Monday, January 30, 2012

My First Carnival: Bal du Chat Noir

V, Bruno, and me!!

  It's been a difficult process getting this blog written today. Maybe my struggle comes from the lack of sleep I've had in the past few days. Or maybe it's because I keep getting distracted by the random post-Carnival neon green, pink, or blue feathers floating around my apartment.

  Either way, I have finally put the right words together to sum up my first Carnival experience!

  To tell you the truth, going into Saturday night (and the Bal du Chat Noir), I thought Carnival was just another excuse people used to drink excessively and act crazy (which still might be the case for some). And knowing it was going to be after a difficult French Cup game versus Mondeville (that we lost, by the way), I didn't have high expectations for the night.

  But two days removed from Saturday night at the ball, I can genuinely say I found Carnaval de Dunkerque to be all about camaraderie, friendship, and tradition. And it was a blast.

Ready for Carnival!
  Honestly, I've never seen anything like it. I had seen pictures and heard stories, but the atmosphere and my experience surpassed any expectations I may have had.

  The friends I would be attending the Bal du Chat Noir with, came to my game dressed in their Carnival attire. After the game, and after I finished my post-game duties as a DMBC player, we raced to my apartment so I could get into costume as well.

  My friends V and Valerie were in charge of my costume and makeup. They basically had free-rein to do whatever they wanted (which is something not too many people get to do with me! But they are Carnival vets, and I had to make sure I looked the part!).  After the quick transformation from basketball player to leprechaun (that's what I felt like anyway!), we made the five minute walk down the boardwalk to the Dunkerque Kursaal, and the start of the ball.

  I was excited, but didn't quite know what to expect. My teammates and people who knew I was going to the ball told me: bon courage as I left the gym (basically meaning, good luck). We went through a quick security check, and filed into the Kursaal along with thousands of other partiers.

  My first thought as we made our way through the crowd of colorful costumed Frenchmen: these people are crazy! Seriously. It was a spectacle in every sense of the word.

Finally ready to go! Me, Val, and V.
The Costumes 
  Every color in the rainbow was represented, and usually, all on the same person. Umbrellas stretched 15 feet into the air. Men were dressed as women (something I think they look forward to doing each year when Carnival rolls around). Jackets were covered with pins and other mementos representing Carnival from years prior. Faces and hair were covered in sparkles. And hats. Hats on the men seemed to be a must. They were covered in flowers and other trinkets. And again, the more color, the better.

  But regardless of costume, it seemed every person at the ball wore a huge smile. Including me.

The Ball
  We arrived just after midnight, which just so happened to be when the 'parade' inside the Kursaal began. In the center of the huge ball room was a circular stage where a band played. And on the outskirts of the room were various bar areas where people could mingle and socialize (and get more drinks, obviously).

  It was in between the circular stage and the bar areas where the real action of Carnival happened. Starting at midnight, the bravest Carnival-goers continuously walked the Kursaal loop (around the stage), singing Carnival songs at the top of their lungs.

  At 1 AM, the 'parade' dispersed, and regular music continued. The paraders took about an hour break (to rest and refuel), only to resume laps around the Kursaal at 2 AM. This went on the entire night. Until 5 AM. Gives another meaning to the word endurance!

  Even if people weren't taking part in parading around the ballroom, they were singing. Singing was the most-overpowering sound from the night (that, and horns anyway). Every person in the room knew every word to every song (except me!). They sang it loud, and they sang it very proud!

Cyrille, V, & Seb.
The History
  I made sure to find out why Carnival is such an important event in Dunkerque. Historically, Dunkerque was a fisherman town. Late-winter every year, the fishermen would set sail for Iceland. Unsure if they would return, the townspeople started the tradition of Carnival to send them off after a great time celebrating together. And the history of Carnaval de Dunkerque was born.

  As word spread that there was an American celebrating her first Carnival in the room (I think people overheard English being spoken), the most common questions I got were: "What do you think of Carnival?" and "There is nothing like this anywhere else in the world, is there?" My answers ranged from Carnival is: 'Impeccable,' 'Insane,' 'Crazy,' 'Unbelievable,' and 'Fun'; to: 'I have never seen anything like this.'

This picture makes me laugh--Brubru & Guilb.
  As I answered their questions, I could see the pride on their faces. The Dunkerquoise have a huge reputation to uphold in having the greatest Carnival in France after all!

