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Sunday, November 25, 2012

When it's no longer about winning or losing

Tonight I was stoked to go see my Saint Francis International School 8th and 7th grade boys basketball team play in the championship game in this pre-season tournament Turkey Shootout at DeMatha High school.  An avid basketball fan, I got really into the game, especially with the group of boys I know best from the entire school, boys like Alec, Marquis, Nyrel, Curtis, Keith that I dog on all the time when they shoot hoops on the blacktop during recess.

I'm so proud of how these boys played tonight.
If someone only looked at the scoreboard at the end of the game, the truth is they got clobbered.  I won't even start on how unfair it was that they were a CYO team playing an AAU team that had players that are in high school and some twice their size, but that's beside the point.

The point I want to share is how much these young Saint Francis boys taught me a lesson tonight.

In the second half, with the game way out of reach, Mr. Lesesne and I on the sidelines kept yelling for them to "Keep playing!" and "Keep your head up!" "We learn from this, this is how we grow!" and complimenting on each achievement like how Keith hustled back on defense, or how Alec made a good block, or how Matthew made a player's foul to prevent an easy bucket, or how Nyrel split the double team and made a great assist.  And they responded to our banter. The last three minutes might have been the most intense with each Saint Francis player hustling and rotating on defense as if it was a one point game.  "Make them work for it!"  "Play hard for two minutes!" "Keep your head up!"

Behind me 8th grade girls were cheering loud "S-F-I-S is the BEST!".  The crowd was cheering hard on their intense focus to defend even to the last seconds.

One of my all-time favorite books
with one of my all-time favorite quotes.
These boys reminded me of a very important lesson in life---sometimes it's no longer about winning or losing.  It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from Atticus Finch from one of my all-time favorite books To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: "Courage . . .is knowing you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what."

This past Thanksgiving break, I feel like I've been recovering from a very stressful first few months at my job as Director of Development and Marketing at SFIS.  I feel I've been beat up, fallen, and failed many, many times as I struggle to find my role, work the hardest I've ever had in a job, and have been pushed to my limit to moments of complete break down three or four times this year.  I have been discouraged over and over again to the point of seriously wanting to quit a handful of times.

Now, don't get me wrong. SFIS is a great school, the faculty are great, the administration is great. The problems I've been having are all about doing everything new for the first time in a position that's not only new for me but for everyone else as well.  I'm finally making progress on how to communicate better and have communicated how we as a staff can communicate better, but boy, have I learned it the hard way.

I guess the point I want to share is that I am inspired by my boys' effort this evening.  Quitting was not an option and was not going to be tolerated by any of the adult males in that building who cared about them. Their head coach told me something the other day that reached down into my soul: "I make sure I'm there every day for them, because that's what matters for these kids.  It's about someone being there and showing up."  And he is hugely on to something---all we adult male role models (the coaches, Mr. Lesesne, and me) out there tonight were giving them something they all need in their lives, something more they can get from books.

It's no longer about winning or losing.  Tonight, I wanted my boys to keep playing, and I expect them to keep shooting---for their dreams, for who they're meant to be, for what makes them alive.

And it makes me fired up for my job.  I may be "licked" as Atticus would say, I may be playing against a lot of expectations, but I will give it my best, I will keep my head up, and I will finish strong.  Because that's what I expected from my boys tonight.  And it was their response that has inspired me to do so, too.


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