12 Tips on Overcoming Heartbreak from Athletes Akiba McKinney, MacKenzie Hill, and Ann Gaffigan

6 years ago

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Akiba McKinney: Overcoming the Heartbreak of an Injury

As a child, Akiba McKinney remembers her step-grandfather betting his neighbors that his step-granddaughter could beat their grandson. Akiba would line up with the boys in the street, race them and win. Her step-grandfather would say, “I told you so!” and reward Akiba with a dollar bill. Now, she is a professional track & field athlete (and two-time national champ in the long jump) and still occasionally dabbles in racing grown men who think they can beat her!

Understand and accept. Understand that when you’re an athlete at any level, injuries come with the territory -- many of which may require surgery and extensive, sometimes painful rehabilitation! Injuries always seem to happen at the most inappropriate time (if there is ever an appropriate time). But a lack of understanding may cause one to make the decision to end their career prematurely or go through a bout of depression, self-pity or other forms of negative behavior. Find the good! Stay positive! Be inspired!
Listen to your body. Athletes have the unique gift of body awareness, but tend to be the most hardheaded when it comes to listening to their bodies! We get so wrapped up in trying to please pushy passive-aggressive coaches, agents, and sponsors, who at times treat athletes as machines. We then begin to believe we are machines and ignore that voice in our head that screams, “STOP," “REST MORE” or “SOMETHING IS WRONG." This is when injuries occur! LISTEN!
Have patience -- another thing most athletes lack. It is only after an injury that we learn the gift of patience! Ok, I’m lying -- it is only after an injury, and then a setback from pushing it a bit too much during rehabilitation, when we learn the beauty of patience. We then understand the bigger picture. Don’t learn the hard way -- be patient from the get-go!
Have fun. Once you are no longer having fun, it’s time for you to either move on or rediscover your passion. Be sure to surround yourself with the people who have your best interest at heart. After all, this is your life, your career, and your body.

MacKenzie Hill: Overcoming the Heartbreak of the Death of a Loved One

MacKenzie Hill was a high school superstar, setting records and winning championships in track & field on a state and national level. She went on to compete for the UCLA Bruins but did not seem to fit well with the program and was hampered by injuries. She moved away from California to get back on track. In 2008, her best friend and cousin Mickey died unexpectedly. Twelve days later, MacKenzie’s great aunt passed. In the midst of it all, MacKenzie suffered a seizure. Now, she has returned to California and is on a comeback to try to make the 2012 Olympics in the 400m hurdles.

Accept what has happened with humility and grace. Understand that, as humans, the only thing we can really control is how we respond to the things that happen in our lives. Only then will you truly start your healing process.
Find joy in the memory of the times that you shared with your loved one, because it is through the gift of remembrance that you can keep them with you always.
Look for the new, almost indescribable spiritual connection to your loved one that will emerge if you are open to it and allow it to happen.
Most of all, find the positive in your situation -- the fact that you were allowed to spend time, however limited with someone you loved and who loved you… and run with it! To this day, I see my cousin in my dreams, feel her touch when I run around the track, hear her voice when I am thinking of things, and hear her laugh when I think funny thoughts. I still have new experiences that I share with her. I hope these tips can help others deal with heartbreak however it shows up in their lives.

Ann Gaffigan: Overcoming the Heartbreak of Failure

Ann Gaffigan won the steeplechase at the 2004 Olympic Trials, setting a then-American record. Since the steeplechase was not yet an Olympic event for women, she had to wait until 2008 for a chance to make the Olympic team. She did not perform as well as she did in 2004, placing tenth, and way behind the women who qualified to represent Team USA. Because of this experience, she has become an advocate for women’s sports, co-founding WomenTalkSports.com in February 2009.

Feel sorry for yourself for a limited amount of time. Give yourself a day or a week to cry, complain and pout -- and then once that time period is up, knock it off!
Don’t let your failure beat you down. Rise above. Consider your failure a challenge and not a defeat. Face what happened and figure out how you can use it as fuel for your fire…and then blaze on!
Learn from the situation. The best lessons come out of a disappointing experience, not a positive one. Overcoming adversity helps build confidence, so get to work on overcoming it!
Help others in similar situations. One of the best ways to cope with failure is to help others who have had similar experiences. Talk to them, connect them with people that can help, be an advocate and a leader in something you’re passionate about. Take what you’ve learned and use it to change the world.


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