  They showed me a great time, and it's safe to say it's a night I won't soon forget! I realized towards the end of the night that my cheeks were hurting from laughing and smiling so much. A pretty good sign that you're having a great time, isn't it?!?

  Thanks to V, Bruno, Guilb, Cyrille, Valerie, Seb, Brian, Maurice, Melanie, Bebert, and all the others for sharing your awesome tradition with an outsider, and making sure I had a great Carnaval experience!!

 ....a few more pictures & video below...

Val getting me ready to go!

Cyrille & V got a hold of my camera!

Inside the ball.

Bruno & Guilb.
A look from the bar area into the stage.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Let the Carnival Madness Begin

Carnival in Dunkerque!

  Ready or not, Carnival season is upon us. Ever since I set foot onto Dunkerque soil this past August, I have heard, almost on a weekly basis, about the extravagant Carnival celebration that takes place in the Northern French city.

  After hearing about it, and reading about it, I am as ready as I'll ever be to partake in the madness.

  For whatever reason (maybe this will be answered for me on Saturday), Dunkerque's Carnival, to my understanding, is the biggest in all of France. This year, the celebrations last from January 22nd until March 10th.

  Every weekend, for those seven weeks, there are processions and balls in Dunkerque, and smaller outlying villages. It is a common sight to see men wearing women's dresses, and women in fancy, colorful costumes. Everyone with their faces painted.

  On the Sunday before Ash Wednesday (mid-February this year), a parade makes its way through Dunkerque city center under the 'protection' of Reuze Papa and his family. The costumed Carnival-goers, who carry colorful umbrellas and sing carnival songs, and an Imperial drum major lead the way for Reuze Papa and family.

Procession with Reuze Papa and family.
  The procession (that involves herring-throwing in front of the city hall) goes through the city center, and ends in Jean Bart Plaza.

  On many Saturday nights during Carnival, the party continues at the Dunkerque Kursaal, where a series of balls are held (and also happens to be a five minute walk down the boardwalk from my apartment).

  The climax of the nearly three month celebration is, of course, Mardi Gras.

  This Saturday evening I'll be at one of the balls held at Dunkerque Kursaal. All I have been told is to avoid the middle of the room at midnight. I have no idea why, but if that's the ONE thing Carnival-veterans have made sure to tell me, you can bet I will be following their advice!!

  I have a costume, but I'll save pictures and descriptions of that for later! The theme of the ball is Bal du Chat Noir (Ball of the Black Cat). You can be sure I'll be sticking by my friend, V's side!

  It'll be an interesting night to say the least. We have a game Saturday night, prior to the ball. And depending on how that goes, I'll either be in a really good mood, or an incredibly bad one. So my level of tolerance may vary. Huge crowds of crazy people usually aren't my forte, but I'll do my best to have a great time and enjoy the Dunkerque Carnival-spirit!

  Hopefully I'll have lots of pictures, and a few videos for you all next week.

  Let the fun begin!


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

School Lunches -- French Style

Cheering on the kids as they do a dance for us!

  For the third time this season, my teammates and I visited a local school this week for a little community outreach.

  While there, we answered questions, played basketball, signed autographs, and ate lunch with the kids. It gave me the opportunity to see what the French schools are like; the buildings themselves, what a kid's day is like, and what their school lunch looks like.

Funny Interactions
  I love hearing the questions the children have. Just like in the States, the first question is usually: 'how tall are you?' followed by: 'can you dunk?' Though, they come up with some interesting questions too such as, 'how old were you when you scored your first basket?' And some funny questions for me, the American: 'do you know Rihanna?' or 'do you know Tony Hawk?'

Q & A time!
  While eating lunch, the kids at my table try to think of any and everything they know in English. While I do my best to muster up something to say to them in French. Most of the time it results in them asking basic questions in French, and me answering in English. It's kind of a funny interaction, but we make it work.

  It's fun to interact with the kids. Though I'm sure it would be a lot more fun if I could communicate with them a little bit better. Kids are entertaining in any language, and I look
forward to going back and visiting more schools
in the next few months!

Lunch Time
  The most interesting thing to me though, was the school lunches. In the US, what we feed our kids at school has, and probably always will be a topic for great discussion. With school district's budgets becoming tighter and tighter, feeding kids a quality meal at school is becoming more and more difficult.

