The Hardest Thing in Sports

It’s not what you think it is. 

It is not hitting a curveball.  It is not throwing a 30 yard pass downfield to a receiver running away from you while hitting them in stride.  It is not stopping a slapshot coming for you at speeds over 100 mph and it is not dunking a basketball.  All these feats are very difficult and impressive when accomplished.  It’s just that so many people on many level can do it. 

No the hardest part about sports on any level may seem like the simplest thing to do: win.

That’s right, winning is the hardest thing to accomplish while playing sports. 

No, this did not come up because of the Red Sox nosedive, although it is relevant.  No, this came along after watching my varsity soccer team lose yet another game in which I believe they should have won.  You see, our girls team has not had a very good run over the past few decades.  No state playoff appearances and many one/two or three win season that I’d rather not count them up.  They are the one enigma in our school.  The softball team is the model of winning.  The girls basketball team has a state title and has appeared in the states numerous times.  The boys soccer team has a storied tradition while the basketball and baseball team has found success in recent years. For some reason our girls soccer team just can’t get over the hump.

Right now, they are used to losing.  It has become a habit and we all know how hard habits are to break.  No matter how hard they compete, which they do, losing is so imbedded in their psyches that when the going gets tough, they buckle under the pressure. 

Now, I know these girls knows what it takes to win.  Many played for a state title team in the spring, proving many in the state wrong.  The benefit then was they are expected to win at softball and in soccer they are expected to lose. 

We as coaches can preach all we want about a “winning attitude” but it truly takes a special group of players to rise above the norm and achieve greatness.  Back in 2004, our baseball team was coming off a 1st in 8 years: we made the state playoffs.  We had huge expectations heading into 2004 but an array of injuries and bad fortunes slowed us down.  We knew we had the talent to be one of the best in the state, but it took us a long time to erase the losing black cloud from hanging over our heads.  We limped into the playoffs, but somewhere along the way it clicked.  We had a magical run to the semifinals before losing to the eventual state champs.  From that time since, our baseball team has an air about it that we expect to win.  SOme years are better than others but we always expect and demand greatness.

This is where we stand in soccer.  Last night we had a game in which we should have won but once we got down by a goal, you could see the change in attitudes.  That’s what worries me.  I know that these girls are competitive but I think that losing in soccer has become the norm that they don’t show the same fight that they do in basketball or softball.  I truly believe that these girls have what it takes to get to the next level but getting them to believe that is a whole other issue.

Our captains are great.  They work the hardest and by far are two of the best kids on the team.  Our other seniors want to be good but I am not sure they all know what it takes to get there.  Our two juniors have a chance to be special and yesterday I threw the gauntlet down and challenged them to take the team over. 

We need a fire lit under us and we need “that game” to springboard our season before it spirals out of control.  I was pissed off after our game because we are wasting our talent and like Sonny says, “There is nothing sadder in life than wasted talent” and I truly believe that.  We are a third of the way done with our season and we are 1-4.  We still have a done of work to do to meet our pre-season goals but I still hold onto hope that we will get there.

In sports, much like life, winning truly is everything.  I’m worried that in this age of “every kid gets a trophy” that they never learn what it takes to rise above the odds and pull a victory out of the jaws of defeat.  They have no idea how much work it takes to beat a more talented opponent.  Sometimes heart and desire can overcome but I’m afraid that the habit of losing overshadows both.

I can promise you this though, I’m not quitting on these girls.  The head coach isn’t quitting on them.  We owe it to them to make them better and I’ll be damned if I fail in that.

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One Response to “The Hardest Thing in Sports”

  1. Nancy Walter Says:

    Awesome Hendu!!! They do expect to lose. Now you need to read this to the girls!

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