Embracing failure creates community

Persistence builds confidence


Danny Shope

I was laying face down, twenty yards from the finish line. I didn’t stay down for long, though. As quickly as I could, I clumsily untangled my skis, got back up and spit out a piece of snow as I made it to the end of my first Nordic skiing race. 

When I crossed the line and collapsed again, this time out of exhaustion, the embarrassment started to sink in. Not only had I finished almost dead last, I had also face planted in front of my coaches, my parents and most unfortunately, all the upperclassmen I wanted to prove myself to so badly. 

While I was still on the ground dreading having to face everyone, a couple of my teammates came over to help me up. “Dude, that was an epic superman fall,” one of them said after making sure I was okay. “Almost as good as the one I just had coming down that second to last hill.” 

As we walked over to put our warm clothes on and cheer on the other skiers, we all laughed about my other teammates’ crazy wipeout stories. Even the team captains chimed in about times they had fallen off the race course, collided with other people and done the splits involuntarily on skis. This all made me slightly terrified about skiing, but I also felt a lot better knowing the people I admired so much also fell down.

Nordic is an individual sport, but it doesn’t feel like it. Everyone wants their teammates to be successful and feel welcomed, and they’re willing to go far out of their way to make that happen. It’s just how the team is, and it’s contagious. 

During my time on the Nordic team, I’ve fallen dozens of times in some of the craziest ways possible, and while it’s certainly still embarrassing, I’ve realized that failing — and falling — isn’t as bad as I think it is.

Even more importantly, I’ve realized how much I admire those teammates who were willing to put themselves out there, and sometimes even make themselves look ridiculous, just to make other people feel like they belonged. Now that those people who made me feel included in my freshman year have graduated, it’s my turn to try and have the same impact on other people.