  While it's been some time since I've seen a school lunch in the US, it's safe to say things haven't changed that much, for the better anyways (ahem, pizza = vegetable?).

Kids' time to play!
  Two of the schools we visited were elementary schools. At the elementary level, parents have two options for their kids during the lunchtime period: 1) pick their children up, and have them eat at home; (It is my understanding that the kids have an hour and a half for lunch. So that gives parents plenty of time to pick them up, take them home, have them eat, and get them back to school for the second part of the day.) or, 2) pay a bit extra (2-4 Euros per day, depending on parents' income) and have their children eat a 'hot lunch' at school.
No Brown Bag Lunches
  One thing I did NOT notice was kids bringing lunch from home. If they stayed at school for lunch, they ate what the school provided. This is obviously a very different system than what we're used to seeing in the States.

Cantine -- isn't it more family-style?
  Another difference I noticed, was that the kids don't eat in their homeroom classrooms. They don't have a traditional cafeteria either. They eat in what they call cantines.

  It's more of a family atmosphere, where between four and six kids share a table. They have regular plates, silverware, and glasses on the table (not plastic/paper plates, or infamous 'sporks').

  Once seated, the 'lunch ladies' (for lack of a better term) brought in the 'first plate' of lunch. It might be a carrot salad (like we ate at the first school we visited), or a light pastry with cheese (like we ate yesterday). The kids dish up their own portions, and yes, they all ate at least a little bit of carrot salad.

Plate Stacking
  After they're done with the first course, very systematically, the kids put all remaining food onto one plate, and one by one pass their plates to the front of the table for the lunch ladies to come by and clear. I later asked my teammates if they are taught this as children, because it's what my teammates do when we have a team meal together as well. In fact they are taught to clear their tables, and pass their plates to the front. I think that's a very cool thing to teach their kids. Nothing like learning a little responsibility and manners in the lunch room!

Elodie dishing up some carrots for a kiddo!
  Then the lunch ladies come back with round two. Both times we ate lunch, the main course was meat and vegetables.

  Again, the kids take turns dishing up their own portions. And if the child is too small (some of the kids were as young as six years old at my table), one of the room monitors/lunch ladies helps them out. Bread is also brought out at this time and placed on the table (which happened to be organic bread, by the way).

  When finished, once again, the kids clear their tables and their plates.

  Finally, dessert is brought out. Dessert consisted of clementine oranges, and/or yogurt (organic as well).

Lunchtime Drinks
  One thing that should be mentioned is what the kids had to drink. Their only option was water. A pitcher of water was placed on each table at the start of lunch, and if they ran out, one of the kids could go refill it for the rest of the table.
Our lunch yesterday -- roast beef, veggies, & couscous.
  Sure, the menus are very basic. And the kids have very little room for choice. But they are given real food. Not french fries, chicken nuggets, or pizza. They give them true vegetables, fruit, and meat. I'm sure there are days when the kids do have french fries and pizza, but it is not an option for them every day.

  From what I saw, the kids ate what they put on their plate, and they all had a very healthy portions (unless they were just trying to show off for us).

Wouldn't Fly in the US
  One thing I kept thinking to myself while I was sitting at the table, was how much complaining a kid in the US would be doing if we brought out water, vegetables, meat, and clementines for them to eat at lunch. Maybe the French kids do complain, but they ate the food nonetheless!

  I know there are things I don't understand about the French school lunch program, exactly how they pay for it etc...but it seems to me, the US school lunches have great room for improvement.

  Providing kids with proper nutrition is a very important thing. While, as kids, we think it's great (woo hoo, pizza and chocolate milk!), we're not doing them any favors. I hope, somehow, we can improve the quality of the food we give our kids at school! What do you think?

~ Happy Wednesday!
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Monday, January 23, 2012

Team Chemistry: Still Learning After All These Years

Singing the CU fight song after a W.

  As the team bus was pulling up to the gym Saturday night for our game against La Roche, I had an interesting thought: every Winter, since I was nine years old, I've been a member of a basketball team (that dates back to 1990 for those of you doing the math).

  And I thought, each and every one of those years has been like riding a roller-coaster.

  No matter how much experience you have, you never know what to expect because no two teams are ever the same.

  Even after 22 years (?!?!), I've yet to tire of being on a team. The basketball is roughly the same year in and year out, but the dynamics of a team are always changing, and always keeping you on your toes.

