The results of the men’s 400 IM in the 2012 Olympic games were not what Michael Phelps' had hoped for. He finished fourth, which American cyclist Taylor Phinney described earlier in the day as "the worst place you can imagine at the Olympic Games." Phelps' teammate and rival, Ryan Lochte, took home the gold. Phelps' loss presents four lessons for tweens, and the rest of us.
1. You can’t always win.
Even if you’re Michael Phelps, you don’t always end up on the podium. He finished 4th, meaning no medal, and his teammate Ryan Lochte won the gold medal.
In this age of getting a trophy for just showing up, I think that by the time kids are tweens, they need to face the reality that it is mathematically impossible for everyone to be #1.
2. Don’t dwell on the negative.
Now that we’ve established that life has some downs, you need to know how to handle the inevitable loss. After losing, Phelps said, "I just want to put this race behind me and move on.” He also tweeted, "Tom. is a news day!" Sometimes, that’s all you can do. It’s worth finding and learning the lessons in your loss, figuring out how you can do better, and moving on. I’m anxious to see how Phelps performs in his remaining races, and hoping that he can show my tween that one bad result is not the end of the world.
3. Start as you intend to finish.
I worry that my tween sometimes thinks that finishing strong is all that matters, and she’s happy to excuse poor performance as long as she produce results at the last second. After his race, Phelps said, “I had a chance to put myself in a good spot to start off, and I didn't do it.” He did himself no favors by posting the last qualifying time, meaning his lane assignment wasn’t ideal for the finals. Then he had a rough start in the finals. It’s much easier to finish strong when you start strong.
4. Be a good sport.
Following the race, Michael Phelps tweeted, "Congrats to @ryanlochte ... Way to keep that title in the country where it belongs!! " That couldn't have been easy, but it was important. Phelps showed sportsmanship and teamwork in defeat. It is so hard for my tween to understand, but it is true that what kind of person she is matters far more to me than results of a competition.