During the last weekend of February, my daughter competed in the Taekwondo US Open Championship.

It was a big deal for her. With the Coronavirus only just coming into the spotlight, we were more concerned with the training and preparation that goes into a competition than we were about contracting a flu virus.

It was her first time as a Junior and her first time being allowed to compete at a major tournament. Her goal was to be competitive and to make the first round cut. If she could do that, she reasoned, she would be in a good position for the rest of her rookie season as a junior.

In case you are not familiar with this sport, WTF (World Taekwondo Federation) Poomsae competitions are fierce. Not only do the athletes have to execute an exact set of movements with speed, power and precision, they also have to execute the form with strength, focus and style.

Poomsae competitors can take a lot of flak in certain martial arts circles for what some consider a “dance” competition. They believe that martial arts are just about fighting and sparring. However, forms were originally created as training exercises to develop fighting skills at a faster rate. 

Disrespect of that nature has no place in sport, but more than that, those who criticize would be hesistant to meet one of these “dancers” in an alleyway challenge. I say if you want to criticize the sport, try to compete at that level and see how you rate. Perhaps, then, you will have gained a newfound awareness and respect for Sport Poomsae competitors.  But I digress.

As Day 1 dawned, my girl showed up ready to compete.  As it goes with competitions, there were some delays, confusion and arguing among the judges and the coaches about the rules of the tournament, and so, her division started later than planned. The general focus was only partially on the competition, because some of the athletes were unsure whether they would get to compete at all.

In this uncertain environment, she prepared, ready to do her coach and herself proud. However, right at the start, she made an error that kept her from advancing to the second round.

Instead of placing her focus on a mistake free poomsae, she allowed her mind to question how she could have messed up the performance order? (She thought she was number 26 rather than number 21, hence, she was in the practice ring when they called her up to perform.) That mixup threw off her focus – just for a second – and that error, kept her from making the cut. Ouch!

Have you ever done that? Worked really hard for something important, and then, one little confusing moment caused you to miss your goal? Well, me, too. As you can imagine, falling short of a goal due to a preventable mistake caused her a lot of embarrassment, tears, and frustation. What could she do now? Some would say, “Give up and go home. You choked. You can’t compete at that level.” Has someone said something similar to you?

Well, what she did do is get determined. She got up, refocused and tried again.

Day 2 of the competition was full of surprises. First, my daughter and her team delivered a strong performance that got them into the second round of this major competition! She had made her goal! It just didn’t happen in the way that she had expected.

It doesn’t matter how you start it’s how you finish!

However, during her preparation for her team performance, she started to have trouble breathing. We headed over to the medic area for help. As her mother, I was now worried that she may have contracted the virus on the plane or in line to register. So I was relieved that the EMT’s were knowledgeable and calming. She didn’t have a temperature; however, her oxygen level was at 94% – borderline normal. The consensus was that she may be coming down with something, so getting her checked out was a good idea. All was good to go for she had been cleared to compete.

After the competition, we headed back to the hotel to let her rest and planned to take her to a clinic first thing in the morning. Between the time we got back and the next morning, her health took a major turn for the worse. Not only did she have a fever of 102.9 and was vomiting, she was unable to respond to direction. For example, I would tell her to open her mouth and she would play with the zipper on my top.

The urgent care clinic told us to go to the ER and that’s where we headed. By the time we got there, however, she was able to understand and follow directions thank you, Gatorade. The doctor believed that dehydration combined with the fever could have made her delirious and cause those temporary symptoms.

By now I had a choice. I could look to blame the airline, the sporting events, the competitors … really anyone we came in contact with or I could focus on taking the steps necessary to handle this emergency with grace and putting in motion preventative measures to keep us all safe.

It turned out that she had strep throat and flu type A. Fluid, rest, antibiotics were the recommended treatment. We weren’t allowed to travel home until her temperature was below 99 and she had been on antibiotics for at least 48 hours.

Whew. I felt we had dodged a major bullet, because things could have turned out a lot worse. The flu is contagious and dangerous whether it is type A or the Cornovirus. Could this experience have been prevented? The short answer is yes. But without experience and foresight, it would have been difficult to prevent something like this from happening. That is why we are so thankful for the protocols that are in place right now.

The first week we were back home, an impatient student passed me on a two lane road around our local college, and when she merged back into my lane to avoid oncoming traffic, SHE HIT ME! I didn’t even see or hear her car until it was too late. She was driving one of those SBD (silent but deadly) cars. What’s going on here? First it was the tournament, then it was the ER scare, then it was having to pay extra money and now some girl hit my car while I am minding my own business! What gives?

Now, I could have “stacked” all of these challenging events and asked something like, “Why is this always happening to me?

Instead, I exercised a lot of self control and discipline to focus on what worked, what I could have done better, and how to take back control of my mindset and the quality of my life.

Lessons Learned

  1. If you make a mistake, correct the cause of the mistake. In this case, the source of the mistake was not in the performance, per se, as it was in her focus.
  2. Give yourself the experience you want to have. By retaking control of her focus, she retook control of her outcome. She wanted to deliver a mistake free poomsae and she did. That, then, translated to pride.
  3. When your child is sick, act immediately. Had I took her directly to the doctor’s after she had competed instead of letting her rest at the hotel, we might have prevented her symptoms from getting worse.
  4. Engaging in blame or self pity doesn’t change the facts on the ground nor does it help the situation. You and I are in control of what we choose to focus on. We are responsible for our emotional experiences.

As I write this, we are under a “Shelter at Home” ordinance for the next three weeks due to concerns about the spread of the Coronavirus. My hope is that this post will give you some additional persepective and serve as inspiration to help you keep going after what brings you joy and happiness in your life even in the most challenging times.

You can read more about resilience and focus in these two posts: How to Bounce Back Fast and How to Get Results and Not Quit

As always, if you need help or have a question, please reach out.

Thanks for reading!

Until next time, make the most out of the time you have!!

With love and respect,