Several weeks ago, Collegiate’s boys varsity basketball team, fresh off a 58-53 victory over Woodberry Forest, lost 61-36 to Prep League rival Trinity Episcopal in the Jacobs Gym.
The Titans came out on fire, led 22-0 after the first quarter, then hit another quick bucket to open the second before the Cougars finally erased the zero from the left side of the scoreboard. (The world’s) a very mean and nasty place. I don’t care how tough you are. It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.
To the casual observer who read the box score in the next day’s newspaper, the results brought to mind an old-fashioned trip to the woodshed.
To anyone who actually saw the matchup between the taller, supremely skilled Titans and the outmanned yet overachieving Cougars, it was anything but.
In fact, once Coach Alex Peavey’s guys gained their bearings, the only thing the Titans did better than the home team was score more points. It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit, how much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.
Even with the game well in hand, Trinity maintained its intensity and kept the heat on the Cougars, who never flinched.
They fought for each possession.
When they were knocked down, they quickly bounced back up.
They played through to the very end.
That is the essence of sport.
It’s also the essence of life. Now if you know what you’re worth, go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not pointing fingers say you ain’t where you want to be ‘cause of him or her or anybody. Cowards do that, and that ain’t you. You’re better than that.
During most of my 24 years coaching basketball from the boys' Cub team to the girls’ varsity, my teams faced similar circumstances more times than I’d like to remember. Each time, I was bothered if my opponent didn’t do all that he could to make the score respectable.
I’ve long since dismissed that notion.
Success, I’ve learned the hard way, isn’t always about the numbers on some scoreboard, literal or figurative.
It’s about attitude and effort and the steadfast refusal to back down despite the odds stacked high against you.
A couple of weeks later, Coach Peavey’s team traveled to Trinity, played its typical plucky game, but still lost 72-50.
The Cougars probably never had a chance, even when they cut their deficit to 13 early in the final period and appeared, possibly, on the verge of making a run.
What I saw then, and every other time I’ve seen them play, was a bunch of guys whose coaches have instilled a strong work ethic and passion that will serve them well long after this season ends, their high school years conclude, and they move on to the real challenges of life.
Soon enough, they’ll figure out that today’s games are just that – games – and those games are simply preparation for true competition.
When life gets real, you see, no one will call off the dogs.
When that moment arrives, you’re best served by resolutely standing your ground and saying, “Bring it on! Give me your best shot! I can handle it!”
By so doing, you may not finish first, but you will surely win.
-- Weldon Bradshaw