Few things in life have as much potential to restore in us a sense of all that is good and right in this country like high school sports does. Over the past few days I’ve had the privilege of chauffeuring the Couch School Lady Indians on their trip to the “Final Four” Class 2 championship tournament in Columbia, Missouri.
Our journey began with a proper send off by the whole school, the surrounding municipalities gave us a police, ambulance, firetruck, escort through town…People lined the streets, waving and honking, it blew me away! We’re talkin’ small town Americana at it’s finest.
Shortly after our arrival we set off to explore the venue, it was quite impressive!
It’s a fairly new facility, a part of the University of Missouri sports megaplex.
On the day of our first game we arrived and were ushered through the myriad of security checkpoints to a separate practice court for some last minute fine tuning. As the team was practicing I stepped out into the doorway of the auditorium and watched the first game of the event begin.
Our team lost both of the games it played, and it’s left me a bit at “loose ends”…
Of course it’s a great honor to even make it to this level of competition, and for some, that’s enough…to make it. To win it all requires the same thing from any champion, to step up and step out, to risk stumbling, to recover your balance, to be able to say at the end that you left everything out there on that court..
People will sometimes say, “I just had a bad game, I didn’t play my best for some reason”…And I understand that under some circumstances, especially with women…
If you’re intimidated by your opponent, and you decide mentally that loss is inevitable, being able to explain it away won’t expose you to the same personal vulnerability that saying “We played our best, and JUST GOT BEAT!” can… It’s rarely so simple, and usually gravitates toward the lower echelons and becomes a “head hunt” of sorts. It reminds me a bit of what columnist George Will referred to as the “Sainted American People” who couldn’t possibly be responsible for the huge mess we’re in…
The Last Two Minutes
While I’m obviously just a simple bus driver, I’ve watched a few basketball games. One thing seems abundantly clear to me. Beyond physical conditioning which in teenagers is less of a factor, it’s entirely a mental game and mostly comes down to who handles the moment better…Teams can play fairly competitively for a time and then after one team makes a few shots and takes a small lead the other team often becomes discouraged. I’ve seen teams go through the motions for the most part the whole game and then suddenly in the last two minutes start playing like the world’s on fire!
Suddenly, they WANT to win…but it’s too late.
For the last 50 years, we as a nation have conducted ourselves in a very similar manner to these high school kids. We’ve had some poor leadership, we’ve made some mistakes, we’ve seen the rest of the world pull ahead of us in education, and other quality of life issues and we’ve kind of gotten our head down. I can also relate to plodding along as if there was an unlimited amount of time to set things right, I suppose that the “mad scramble” we see going on in this country right now isn’t much different than the “two minute drill” either.
Think we’re going to win?
The moral of the story is the same in both instances,
Our success is based in our ability to work together as a team.
To put aside our personal agenda’s and adopt a greater vision.
That vision has to come from our leaders.
A man will follow another man that he believes knows the way.
A real leader inspires faith, courage and cooperation among people.
They say things like,
“Sure, right now things may look bad…but guess what!”
“We’ve merely fooled our opponent into thinking that we’re done. He’ll never expect us to come at him like we’re going to, we have the element of surprise on our side and right now is the precise time to boldly strike out and seize victory”
“When we act as one, our individual power is multiplied far beyond the simple sum of it’s collective parts”
“This is the great secret all champions learn, all who are victorious in whatever arena they are tested.”
All of us must attend our own “Big Dance”