguls , while Marianne St-Gelais swiped a silver in the women’s 500m.
Oh, and that Kevin Martin guy is 8-0 in Men’s Curling . Not bad so far.
Along with that, Canada has logged more top-eight finishes than they did in Turin, six top-four finishes, and ten top-five. On a World stage, that’s impressive.
But it’s the negatives and drawbacks that everyone gets held up on.
Because of the high expectations, the Olympics for Canadian Athletes have turned out like Charlie Brown kicking a football: It doesn’t matter whether you get two, three, four, or five steps away from the football. The point is, you didn’t kick it.
Due to the “bold” predictions of our Olympic Committee, Canadian athletes are falling back towards Earth embarrassed, about to hit a harsh reality head-first. Much like our bald-headed friend in the yellow and black shirt, they can only hope that they’re met with words of encouragement and an opportunity to try again, rather than a raucous laugh and a disappointed public.
Charlie Brown wasn't so lucky. We determine if our athletes are.
Some feel that, because of these athletes being met with words of encouragement and a pat on the back, it shows a sign of weakness. That, in the United States, the world would stop if an athlete of theirs that was favored in a competition fell, didn’t finish, or failed to medal.
Is there validity in thinking like this? Sure there is. Why shouldn’t Canadians expect great things from their athletes and put that "Gold Standard" out there for them?
But we also shouldn’t lose what makes us great in the process. The fact that, win or lose we still consider our athletes to be our own, proud to see them compete—win or lose—against the World’s best.
Should three little words take that away? No. Not when four years of preparation went into a time where everything is anything but predictable.
Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer and NHL Community Leader for Bleacher Report. Following along on Twitter at http://twitter.com/BT_88 . Want more? Check out his archives and Hockey54.com—The Face of the Game!