Mastery Does Not Mean Perfection

As is the case every 4 years, I have been all about watching track and field at the Olympic games. This year has been more than ever because I finally discovered the online stream which allows me to watch the events without the waiting around.

What amazes me about track and field is the amount of pressure is on each athlete at their specific moment. Years, and in some cases, lifetimes, of practice coming down to a race that lasts as little as 10 seconds. And after all of that practice, one small error can make the difference between earning a medal or finishing in last place.

The hurdles have been very interesting to watch this year. What has been amazing is the amount of athletes that have clipped a hurdle and subsequently eliminated their chances for a medal. This is noticeable because these runner are the absolute best hurdlers in the entire world. They have spend countless hours training on speed, strength and technique.

Yet, with just one error, their goal for an Olympic medal is derailed. They have gone over thousands of hurdles in their training. How do they hit one at this point?

Just like any other skill, mastery does not equal perfection. It always boggles me how frustrated some of my players can get because they miss a few shots during a practice session. I was able to observe LeBron James workout a couple years ago and I saw the guy miss 8 shots in a row. And he’s one of the best players in the world!

Just like an Olympic hurdler who hits one and falls in the biggest moment of their athletic life, it’s guaranteed that we will fail in crucial moments. What’s important is the perspective we have. Here are three things to consider after experiencing something you consider to be failure in a big moment:

  • Did I prepare the best I could?

  • Was there anything within my control that I could have done differently during the moment?

  • Can I prepare in a more efficient way knowing what I know now?

Professional hurdlers practice for 1 event. Yet, in the biggest race at the highest profile meet of their career, some will still make a mistake that seems to be what we would consider an easy task. Basketball is a game that requires multiple skills. So it is even more expected that athletes will experience numerous failures and setbacks. Don’t let them distract you from what’s important: the process.


Matt Espinoza

A basketball coach with an interest in visual arts. Living to share the love of Jesus with my words, actions, and service.