Guest Post by Sarah from SarahCeliac.blogspot.com
I am not an athlete, so I really can’t speak to what athletes go through in the years, months and weeks leading up to the Olympic Trials. I am married to an athlete, however, so I can, from my perspective, answer some of the questions and speak to some of the misconceptions people have about aspiring Olympic athletes.
One of the biggest misconceptions people have about aspiring Olympic athletes is that they are all like Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. Your “average” Olympic athlete (oxymoron, isn’t it?) isn’t a household name, doesn’t star in television commercials or have large corporate sponsors, and doesn’t get to train full time because they are working one or more jobs to pay for their training and vigorous travel schedules. Some athletes spend more money on their sport than they make by doing it. Many sports require extensive coaching, expensive equipment and lots of travel that all usually come with a hefty price tag.
For those athletes who have to work and train, this means even more time away from other things that might also matter. Athletes get up early and train late and are accustomed to missing out on family dinners or date nights. Travel to competitions means sometimes missing weddings, birthdays, and anniversaries of those they care about most.
Travel for athletes isn’t a relaxing vacation— it’s work. There is rarely time for site-seeing or fun activities. Athletes spend much time in airports, airplanes, buses, and cars to get to competitions all over the world. They stay in hotels and rooms with other athletes and most of the time leave friends and family back home. They might be alone or with a team in a country where they don’t speak the language, with an eleven hour time difference from home, trying to beat jet lag and homesickness to be ready for the next day’s competition. Then, it’s not unrealistic for an athlete to have to turn around and do it all in reverse the day after competition.
For many sports the competition schedule is in no way absolute. One day’s performance can change an entire schedule. For many sports in the Olympic Games, the trials fall very close to the Olympics. For instance, the track and field Olympic Trials were (June 21st-July 1st). People have been asking my husband (and me) for 2 years if he is going to the Olympics. Most people don’t realize that the team is not created until just a few weeks prior to the Olympics.
The last thing I would like for everyone to know is that there are many athletes that are “Olympic-aspiring” and most of them will never make an Olympic team. Training for this level of competition is never an easy road. You may have heard the saying, “it takes a village to raise a baby,” well, it also takes a village to raise an Olympian. Being an Olympic-aspiring athlete requires a supportive environment of family and friends, ability to compromise and be flexible, an impeccable work ethic, willingness to fail and try again, as well as time, training and traveling to achieve the level of physical mastery that these athletes achieve.
UPDATE: Since this post was written Sarah’s husband, Jeremy Scott qualified for the Olympics and will be representing the USA in the pole vault! Check out the ways you can support Jeremy in his Olympic dream. You can also read Sarah’s posts about everything you would every want to know about the pole vault and the rush and excitement (and work) post Olympic trials!
— East 9th Street (@East9thStreet) July 12, 2012
Sarah is a a full-time college instructor, wife to an Olympic athlete and mom to the greatest blessing in her life. She resides in north-east Arkansas with her family and two dogs, Gracie and Sarge. She has celiac disease and lives a strict gluten-free lifestyle. She is also currently a student of American Sign Language. Her guilty pleasures are red wine and reality television! You can find her at SarahCeliac.blogspot.com.