Hey kids,

You’re about to hear some incredible stories over the coming weeks as you watch athletes from all over the world compete. 

You’ll see athletes achieve a dream of winning a gold medal after a lifetime of hard work. You’ll hear about athletes who’ve come back from injury or hardship to finally make the medal stand.

You’ll see winners hugging their families. You’ll see parents showing their children their medals.

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These stories are always inspiring to watch and hear. They prove hard work matters. They show you can come back after hard times. They show many people can’t achieve their dreams on their own—how families play a big role in supporting the dream. And you’ll see some who HAD to do it on their own because they had so many who doubted them.

But I want you to pay attention to something else.

I want you to look at the runner at the back of the pack.

The swimmer in the far lane with no chance of catching up.

The gymnast who falls off the apparatus she was supposed to dominate.

The diver who falls one one-hundredth of a point short of the medal stand.

Watch them.

You may only see them briefly before the camera pans over the victors, but there’s an unseen story that holds a greater lesson for you, too.

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It’s the story of the grief in the locker room when no one is mentioning their name.

It’s the story of the hug with their families who share in their disappointment.

It’s the story of the years to come where they will use this loss to propel them to the medal podium four years later.

It’s the story of the person who sacrificed everything for a goal but still came up short.

Will they give up . . . or will they use it as motivation? Will they blame someone else . . . or will they own it?

Will they congratulate the winner . . . or walk off in anger?

Because, my love, part of your life will be those losses, too.

Your team will have the best week of practice and still go into a big game and fall short. You will make 15 out of 15 foul shots in the driveway and still miss the one you take when the game is on the line.

You will build the strongest resume and still watch someone else take the role you wanted. You will practice so hard for that spelling bee and still get stumped on that one word.

In the coming weeks, I know you will marvel at the athletes who stand on the tallest part of the podium. I hope they motivate you to be great and let you see that your dreams are possible.

But I hope you also think about the ones off-camera in the locker room going through their loss . . . and I hope you ask yourself how you will respond when life’s obstacles get in your way.

Brea Schmidt

Brea Schmidt is a writer, speaker and photographer who aims to generate authentic conversation about motherhood and daily life on her blog, The Thinking Branch. Through her work, she aims to empower people to overcome their fears and insecurities and live their truth. She and her husband raise their three children in Pittsburgh, PA.