I watched a high school basketball game recently where the favored team lost. It was emotional, sad, painful, especially for the seniors who play so hard and are nice kids. This wasn’t the way to go out. This wasn’t the way to end their season. They were supposed to advance farther than this.
Students, parents, teachers, faculty, friends, townspeople so many had shown up for the game, and as I walked around talking with others we all felt the similarly. We all wanted these kids to win so badly. We all were disappointed. We all wanted to take their pain away. We all loved these kids.
There were several differences in how people handled the loss though and two contrasting views stood out. One sadly talked about how it just wasn’t their game. He mentioned things the boys had done well, but he also acknowledged that they hadn’t play as a team. Their passing was off and so on. This person took nothing away from the kids. His love for them was evident in his expression and in all he said, but he honestly acknowledged game changing mistakes.
Another I watched on the sidelines expressed a different take on the game. His yelling increased as the game progressed reaching a crescendo during the last quarter. He wasn’t yelling at the players at all instead blaming the refs, citing missed calls and blown opportunities for our boys to score points. He angrily stuck up for the kids by putting them on a pedastel and putting everyone else down.
I went home that night and thought about the game, but I thought more about what went on around the game. I thought about the words yelled from the sidelines, about conversations that took place after it was all over, and about how different parents reacted when their kids emerged from the locker room.
We were all saddened by the loss, but casting blame didn’t do anything to change the outcome of the game and it didn’t do anything to improve next season. Next season is nine months out, but the same people who blamed the refs in this last game blamed the refs in the first game, and that makes one wonder.
Could things have been different if we looked objectively at what happened on the court and worked to correct mistakes before putting on that uniform again? Could we have worked on team building so the kids would better anticipate each player’s strengths, weaknesses, and moves? Could they have learned what each teammate was capable of, use his strengths to the advantage of all and compensate for weaknesses rather than being critical of those asked to perform tasks impossible for them? Could we have done more passing drills so the ball always landed in the hands it was meant to land in rather than being tossed vaguely, weakly, easily swatted off course?
There are times when criticisms of those outside the game, the refs, the coaches, the time keepers, are legitimate. Sometimes they make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes cost us the game, but if we are known for always casting blame, our legitimate criticisms are passed by. It’s like the little boy who cried wolf. When you always complain about someone else, your complaints bounce off deaf ears.
On the other hand, if we are known for looking objectively at the game and expressing valid critiques, our criticism carries much more weight than those who openly cast blame at every opportunity. People listen and genuine sympathy can lighten the load of defeat.
To do better in the next game, you must look objectively at how you played the game before and even every practice in between games. Roll back the video tape. Look at your moves. When did you pass when you should have been less self-conscious and taken the shot? When did you dribble when you should have been less self-centered and passed the ball quickly. When did you back down from the charge when you should have stood your ground and when did you attack your opponent as he headed toward the basket when you should have been in better control?
Basketball Reflects Life
I’ve played basketball for as long as I can remember. My Mom began coaching high school ball when I was three years old. I travelled on the school bus to and from away games, sitting on the laps of the older girls in the back of the bus singing camp songs and shouting “We Will Rock You,” and other pump up songs with the best of them. My Mom began our parish CYO program when I was in fourth grade and I went on to coach CYO when I graduated from the program and even coached as high as through the junior varsity level.
I enjoy a good, hard game of basketball as much as the next girl, but maybe that’s in part because I see how closely the game really does reflect life.
Bad things happen to us in this life. Sometimes it’s just a really bad day. Sometimes it’s an earth shattering event like divorce that knocks us off kilter for months or even years.
Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, people outside our team blow it for us, a woman casts ultimatums or lures your husband away, a driver who is texting runs her car into you, an economic collapse closes your company and your job is lost.
Sometimes the refs really do blow the game, but many times the outside forces are only part of the issue, and it’s what happens within the team that really caused the loss. We must go back and review the video tape right from day one.
What happened? What choices did we make that led to where we are now? Don’t begin at the first day of tryouts, but go back further. Who decided what members would be part of your team? Who made the cut and why? Maybe go back even further than that. Maybe you need to ask yourself what you did before choosing teammates that gave you that circle of players to choose from. Should you have chosen to hold tryouts in a more exclusive club to begin with? Would that have made the pool you chose from that much more worthy?
Look at the video from your life, your Marriage, the big game. Look at your moves. When did you pass when you should have been less self-conscious and taken the shot? When did you dribble when you should have been less self-centered and passed the ball quickly. When did you back down from the charge when you should have stood your ground and when did you attack your opponent as he headed toward the basket when you should have been in better control?
Then, when the video comes to an end, when you’ve seen your mistakes, it’s time to turn the video off and begin taking the plank from your own eye. It’s time to take what you could have done better and work on it. Build your strengths. Understand your weaknesses. Work on monotonous drills that will improve your game.
Then get out there and play again. Don’t sit in the locker room re-watching the video over and over and over again. Next season isn’t that far away after all, and the good news is…your game is not really in the refs hands that often. Your game is in your hands. You have choices. You have abilities to do better, to choose more qualified teammates to share life with, to work on the boring drills and choose players who are willing to work too, to reach higher, to be more!
In the game of life, you always have choices. You can blame the ref, but you’ll always be the loser eventually. You can also sit in the locker room forever reviewing the videotape afraid to get onto the court again, or you can try it differently…
Acknowledge your mistakes. Accept responsibility. Work on what needs to be worked on. Review the tape, but don’t get stuck in rewind. Walk across the room. Turn off the video. Get back in the game. Choose to be a winner, no matter what the refs, or anyone else, throw at you.
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