Unraveling Underprepared-ness

The athlete forever craves the fruit of their labour (the British in me will forever spell with -our). The planted seed of ambition is watered with 10,000 hours of carefully orchestrated practice. What say then of the athlete who spends these countless hours watering what should become a  tree of success, only to be situated in a place with no sunshine? Is fault cast conveniently on nature’s way? Or could the individual have done better?

Historic Hayward field on the eve of June 8 was watered plenty. The clouds huddled in the multitudes and an endless downpour welcomed myself and 23 other ‘prepared’ competitors to the throwing field. I myself have trained numerous times in conditions as dire as it was. Had this been any of my competitive years prior my mindset would definitely have fallen in the defeatist category. But it mattered little on the day – for I was prepared…

Shortly after having established an early lead, I found myself in second place. As the scoreboard displayed a 60m throw from the competitor before me, I felt a warming confidence empower me upon entering the circle for my responding throw. 60m by this point had become a formality, albeit never in debilitating conditions, and I knew I was going to respond. Despite catching a great throw and knowing I’d responded immediately with a 60m throw of my own, I still managed somehow to clip the rim of the circle – signaling a foul attempt. It mattered not, I had three more attempts to take my lead back and win myself a national title.

Greg Thompson, Maryland Track and Field

Fast forward to the media tent, where the top 8 finishing athletes are greeted with flashes and enthusiastic reporters. I smile as I hear “second in the men’s discus final…”. What could possibly have gone wrong? Nobody threw any further than the early lead in the latter half of the competition – unfortunately myself included. It was a bloody consistent performance, and I truly felt that if anybody had a strong chance to take the win it was I. So why am I now walking to the podium with a silver trophy in hand? Why is knowing that I have secured the Terps’ highest place finish since 2006 still not enough to remove the sour taste of the fruit that my tree bore?

The reality is that no matter how well I had prepared, I was still underprepared to successfully overcome the challenge presented. But could it not suggest that I was in fact prepared, but simply failed to execute when it mattered due to hard luck or brief carelessness? If that is the case does it not follow that I was underprepared to execute? The harsh fact is that of all 10,000 hours plugged in, a throw takes all but 1 second. And it is within this 1 second that all the hard work should be reflected and called upon. This is the nature of my sport, and I know it all too well to accept failing to meet the mark.

It is hard for family, friends and other interested parties to comprehend my mood amidst a silver place finish in a competition of which I was ranked fifth. As I have heard on many an occasion, I am too hard on myself, and I should spend more time being positive about my achievements. Aggrieved as I am, I do not discredit the magnitude of my performance for the University of Maryland track and field program, and I will be humbled to set the wheels in motion for what should hopefully foster a wave of first-team All-Americans in the near future. I did perform relatively well, all things considered. That being said, my ambitions are (I believe) realistically set towards doing nothing less than executing a crisp technical performance when it is expected – which should see me in champion position. There was something I had not prepared myself to do correctly that day. The beauty and the curse of my passion is to unravel my unprepared-ness, and mitigate my inability to overcome any obstacle that is out of my control, whilst also being in control of my controllables.

I eagerly await my senior year…

Thank you

If you have made it this far, thank you very much for your attention. This means the absolute world to us. We hope that you enjoyed this story from Greg Thompson and if you did, please share it with someone that could also enjoy it.

Also, thank you to the Maryland Terrapins for allowing us to use their pictures.