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  • Writer's pictureKenneth Flakes, PE

Four Life Lessons to be Learned from DK Metcalf's Attempt to Qualify for the US Olympics Trials

DK Metcalf, wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks, is pictured on the football field.
Photo courtesy of All-Pro Reels from District of Columbia, USA

DK Metcalf is a star wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks who went viral on the internet during the 2020 NFL season when he chased down safety Budda Baker of the Arizona Cardinals to prevent a TD after an interception thrown by teammate Russell Wilson.

According to Next Gen Stats, Metcalf traveled 114.8 yards to tackle Baker on his 90-yard return. Metcalf’s incredible feat led to the USA Track and Field organization sending a tweet inviting any NFL athlete to try out for their relay team.

Metcalf accepted the invitation and attempted to qualify for the US Olympic Trials in the Men’s 100m at the 2021 USATF Golden Games and Distance Open. Metcalf trained for a couple of months for the competition but finished 15th out of 17 athletes. Despite Metcalf’s failure to qualify, four life lessons can be learned from his experience.

1. Have the Courage to Try Something New

It takes a bit of courage to try something new, and Metcalf certainly displayed courage when he attempted to make the Olympic Trials. Metcalf had not participated in a track and field event since high school; even in high school, he never competed in the 100m.

Fox Sports 1 analyst, Emmanuel Acho, attended the Golden Games and Distance Open. After the 100m, Acho asked Metcalf why he decided to try and make the Olympic Trials. According to Acho's tweet, Metcalf said he did it for “Myself, everybody else is scared to do it.”

Some people are afraid to pursue a dream for fear of failing. Other people are afraid to move outside of their comfort zone. Muhammad Ali said, “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

Fear also puts unnecessary restrictions on your ability to grow and achieve greatness. However, Metcalf did not let fear affect his goals, which is a valuable life lesson to learn from his experience.

2. Don’t Listen to Your Naysayers

At 6’4” and 235 lb, Metcalf has a body type designed for the rigors of professional football. He is extremely fast for a football player, but his speed and track speed differ. Many of Metcalf’s football peers supported his attempt to chase his dream, but some in track and field were his biggest critics.

Mike Rodgers, who competed against Metcalf at the Golden Games and Distance Open, said before the race, “Football players don’t have any clue.”

Renaldo Nehemiah, a retired track and field athlete, said, “There’s not a sprinter in the world who will let this guy think he can run with them. They will destroy him. It’s a noble gesture but an exercise in futility. It really is. No offense to DK, I’m a fan of his. I applaud him for wanting to find out – and find out he will.”

World 200m champion Noah Lyles said the day before the race, “If he wants to run, he can come run. Be prepared to get your butt kicked. … You’re going against people who train nearly eight months out of the year to run.”

The world is full of critics and naysayers, but Metcalf is an example of someone who refused to let his naysayers prevent him from pursuing his goal. In the end, he even surprised some people with his performance. “He did not embarrass himself,” said Ato Boldon, who won a silver medal in the 100m at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. "He hung with the pack. Yes, I think he's eighth. But he ran well. I didn't think he was going to run anywhere near that well."

3. Failure and Success Are Subjective

Metcalf’s objective was to make the Olympic Trials. “Of course [qualifying for Trials] was always my goal,” said Metcalf, who trained for two to three months. “I really do think and thought I really had a good chance to qualify.”

Metcalf's positive attitude was evident in his performance. Even though most people expected him to fail, he ran a respectable time and even finished ahead of two professional athletes.

"Personally, it was a good experience," Metcalf said in a news conference after the race. "Anybody else who has a different opinion, you're entitled to your own opinion. But I think I did well for myself."

Although Metcalf may have failed to qualify for the Olympic Trials, that doesn’t mean his experience was a failure. Success is not a binary transaction. Success is often a process that requires one to learn from failure. Additionally, the lessons learned from failures are sometimes more valuable than those learned from victory. A positive outlook on your failures can highlight small successes that could lead to greater ones.

Lastly, and most importantly, remember to define your success and not get caught up in other people’s definitions of success.

4. Remain Humble in Defeat

So, Metcalf attempted something new, encountered naysayers along the way, and ultimately failed to achieve his goal. Metcalf, a star in his regular sport, could have easily been aloof and dismissive in defeat, yet he was completely the opposite. “He was humble. He tried to assimilate,” said Ato Boldon on the Dan Patrick Show. “He didn’t even leave after his heat. He stayed and watched the entire [track] meet.”

Metcalf appeared to be happy just to be able to compete against the best of the best in track and field. More importantly, he gained an even greater appreciation for those who compete professionally in track and field.

"To test my speed up against world-class athletes ... just having the opportunity to run against these guys was a blessing," said Metcalf after the race. “They do this for a living. It’s very different from football speed, which I just realized.

It is extremely important to stay humble even in defeat. Metcalf's humility reveals high character, another great example everyone can learn from his experience.

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