Tonight, watching the first match between the Brandeis Lady Broncos and the Clemens Lady Buffaloes I would never have classified Brandeis as the underdog. I know reading all the stats and press; the Lady Buffaloes were ranked in the top 10 ahead of the Lady Broncos in the Express rankings.
The Lady Buffaloes entered the game with a better record, more experienced players, and more success under their belt.
Watching the first match, the outcome of the night never seemed in question. The Lady Broncos dominated the floor, the net, and the return. They Broncos scored first and they scored quickly during the first match. The team appeared focused, crisp, and polished.
The second and subsequent matches held a different outcome. The athletes seemed to lose focus at times. The ball would graze off the knuckles or sides of the hand. Services would fall into the net instead of over, and the players diving to the floor would send the ball under or away from the net instead of over the net and for points.
In this industry they say no one wants to talk to the losing coach. I disagree. When one visits with the losing coach you, as a reporter, learn just as the athletes.
Tonight, I learned three important messages from Coach Williams. The first is tonight was hard. Staring into Coach Williams’ face, you learn of her difficulty—creating a career based on the success or defeats of fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen year old athletes. You observe the pain of watching a season come prematurely short You see the disappointment she mirrors of the seniors who know this was the last high school game.
A small group of athletes glimpsed into the abyss tonight. The underclassman witnessed the anguish of the seniors who watched as their high school career slip from the court to the record book.
I wish I was old enough not to remember the fleeting moments of high school days. The last practice, the last race, the last time to stand in front of an audience. I am not as lucky yet. The underclassmen have this experience to build upon as they prepare for the new season and chance to exercise the demons of seasons past.
The Lady Broncos tasted from the table of defeat. This table does not offer treats and delicacies. This table offers the taste of month old gym socks. As the night progressed, and the losing matches continued to pile upon each other, the Lady Broncos were given large plates from this table.
The seniors walked away from the court, with the taste of defeat following them. This will prepare them for other disappointments in life, and how to rinse the aftertaste from their life.
The underclassmen, they have the opportunity to build upon this evening. Having feasted at the table, they have the prospect of working with the their teammates to ensure next year’s opponent is served the buffet from the table.
Coach Williams, myself, and most everyone in the gym would agree the Buffaloes did not out play the Lady Broncos. Not all games end in victory, not every endeavor ends in success. To grow we must lose. To understand we must fail. To become stronger in our travels in life we must trip on one or more hurdles in our pathway.
The hurdle tonight–nerves and mistakes. We commit them when we wish we would not. We sometimes experience them at the most inopportune time. Our actions and reactions after tripping upon the hurdles define our character and pathway of life.
To wallow in our self-pity, much like a large hog wallows in the mud to avoid the summer heat opens the door for continued defeat and difficulty to “clear the hurdle.” You have to embrace your mistakes to avoid your mistakes. I witnessed a group of young athletes that refused to embrace self-pity.
I learned my third lesson from Coach Williams. The Lady Broncos refused to give up. During the fourth set, almost 10 points behind, the Brandeis athletes could have joined Elvis and left the building. They refused. They continued to send the ball over the net. Even as the Buffaloes added points to the board, reaching match point, the Broncos continued the charge. Point after unanswered point the Lady Broncos continued to play. All of us in the gym watched as five points, turned into six unanswered points we were reminded of the performance in the first match.
The Lady Broncos refused to observe the scoreboard. The Lady Broncos wanted to step away from the table of defeat. Tonight, they did not get their wish. A young group of athletes tripped on a hurdle hoping to advance in the playoffs.
Next year, the underclassmen will be upperclassmen. They have the chance to weave tonight’s three lessons into their play, their dreams, their career.