Welcome back! It’s May 1st and today we’ll experience our “favorite” Midwest phenomenon … the air conditioning and furnace running in the space of a single day. The last few days have given us a sweet taste of spring/summer with beautiful, sunshiny days with temps in the 80’s. Unfortunately, it was all too short-lived and, tonight, the furnace will be turned back on as the weather gurus predict “measurable snow” for our area.
I’ve written about the correlation between sports and business before … they’re almost one in the same. However, while the sun shone and the flowers bloomed outside, I had a first-hand lesson inside about how we adults can learn from the single-minded determination of young athletes. How, when the chips are down, we can all dig deep and end up higher and farther than we ever thought possible.
A little scenery? The Industrial Building at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, 18 volleyball courts filled with hundreds of players and each court fringed by proud, nervous parents, siblings and loved ones nervously watching and cheering on every point scored by their team or groaning and shouting encouragement for plays missed and points lost. We would either gnaw on our knuckles or absent-mindedly munch on hot chocolate chip cookies by the bucket not knowing how things would turn out and how our
The Attack 123-Black’s didn’t have a good Saturday morning. In fact, they lost more games than they won. You could see their drooping shoulders and frustrated expressions as they struggled time after time to come together as a team. We all thought we were destined for a pretty short weekend by the time lunch break rolled around. The parents talked among themselves about the girls gaining experience for next year and lessons learned; and about how to help them recover from their loss.
But while the parents commiserated, something happened within the team itself during that lunch. The girls sat in a circle on the floor, played The Cup Song, goofed and giggled and spent time just being 12-year-old girls. When lunch was over, they lined up for their next match … and split it (won one, lost one and won the tie-breaker)! The next match was even better – they won the match in two games! The third match of the afternoon had them splitting again (this time losing the tie) but the point spread was so close that they actually qualified to move on in the tournament! The pizza and swimming party that night was a sight to behold … laughing, giggling and experiencing the pure joy of just being there.
Sunday dawned bright and beautiful. And we had a different team on our hands! The energy had changed completely! Their first match was the best playing they had done all season long. Teamwork, energy, determination, focus … it was all there. Play after play. Point after point. They won handily. Match 2 was more of the same although they split the games. But with those wins, the unbelievable happened … they qualified for the quarter-finals at the bronze level! Our thought of taking our tired crew home at noon flew out the window as we waited for our next game. You could see the parents, who had pretty much given up, start getting nervous as they realized that the girls were actually moving up.
The quarter-finals were a lesson in nail-biting agony and yet the grown-ups all seemed to take an unconscious lesson from the girls’ book … they started acting silly and having fun. More and more, you’d hear the “WhooOOoooo” of the parents as they did the wave each time a point was made. Lost points had parents screaming encouragement and silently praying that the next play would be a success. The eruption of joy when they won; the high fives, the dancing on the court, the hugs from parents and the pride of spectators, players and coaches alike was a site to behold. But immediately following that win came … the semi-finals.
By the time they walked onto the court, the seven 12-year-old girls (and one 9-year-old) had been at the auditorium either playing, reffing/scorekeeping or waiting for their next game for 16 hours over the course of the two days. They were hot, exhausted, excited … and, once again, determined. They lined up opposite a team out of their pool that they had won and lost against a few times over the course of the weekend. And they played their hearts out. Serve after serve, set-up and spike after set-up and spike, point after point – for and against – they didn’t quit. They didn’t stop. They didn’t give up. Those eight girls who had risen from second-to-last place to play in the semi-finals of their very first State Tournament showed the hearts of lions and the grace of champions.
Can all of us say we would do the same? Can we take that heart, that confidence of our abilities and never give up until we meet with our own success? Can we take those rejection letters, missed opportunities and unanswered email-queries and turn them into lessons to apply to the next proposal? Through perseverance, hard work, exhaustion and sheer determination, we are ALL capable of success. Maybe it won’t be this month or even this year … but there are countless opportunities that will come in the months and years to come. And, by taking notice of our own Attack 123-Black teams, we can find the same fortitude they did … and ALL come out winners in the end!
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