Many athletes have Olympic-sized dreams, but in reality, only a handful actually make it that far. It takes the perfect combination of discipline, dedication, persistence, talent, skill -- and even luck -- to successfully compete in the world's biggest competitive arena. All too often, something gets in the way and prevents athletes from achieving their dream of going all the way. I asked athletic fans of my www.SecretRegrets.com project (where people anonymously confess the biggest regrets of their lives) to share the biggest regret of their athletic career -- the one regret that sidelined them and dashed their dreams of achieving athletic greatness. Here are some of the brutally honest anonymous confessions I received back, as well as ones featured in my bestselling book, Secret Regrets: What if you had a Second Chance?
SECRET REGRET #1:
I have lived this secret life since I was 13. I am now 23 years into my eating disorder. I am an Olympic-level athlete with a very sturdy athletic build, who regrets letting an eating disorder rob me of my true athletic potential. I regret the damage my body takes every time I lock myself in the bathroom, away from my children because "my stomach is bothering me." -- Female/35
SECRET REGRET #2:
I regret not taking gymnastics seriously when I was younger. I mean sure, I had fun and LOVED it, but by the time I realized my true potential I was in 9th grade and it was too late to get any further. After tearing my ACL in 9th grade, I realized I loved the sport more than anything, and I worked my butt off my last three years. I made it to level 8/9 but if I had another chance, I would go back and work harder when I had the chance. I'm not saying I would have made the Olympics necessarily, but at least a college team somewhere. Gymnastics will ALWAYS be a part of my life even though I didn't get as far as I could have. -- Female/20
SECRET REGRET #3:
I know that I will watch the girls who I was more talented than compete in the next Olympics. I regret that I gave up too soon. -- Female/18
SECRET REGRET #4:
I regret not going out for football in the 8th grade. I remember the moment I decided not to go into tryouts. I was fearful. Had I gotten involved in football, it would have given me something constructive and social to do after school instead of going home to an alcoholic mother and a house full of drunks. It might have given me more confidence in myself, my body, and perhaps I would have not been so isolated. I am fifty now. I just can't help but feel it would have been good to be involved in sports. -- Male/50
SECRET REGRET #5:
I regret becoming a cheerleader my freshman year of high school. I somehow feel that my whole life would be different and better if I would have played basketball instead -- something I am good at and enjoy a lot more. I quit for a boy who never gave me a chance. I wasted a year of my life swooning over him. And it compromised my chances of being recognized as a good basketball player. I have no doubt in my mind that if I would have played ball as a freshman, I would still be balling in college today, perhaps with a scholarship too. I'll have to make do... and I'll always regret it.
SECRET REGRET #6:
I regret not going to the college I wanted to go to because of my boyfriend. I missed out on so many opportunities, including playing on a championship field hockey team, just so I could be with you. Seven years later, I'm still with you. Maybe I regret that too. -- Female/24
SECRET REGRET #7:
I regret the gymnastics competition that changed my life. I knew my beam routine was risky but I did it anyway. I almost died. My T6 and T7 vertebrae completely shattered. I'm in a wheelchair for the rest of my life, because of that one stupid competition.
SECRET REGRET #8:
By my sophomore year in college I realized I would NOT be setting the world on fire with my athletic ability, but I wanted to be a part of the Olympic dream. Better yet, I wanted to be relevant. I began writing for sports publications, did a little TV and made a name for myself. Eventually, I got into sports management and represented Olympic athletes from over 20 countries, traveling the world with those athletes. Whereas it was an exciting job, it came with the pressure-filled, gray truth and displaced loyalty captured in the movie Jerry Maguire. At 36, I was doing well but had just lost my biggest client and was still single. I retired. Today, I read the news and see the sports events I used to attend on the tour, and regret retiring. I stand on the sidelines watching and remembering when I helped make the news.
SECRET REGRET #9:
I regret that I am a "retired" competitive cyclist. Part of the reason that I went to college in the states was to pursue my cycling goals, but juggling hours of training per day with classes and my rapidly expanding small business meant remaining at the athletic level I needed to be at was next to impossible. I thought that transferring schools to Europe would give me an advantage over other American cyclists as the racing in Europe is much better. Even so, I found myself depressed and having no luck in racing or training, so I ultimately decided to quit the sport and work on my small business. Since then, my business has expanded rapidly, but I now have had to live my dream of Olympic success through corporate sponsorships.
If you have athletic-related regrets, or any other secret regrets, you can anonymously confess them at www.SecretRegrets.com -- and find more heartfelt regrets of athletes and everyday people in the bestselling book, Secret Regrets: What if you had a Second Chance?
Follow Kevin A. Hansen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SECRETREGRETS