Learning Experiences 
  Basketball aside, you're constantly learning about yourself, and learning about your teammates. So that's why, to me, being a part of a team (any team), can be one of the greatest learning experiences you can have. You don't learn just about basketball, you learn about people, and through that, you learn about life.

Easter 2001 with my Buffs!
  I can still remember my first uniform ever--purple t-shirts from the YMCA. I'm sure everyone remembers their Y-ball days. My dad was our coach, and he taught us the basics about the game. You know: the fundamentals (how to dribble, shoot, etc.), spacing, the pick and roll, give and go.

  But we also learned the basics about teamwork, and how to be a good teammate: sharing, communication, encouragement, working together.

  Of course, as we get older, the game gets more intricate, and the personality of a team grows more complicated. But the most-important aspects of playing on a team never change.

  If you don't have the basic fundamentals of basketball honed and sharpened, you can't play the game at a high level. The same goes for being on a team. If you forget the basics of what goes into being a good teammate, chances are, your team won't be as successful as it could be.

Team Chemistry 
  You can never predict what a team's chemistry will be like. Just like you can never take it for granted. Team chemistry to me, is basically how well people get along on AND off the court. It's unrealistic to expect every person on a team to be best of friends. Personalities will clash; that's only normal. When that happens, it's important that differences are put aside for the betterment of the team.

  Many times, a team's chemistry is what allows it to overcome its opponent. Chemistry is immeasurable, but it might be the most-important intangible a team can have.

Having fun with my teammates in Sweden!
  Each team I have been on has been drastically different in that regard. But I've always found, the closer a team is off the court, the better they play together on.

  You'll go that extra mile, and work that much harder next to someone you like and have a mutual respect for, versus a teammate you don't necessarily get along with.

  The same way you can bring friendships and chemistry onto the court, you can also take what happens in games and practices, off the court. You can grow your friendships with teammates through the difficult, funny, or memorable situations that you face together on the court.

  Some of my favorite memories with teammates and friends have come after re-hashing particularly difficult practices, and being able turn those moments into things we can laugh about.

  By comparison, bad team chemistry, would be when you take a negative experience off the court and bring it onto the court, and vice versa. It's not rocket-science, but it's important nonetheless.

  Two of the most successful teams I've ever played on were extremely close off the court, and I believe it led to us working that much harder together, and that much better together on the court.

Close Team = Successful Team
Team dinner in Como.
  My Colorado teams from 1999-2003 grew from being a tight group of friends that lost more often than not (my freshman year), to a team that could get through almost anything together.

  We advanced as far as the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament, my junior year, and the Sweet 16 my senior year.

  The same can be said for the first professional team I played on in Como. Even though we came from all corners of the world, we enjoyed spending time with each other off the court, and we enjoyed working together on the court.

  What started out as a difficult season, losing games we necessarily shouldn't have lost, resulted in a team (that wasn't the most-talented in the league) that won the Italian Championship at season's end.

  Here are some other valuable lessons I've learned through participating on basketball teams throughout the years. Things I will always take with me, in every aspect of my life:
  • I've gotten better at learning how to lose (that doesn't sound right). Maybe learning from failures sounds a little bit better. Losing is never easy, but it used to consume me. Now I try to learn from it.
  • Win graciously. Act like you've been there before, act like you've done it before.
  • While you learn from failures (losing), success (winning) is what keeps you going. You need to experience the positives along with the negatives to keep pushing yourself.
  • I've learned what you CAN, and CANNOT control. Usually all you can control is yourself! You can try to lead your team to change, but a leader needs people to lead! Kind of sounds like the old adage: 'you can lead a horse to water...'

NCAA win -- nothing better!
  I've said over and over again, that being part of a team is one of the greatest, most-special experiences you can have.

  The friendships and camaraderie are the obvious benefits. But what you will learn from your teammates, and will experience is probably the most-rewarding benefit of them all.

  Do you think team chemistry can be 'fixed'? Or is just a natural thing, where, whatever will happen, will happen?

Your Experiences With Team Chemistry
  Is there an aspect about teamwork, or being on a team that I missed? And I mean any kind of team. Your team at work; that's a team! What things do you learn from your teammates or co-workers? And how important is chemistry in the workplace?

