I love the Olympics (especially those that don't cost roughly $50 billion to stage). And with the Sochi Games about to begin, I am reminded of my first Olympics in Atlanta in 1996.
It was the first time women's soccer was included in the Olympic program. I have vivid memories of that period just before the Olympics are about to start -- you are thinking, "Holy s---, this really is happening!"
Our soccer team was flying to Atlanta to start our Olympic journey, and the entire plane gave us a standing ovation upon boarding and deplaning. I had never seen anything like it (we usually were just happy if they knew the United States had a national women's soccer team). The excitement, nervousness and, frankly, nausea (I was happy to finally get this party started without throwing up) running through our veins made us feel like we could short-circuit and implode at any moment.
That acute, visceral sense of anxiety quickly, and thankfully, morphed into competitive motivation to be the best in the world. So, in that vein (pun intended), here are a few things I bet the Sochi Olympic athletes are focused on before their first event, so they too can turn anxiety into assurance:
1. The Olympic Village
The common trains of thought as Olympic first-timers enter the Olympic Village:
What I would give for another McDonald's cheeseburger ... Maybe I'll get a free haircut ... I'll just never leave the dining hall ... Ohhh, I'd like to trade for a Russian volunteer jacket or maybe the German jacket ... Let's go stare at the Swedes (they are difficult not to admire).
It goes on and on. The distractions are plenty and frequent. To which a veteran on the team will not so gently remind the rookies: Enjoy the people-watching and never-ending entertainment in the Olympic Village for a day and then reel it in.
2. Not the concierge this week
Olympians did not come to Sochi to assist parents, friends and family with tickets, travel advice or the best restaurant in town. For our soccer team, we had an entire chain of command for all logistical questions (or really any question at all), and none of it came through the players. It was absolute bliss. Which leads to No. 3...
3. 'Ain't my problem'
That was my favorite sign to hold up when anyone asked me for anything that didn't help our team's goal of reaching the top of the podium. It worked so well for me in Atlanta that my parents wouldn't even tell me about the invasion of red ants in their Olympic house. This is a must for all Olympians. I often wished I could use the sign for months (read: years) post-Olympics, but it really is a must during the Games.
4. Keep. It. Simple.
Focus on normalcy. Do what you did before. Don't change your eating habits or routines in response to all the distractions (and let's just hope fishing in toilets wasn't part of your daily routine).
5. Breathe. Smile.
All Olympians realize they have a very small window to display all of their wonderful work, that a lifetime of training can come down to one event. Some can crumble under that reality. Others, and often the most successful Olympians, realize they have been given a gift and an opportunity that few are afforded in life. Take a breath. Smile. Embrace it. The work has been done and the party has started.
6. And lastly ...
Because I can't resist a timely sixth (consider it a bonus) point of focus ...
Do not be distracted by Putin's frequent displays of shirtless wonder, because we know it is going to happen ... and who can resist this?