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The Upside to Failure

By Julia McLellan, Grade 12
One of my favourite questions to ask people who just meet me is, “Guess what position I play in hockey.” Why? Because I’m pretty sure they’re going to get it wrong.

It’s funny to me for obvious reasons. I’m down here, after all. But once I tell them, a common reply is, “Aren’t you too small to be a goalie?” The quick and simple answer is no.

Yet, acknowledging that, yes, I can be small and be a goalie is easier said than done. Even for me, being me, it’s been easier said than done.

I know I’m short, I can’t control it, I’ve tried. I’ve always been the small kid, I’ve always known I was short. (I can thank my taller, twin brother for that.) But I never felt that I was too short to be on the ice. I know some basic geometry, and in short, it’s all about positioning, not size. It’s the angle to the puck that matters, not how big you are compared to players.

Not everyone understands it, not every team will take the chance to trust a little math to show. I’ve been cut from programs back home year after year, but I’ve also been given the chance here at Stanstead to show that it really doesn’t matter that much if you’re 6 feet tall or not.

But, what’s even the point to me telling you this? I mean, most of you aren’t goalies.

All of us have encountered obstacles in our lives that have affected where we’ve ended up and where we go and what happens next. Those obstacles, whatever they are, have affected us for the better, too. It’s not a bad thing that we’ve failed, it’s a good thing, because failure is how we learn and move forward. You can accept failure, or you can choose to roll up your sleeves and get back at it.

I was cut from both hockey teams I tried out for the spring before I came to Stanstead because they thought I was too small. Two for two. But in retrospect, it’s been way better being cut from those teams. I’ve been given a chance to thrive here. We all have been challenged here in some way, but we’ve been given the opportunity to respond to those failures as well.

The point is that you can only control so much within your reach. We can’t control everything in our lives. Some things are just out of our control.

“Control the controllables” is a phrase given to me by a sports psychologist when I was an even smaller and even more nervous 9th grader. I needed to hear that, because at that point I was so close to quitting hockey because my own teammates and coaches told me I was too small to play. That phrase has stuck with me after every roster cut, every loss, every failure as a reminder that I have to let some things go and I can’t let it hold me down. How you react to failure is what moves you forward and lets you develop further as a person. What we can control is our effort. That’s all we can control sometimes in life. Things happen by chance, and opportunities arise, but it’s up to our own initiative to make the move, give it our best effort, and get on with it.