  I'm also wondering about the differences in the importance of team chemistry within men's teams, versus women's teams. I can obviously only speak from one perspective, but would love to hear the contrary!

CU Alumni game -- still all the best of friends.
  Please, let me know your thoughts and experiences about being on a team, and how it has benefited your life, and how you have grown from it.
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Friday, January 20, 2012

Love for Luleå -- the Tundra

Out for a walk in Luleå.

  Mid-January, and it seems like winter is finally making an appearance in various corners of the world.

  Depending on where we grew up, we all have different ideas of what winter looks like. Growing up in Portland, winter to me, is a dreary, gray, rainy day (not much different than what a typical spring day might look like).

  But I'm sure for most, winter means at least a little snow, and some chilly temperatures.

  For two of my seasons abroad however, I experienced the most-extreme and hardcore of winters. That's Luleå, Sweden for you!

Frozen eyelashes.
  People who have never been to Colorado might think that the Rockies have a 'harsh' winter.

  Think again. My two years in Northern Sweden was something I had never before seen.

The 'Tundra'
  Before ever setting foot onto Swedish soil, I didn't think it was possible for human-beings to live under 2-3 feet of snow, sub-freezing temperatures, and 20 hours of darkness for 5 consecutive months. But the proud Swedes were happy to show me otherwise.

Riding 'kickers' with my teammates.
  My teammates and I didn't dub Luleå the Frozen Tundra without reason! From November lasting through April, the temperatures are unlikely to rise above freezing. As a matter of fact, from December to February the highs will only reach about 20 degrees F (-7 C), with the lows hovering around 3 degrees F (-16 C). Talk about a deep freeze huh?

  As cold as that sounds, freezing temperatures weren't the biggest obstacle when living in Luleå for the winter.

Four Hour Days
  Adjusting to the ever-shrinking presence of sunshine was. On the shortest of days, I seem to remember sunrise being sometime after 10am, with sunset not too far behind. On most winter days, the sun had completely disappeared into the horizon by 2pm. Leaving you with a solid four hours of sun.

  Since it's such a short day, keep in mind, the sun never fully rises in the sky. Never giving your body that, 'it's one o'clock in the afternoon' cue. It's a difficult thing to explain.

Luleå city behind. On the ice road.
  Cold and dark. Doesn't sound like I should be writing for the Luleå tourism magazine, does it? I'm sure you're probably thinking what a depressing place to live!

  But it's not. Trust me when I tell you Luleå is a place you want to see.

Always Be Prepared 
  You learn to put layers on. You wear long-johns. You never forget your hat and gloves. You make sure to wear extra-heavy socks. And you have a parka that can withstand anything!

  I remember being able to really feel the difference between 23 degrees F (-5 C), and 14 degrees F (-10 C). At 14 F, if you're outside longer than five minutes, you feel your eyeballs start to freeze. Now THAT'S cold!

The ice road!
  As ludicrous as it sounds, the ice and snow brightens things up. I looked at the Luleå-born-and-raised like they were crazy when they first told me that. But I learned that it actually rings true (or maybe it was just a mental thing I convinced myself of).

Use Your Resources
  What I learned to appreciate the most about Northern Sweden, and Luleå in particular, is that they found ways to turn, what might be perceived to be a negative thing (the ice and snow), into a positive.

  Luleå is completely surrounded by water (Lule River and the Gulf of Bothnia). In the freezing winter temperatures, that water obviously turns to ice. Once the ice becomes thick enough, the city creates ice roads that surround Luleå, and that lead to small islands just outside of the city.

My first, and only attempt at cross-country skiing.
  It's on these ice roads that the city comes alive in the winter. You can ice skate, ski, snow mobile, drive a car (!), walk, sled, and do anything else you can think of on these ice roads.

  It was a very surreal feeling going out onto the ice for the first time. I was more than a little nervous, but grew to enjoy the feeling of freedom you felt when out on the ice.

No Seat Belts...Just In Case 
  One of the more-amusing stories I can tell about Luleå came when driving onto the ice roads for the first time with my teammate, Ise. As we drove onto the ice, she turned to me and said, 'ok, seat belts off!'

  You can imagine my thought process: 'why do we need to take our seat belts off?!' 'If the ice breaks, we will have to be able to get out of the car quickly' was the response I came up with in my head.

