Maggie Steffens poses for a portrait on Nov. 23, 2019 in West Hollywood, California.
I remember when a coach used to say “canceled”, it was a sigh of relief or for our team, an instant dance party paired with some high-pitched screams of happiness.
It meant our coach was rewarding us for all the hard work we had put into that phase of tough training and giving us a practice off to recover physically, mentally and even emotionally. It also was generally followed by a team brunch where we were able to bond over pancakes and an afternoon to actually digest them!
These little breaks truly felt like little wins. They were purposeful for our bodies and minds. They would even give us the extra energy we needed to come back even stronger the next day or the next week.
2020 has changed what the word “canceled” means to me.
It no longer was paired with a dance party or brunch. It no longer was a little win. The word “canceled” was now an unfortunate theme that felt uncontrollable, uncertain, and inevitable. 2020 was a test, just like we train for, on how well we can react to the new meaning of this word.
As Olympic athletes, we train for the uncontrollable. We train for the uncertain. We train to be prepared for anything thrown our way. This year threw many curve balls our way and although we may not have been prepared for these as we would have liked to be, I am proud of the way our team handled this adversity. Let me give you a glimpse into how the different “canceled” events affected our schedule and the way we train.
It’s only right to start with what brings us all together, what focuses our diverse bodies and minds - the Olympic Games. Back in March, when we got the news the Olympics were “canceled,” it didn’t feel real. It was a very numb feeling that grew into a long, emotional roller-coaster. One that had slightly different spins and turns for each individual on our team.
Despite the variety of emotions and despite the unknowing of where this roller coaster would take us, we stuck together. We knew that no matter the end result, just like a water polo game, the most important part is to have each other’s backs and to remain a team. This was how we conquered the variety of “canceled” practices, tournaments, events, trips and more we faced; we kept the team in mind and kept our common purpose alive.