Oh No! was my initial reaction as the referee made his way to the scorer’s table and signaled the foul on blue # 22, which was his 5th foul disqualifying my son Michael from the game with 3:03 left on the game clock. What made this foul tough were the limited options of replacement players to come in and take his place amongst the “Shockers” junior college roster, they were especially scarce at inside players. Another factor that made this foul and its implication loom large was the fact the team was on the verge of winning their first game of the season. To the teams credit the remaining players held together and withstood a furious run down the stretch by the home team as they realized the game was getting away from them, as the clock wound down 10, 9, 8, and the final buzzer sounded the players joy of lifting that monkey off their back was all too evident, it was as if they won a championship game. The exuberance was something to behold as these young men along with the coaches and fans breathed a collective sigh of relief of not going 0 for the season i.e. Detroit Lions. You are probably wondering why is winning one game a big deal? First you have to consider the pain, agony and embarrassment this team experienced to start the season and prior to this game, they were 0-8 and lost most of the games by 20 plus points. Coincidentally a few days earlier I had a conversation with Mike about the team’s record, which he did not want to discuss and purposely blocked out of his mind, I asked about the teams psyche after starting the season in such a dismal fashion. He expressed what I already knew and witnessed from the stands; morale was low, the game they loved was no longer fun and despite the season just getting under way it already seemed too long, the players dreaded everything from practice, listening to the coach scream, to the long van rides to some of the most destitute places only to come back with another “L” on their record.
I’m sure the team that lost to the Shockers on this night all but had this game neatly wrapped and packaged before it started. I can’t say I blame them given the fact that Mike’s team had not won a game and were getting blown out; surely they would not lose to them? To make things more interesting there were some internal conflicts on the Shockers that finally manifested a couple of days before the game. Half of the players on the team quit, they couldn’t take losing so they simply walked away. How is it that people can justify quitting as the best solution, unless you are referring to harmful addictions, is beyond me, I think quitting is a selfish act in most cases but it happens. Those players are alike so many when things get tough and their dreams are deferred; they gave up and quit. The ironic twist to this story is that some of the remaining players started the season so far down on the bench you’d need a GPS system to locate them, but they stuck it out. What does that say about their character? As a coach I know the importance of having talent, but I also understand that chemistry is the key ingredient for any team’s success whether you are talking sports or business. The 8 players who stayed found a common cause and a bond, they competed twice as hard and showed some fight that was clearly lacking in the previous games, they played with something to prove. I was amazed at the 180 degree turn around and determination this small group of players displayed and to see their efforts rewarded with their first win of the season was very emotional. These young men had the chance to experience something the other players who gave up didn’t a victory. What a great affirmation of a life lesson. Success rarely comes to those who lack the toughness and discipline to push through the obstacles and challenges standing in the way of their Goals and Dreams. The Shockers pushed through and on this night walked away Winners!