  But all I could muster up as a response to Ise was: 'whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatttt??' She laughed at me, and said, 'just in case....' with a big smile. You guessed it, just in case....the ice breaks!!

  Thankfully I never experienced the 'just in case'.

  I'm know I did my fair share of complaining, but Luleå is truly one of the most unique places you can live. Drive ten minutes outside the city, and you have a good chance of seeing a reindeer on the side of the highway. Where else in the world can you do that?

  They love their hockey. And thankfully, they also love their basketball. I had a fabulous experience for two seasons in Luleå. But I'm convinced it had a little more to do with the people I was surrounded by than it did the snow and ice.


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2pm sunset.


Another early sunset.
A reindeer in the city!

Advent in Luleå.

Sun's out, the ice will be busy!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Going Dark for the Day

  Short, but worthwhile post today...

Craigslist going dark for the day.
  Unless you've been living under a rock, you're aware that today (Wednesday, Jan. 18th), websites like Wikipedia and Craigslist are 'going dark' in the U.S., along with many other sites 'blacking out' their logo to protest against anti-piracy legislation being considered by U.S. Congress.

  At first glance, it seems like Congress is trying to do the right thing: going after Internet pirates and counterfeiters. But diving further into the proposed legislation, it becomes clear SOPA and PIPA are the wrong way to do it. 

  SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (the Protect Intellectual Property Act) would essentially censor the web. The U.S. government would be able to block websites using similar methods employed in China. Really, that's all that needs to be said.

  The Senate begins voting on January 24th

  My suggestion? Read up on it, and educate yourselves. Then, if so inclined, sign the petition urging Congress to vote NO on SOPA and PIPA.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Getting Real About Winning

Versus Voiron.

  Our first game back from the Holiday break was a frustrating one. I was hoping my team, DMBC Dunkerque, would pick up where we left off in mid-December, and continue our winning streak. But those hopes were quickly put to rest.

  Granted we had a month break in between games, so rust could have only been expected. But there's a difference between rust, and work ethic. A difference between rust, and passion and intensity. A difference between rust, and the desire to win. And Voiron, our opponent, was dealing with the same 'rust'. So you tell me what the difference was ...

  When you spend 12 hours on a bus to get to a game, you want to, at the very least, make those 12 hours worthwhile by playing a good game. Of course, you PLAY every game to WIN every game. If you don't believe you can win the game, you shouldn't be on the floor. Now I'm not delusional enough to think you will win every game, but the possibility of winning every game is there. And the possibility of winning every game is there because you prepare over the course of the week of practice by working hard, and working intensely.
"By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail" -- Benjamin Franklin
  At the forefront of winning comes the desire to win. Everyone loves winning. There's no doubt about that. But the difference lies in who is willing to prepare to win. Preparing to win on the basketball court means practicing as if it were a game. You play in practice with the same intensity in which you play a game. You run just has hard, you chase down rebounds, you finish every play just as if it were a game. Sure it's not easy. But it's what has to be done if you want to be successful on game day.

  'Going through the motions', I think, is one of the worst phrases you can hear in regards to an athlete. That phrase indicates: lack of passion, lack of intensity, no work ethic, and not serious. And going through the motions is exactly what you don't want to do in practice. Going through the motions will not prepare you for the intensity of a game, and it will not prepare you to win.

  Playing basketball, whether it's in practice or in a game, has always brought me great joy. I think the things that have drawn me to basketball are the necessary cohesiveness, and the competitiveness. To me, there's nothing better that going out on the court with your four teammates, playing your hardest, and competing against the five players across the way.

Versus Voiron.
  Winning will not happen on its own, because, more than likely, your opponent loves to win just as much as you do. Especially at the professional level. Sure, sometimes you can get away with lacking intensity, or not working hard. Maybe you're just more talented than your particular opponent that day. But when talent is equal, it will be the preparation, the passion, and the work ethic that will push one team over the top.

  So here's my motivation for the rest of the season: I will focus on myself, and ensure that I am holding up my end of the bargain. Maybe that sounds selfish, but at the end of the day, I can only control one person: me. I will take every opportunity in practice to play my hardest, and try to bring up the level of intensity that way. We can continue to be mediocre, but that's not something I'm willing to do. The only way we will be successful, is if we play with more intensity, and our desire to win is higher than our opponent's.

  Winning will not 'just happen'. You have to put in the work first, and only then, will the results come.

  Make today a great one!