Anyone in the coaching profession knows that each season is a journey, some more so than others. This is especially true in basketball, a season that ranges from late October to hopefully mid-March. It’s a long, grueling marathon of a season and as soon as it’s over you want it all back. The thing about coaching is that each year is brand new, a journey all of its own. This week’s post is dedicated to the great group of young women I was fortunate enough to coach this past season.
A coach needs to have perspective in order to make it through a high school basketball season, because it is like a roller coaster. There will be many up and downs, but it’s all in how you look at it. I find this quote to be especially true: “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” If we only stop and reflect on the final destination (which for coaches is the win-loss record) we fail to realize the value of what is most important, the journey we experience with team members.
How is success defined? Sometimes I get too caught up in wins and losses, but in high school coaching I think legendary coach, John Wooden said it best: “Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” Our team did not have a winning record on the court this season, but I can say that as a group we were successful. Don’t get me wrong, I love to win and hate to lose. I hate losing more than I like winning. But this season taught me the value of perspective in coaching and for that I will be eternally grateful.
This year’s team overcame a lot of adversity. We had a rough beginning where we had hurt feelings and team members who were not on the same page. We overcame our own inconsistent play to become a much better team at the end of the season compared to what we were at the beginning. Our schedule was incredibly tough, with our top five opponents having a combined record of 110-23 entering this past week. Through all this, our team showed real toughness and resiliency. We got knocked down plenty of times during the season, but we got back up every time. Ultimately, that is what matters and is what will make these girls winners in life. It’s guaranteed that we will all get knocked down, but it’s up to us whether we get back up or not. I am proud to say that these girls got back up every time.
A season and any journey of value must include learning. This team learned an awful lot this year, myself included. We learned to forgive and accept all teammates. This may not sound important, but for many high school kids it can be a difficult thing to do. Our girls got past early season differences amongst themselves and came together to bond as a team. It’s one of the things I am most proud of this group for. My girls learned what it takes to win on and off the court through our character education program. This is something that will help with personal and professional success later in life. We learned that no one is going to feel sorry for you. The world is a tough place and you cannot go around asking and expecting for people to feel sorry for you. The great thing about sports is that it reveals character and anyone who saw our team play at the end of the season knows what kind of character these girls possess. We also learned the value of preparation and execution. You can’t have one without the other. We learned the hard way that you have to execute on both ends of the floor, especially the fundamentals. Turnovers were our Achilles heel and it’s what cost us in the end. However, I am confident the returning players will remember this lesson for next season and that we will improve in this area.
When we get together to look back on this season years from now, we won’t remember the scores of the games. What we’ll remember most will be the time spent together, the friendships made, and the laughs shared. I’ll remember the courage, toughness, and resilience this group showed. What I’ll remember most and what I appreciate most is that they bought into what our program was all about. We may not have been champions on the court this season and ultimately that’s okay. It’s okay because I know that what this group has been through and how they persevered will make them champions in life.
A Chinese proverb says, “The journey is the reward.” I thought this best summarized our team and our season. As the coach, it was rewarding to go to practice every day and be around a great group of people who worked hard. We battled all season, all the way until the final buzzer sounded. My hopes are that the girls always remember the journey and what it taught us all. I hope they use the lessons we learned this season to help them throughout their lives. I also hope they continue to look out for one another and continue to be good teammates. My biggest hope is that the graduating seniors stay in contact and come back often. I hope we transition from the player-coach relationship to one of friendship. As a coach there is nothing greater than staying in contact and having life-long relationships with your former players.
I’ll end with this, “Life’s a journey, not a destination.” Always remember the good, the bad, and the time spent with people you care about. Learn to enjoy and value the journey as I have.
Thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!