Before I begin, there is something you must understand. I attend a college with a mere 300 students. Consequently, our sports teams are lacking in numbers. The women’s basketball team, for example, currently claims a total of eight players – two of which are currently absent. So let’s say, at least for now, that our team has a grand total of six.
Six basketball players. And the game requires five players. That gives us one substitute. Which means that there are few breaks for some, and zero for others.
We had a game this past week, and those six players arrived an hour before the game, warmed up, and prepared for the inevitable losing score. It isn't that we have a losing mentality, but rather that we recognize our skills are below that of the teams we play against. Up until this past game, that really bothered me.
It really did.
I want to give excellence and win and dominate on the court. But something happened last week that changed my perspective. And while I’m not entirely sure what it was or how to put it into comprehensible words, I will do by best. Maybe it will help you in your game, some way.
My college is a Christian college, so pre-game pump-up music is docile, to say the least. School policies dictate what kind of music we can and can’t get hyped to, and it kinda sucks. The sound people do their best though, and I commend them for that. Anyway, there we are at our game, and we’re being beat by over 20 points.
It’s halftime and we’re in our huddle when the song comes on. My least favorite song. Ever. The song that drives me (and surely countless others) nuts because it’s so (in my opinion) stupid. The “Chicken Dance” song.
During half-time. Of a basketball game that I take very, very seriously. My first reaction is to get irritated. Seriously? We’re losing badly and you’re only discrediting our reputation by playing a silly, children’s song with silly hand motions!
And then it happened. My mental switch. I realized that it didn’t matter how hard I played, or any other individual player played. As a team, there was only so far we could go, so much we could do. We had only practiced maybe three times in the past two months, so the probability of us actually winning was slim to nothing.
And as I stood there, listening to that oh-so-aggravating song, I began to smile. Bring on the losing score. Bring on the last 20 minutes of the game that would surely be grueling and somewhat disheartening. And bring on that stupid song, because as much as it’s irritating, it’s intention is to be fun.
And the game is supposed to be fun. And if we’re going to lose anyway, why not enjoy my twenty minutes left on the court? Why not?
So I did something that ten minutes before I would never have considered. I smiled, and oh-so-gently began swaying my hips in beat to that stupid, stupid song. And I allowed myself to come to grips with the fact that we would lose, and miss shots, and lose the ball, and give bad passes. And you know what? That's okay. Because basketball is just a game, and college is place where you’re supposed to screw up and learn from your mistakes and have the best, God-loving time of your life.
My desire to win did not magically cease, and my perfectionist tendencies did not miraculously disappear. But for twenty minutes, I allowed myself the luxury of focusing on the more important things of life: having fun with the people around me, and just playing ball.