Seventeen year old Meghan Vogel was in last place in the 3,200 meter run when she caught up to Arden McMath. Arden’s body had been overwhelmed by was fatigue, and she was in obvious distress. Instead of running past her to avoid the last place finish, Vogel took her competitor’s arm around her shoulders, carried Arden 30 meters, and then pushed her over the finish line before crossing it.
As a national team coach for many years, I observed two characteristics identifying outstanding team leadership:
1. how you MANAGE when you are about to lose, and after you have lost;
2. how you BEHAVE when you are about to win, and after you have won.
The physical disciplines, whether the intentionally character-developing approaches such as martial arts, qigong and yoga, or those which do not intend it overtly such as sports, dance and fitness, give us an opportunity to observe how we manage and behave under extreme stress, fatigue, exhaustion, failure, as well as pain, sickness and injury; And then offer us the chance to be greater than we once were - not merely in physical growth - but also in how we adapt and grow as a person: in morale not merely muscle, in character not merely competition.
Seem people say that you can judge a person by how she behaves toward someone who can do nothing for her. So, many would look at Vogel’s behavior and applaud it. Rightly so!
However, Arden’s perseverance inspired Vogel so greatly that her struggle gave Vogel the opportunity to sacrifice greater competitive success in order to behave with compassionate honor. Though we initially could read the story above and look at the photo and be moved by Vogel’s magnanimity, Arden remains the unsung heroine here as well, for her indefatigable toughness to resist quitting despite her distress; which thereby allowed us all to experience the royalty of Vogel’s rising character.
We can lose many things in life, but even though unvictorious, we can still triumph by how we manage our losses, by the nobility of our determination and commitment, and as a result of our moral grit, give everyone an opportunity for greatness.