Authored by Greg Howard, one of our senior support techs.
(A very long time ago, in a world that no longer exists, I discovered something wonderful.)
In the sports media world a story blossomed early last week when a girls HS basketball game was played in Indiana. The final score was 107-2. The winning team’s coach was blasted for exhibiting an unsportsmanlike approach to a game featuring teenage girls, especially since his team was the defending state champion and his opponent had lost 23 games in a row.
Many people in the media and the blogosphere spoke about how bad this must have made the losing team feel, how embarrassing it was to lose so lopsidedly, and how such behavior cheapened or ruined what should be fun for young high school athletes.
I disagree, and I speak from experience.
When I was a sophomore in high school my school began its first season playing intermural, competitive basketball. Back in the day there were four classes of high schools in our state, mostly divided by size of enrollment, with the biggest schools being “Class A”, and the smallest schools being labeled “Class D”. We were “Class D”. Had there been such a thing, we would have been labeled “Class X”.
Our school had just over 400 students. No, I don’t mean the high school, I mean the whole school. K-12.
There were only about 25-30 boys in 10-12, 14 of which went out for the team…and since the state rule allowed 15 on the roster, every one of us who tried out made the team.
To say we were terrible is an understatement of epic proportions. We didn’t shoot the ball very well, only a few of us could be trusted to dribble well enough to not bounce the ball off our foot, we’d never learned anything about playing defense, and we sucked at foul shots.
It gets worse.
Because it was the first year we competed at the state level, it was difficult to schedule the games that season. We had to take any team that had an open week, no matter what class they were in, which resulted in our tiny school playing much larger schools, state powerhouses, including the defending “Class B” state champion. We went 1-13 in our 14 game season, and the only game we won was against the Junior Varsity of our fiercest rival, 25-24. We beat a JV team. Rah, rah, rah.
Seven teams we played (yes, that’s half of them) set all-time, single game team scoring records against us. We lost a game by the score of 132-36, and almost every team we played managed to scored 100 points or more, in an era when averaging 60 points a game was considered astounding. We should have been embarrassed to even take the court game after game.
But we were not ashamed of our ineptitude, we were too busy having a ball. We had a coach (also a full-time teacher, of course) who instilled in us an attitude, an approach to learning, that I’ve never forgotten: If you accept who you are, set yourself reasonable goals, then work your butt off to achieve them…you are a true winner at whatever you do.
Coach Fox knew what we were and how winning actual games was an unrealistic expectation, so he set goals for us, game by game, that we had a hope of achieving.
Can we score “x” number of points tonight?
Can we shoot better than 40%
Can we make more than half our foul shots?
And specific individual goals, like: Can you get an assist tonight, Greg?
He encouraged us to learn each others skills and promote them, to learn each others weaknesses and protect them, and to always, ALWAYS remember we were a team.
He led us over to the winning team after every loss, was first in line to hand out hugs, pats on the back and sincere congratulations to the victors, and he had so damned much fun every day that we couldn’t help but get caught up in the happiness, the camaraderie, and the sheer joy that came when any of us succeeded at reaching a goal.
We all get frustrated, whether at work or in our personal lives, and you don’t have to be
excited by the “challenges.” It’s okay to get discouraged. We are human beings, not robots. But what I learned that year in high school, playing basketball on a team that was terrible by any rational measure of sporting success, has stayed with me to this day.
Set reasonable goals and concentrate on reaching them, no matter what the circumstances. When I have too many critical point-of-sale support cases in my lap and I can’t seem to get any traction on any of them, and the support queues are filling up with calls, and my co-workers (bless you all) are struggling as well, and the day looks hopeless…that’s when I shift gears.
I grab just one down, and tell myself I will solve this thing. I set aside all the other issues, the worries and the stress, and I close just one single case. I have a happy pharmacy customer! Okay, now let me choose one more, and this time I’ll make it back-to-back. You can find joy in the smallest of things. Even when it seems you’re in danger of being crushed, it all depends on how you weigh things. In moments of stress, if you set yourself goals you can reach, no matter how small they may seem to you, (or anyone else) you can grant yourself some sweet odds of success. And the more often you succeed, the easier it gets the next time. You can learn, and you can win, even when others think you’re losing. If you can’t learn, grow, and enjoy small joys, even when adversity surrounds you, you’ll waste valuable minutes of your life you can never get back. wins. That’s how I get moving again, which makes me happier, which brings back my motivation, and soon I’m off and running again. Now that my whole attitude has improved I can go back and wrestle with one of those intractable cases, and just maybe I’ll see something new, now that my eyes -and my spirit- are brighter.
It’s why I celebrate those two lonely foul shots that were the only points scored by the “losing” team.
That’s what Coach Fox taught me.