Monday, April 9, 2012

Learning from Losing

A game earlier this season.

  For just the second time since the turn of the new year my team, DMBC Dunkerque, celebrated a win Saturday night. Two wins in three months -- yikes! To be honest, I'm a little surprised I haven't been stuck in a deep depression from all the losing. It got me thinking about how I've changed over the years in regards to how I handle losses.

  While my uniforms and teammates have changed drastically over time, my reasons for playing haven't. At first, when I was a kid, I played strictly for fun. Over the course of years and years of practice, it eventually became my job.

  Though, for whatever reason, it's never felt like a job to me. Probably because basketball has never stopped being fun. The work can be hard, both physically and mentally (you do the work to be your best. To me, meaning, to win). And yes, it can be frustrating when things aren't going your way. But when it comes down to it, I STILL find great joy when I step onto the court. And it still is where I feel I am at my best -- in my realm.

One Bad Loser
My motto...
  One thing I've learned is that losing never gets easy. Though I think I've gotten a little better at it over the years. When I was in high school, if we lost, I would never be able to sleep. I would literally replay every moment back in my mind: Every shot I took and missed, or every turnover I made; every play that went awry, and wanted to have back, was running in my mind while I tried to sleep.

  The constant game film replaying in my head usually resulted in me tossing and turning the entire night. I would fall asleep at some point, and wake up the next morning in an awful mood, not wanting to go to school. You can bet, nine times out of 10 I was in class the next day. Though I didn't give in without a fight. ;)

  So you can say I didn't handle losing very well as a teenager.

Learning to Adjust
Winning is fun...
  I don't want to say I learned how to lose my freshman year in college. But it's safe to say I learned to cope with it better. Point blank: we weren't very good my first year at Colorado.

  We were young, and inexperienced. And that was NOT the recipe for success for competing in one of the toughest conferences in the country.

losing isn't.
  Our team consisted of one junior, six sophomores, three freshmen and a walk-on. Tough to win in a conference like the Big-12 with a line-up like that. As a result, we took our fair share of bumps and bruises along the way.

  Early on my freshman year, I reacted to losses in a similar fashion. By tossing and turning the entire night, beating myself up, and replaying what I could have done better to help my team win. Eventually I guess I learned how to put the loss aside, long enough for my mind to quiet down, so I could get some all-important sleep.

  As my team at CU got better and more-experienced, winning became the norm again. So thankfully I never accepted losing.

Re-Adapting as a Pro

  As a professional, I've always been on winning teams. Teams that have made the playoffs, and had successful seasons, record-wise. This season, however, has been the losing-est season I've had in a long, long time. I've never had a season in Europe where my team finished below .500.

Celebrating a win in Germany.
  It's definitely not something to be proud of, but I guess it goes to show that I've grown up a bit in that regard. The fact that I am enjoying my time in Dunkerque, even with all the losses, says a great deal. There are definitely still times when I'm not-so-happy about how things are going (usually on Saturday night and Sunday morning after a loss).

  But life goes on, and you learn from set-backs. A couple things I've learned along the way:
  • You learn what you really value in life. Things outside of the game that bring you joy. 
  • You learn how to persevere. Life will never be easy for us ALL the time. It's important to take the bumps, learn from them, and keep moving!
  • You learn to rise above negativity. Losing equals a lot of negative thoughts (your own), and negative things (maybe attitudes, words, actions) around you. You learn not to give into the negativity, and hopefully turn it into something positive for yourself.
  • You learn to handle your emotions, and not let them control you. 
  • You learn there is always another game, and another chance to redeem yourself. So you have to prepare yourself when that time comes!
  I will never accept losing as the norm. Because losing is not fun. And that's why I play!

Celebrating a big win in Italy.
  You'll never find me cheery and chatty after a loss. To me, the day you're okay with losing, is the day you should stop playing. When you're okay with losing, that means you've stopped caring, and stopped competing. If you don't care, it's time to get off the court. Simple as that.

  But finally I've learned that you can get something out of an L as well!

  With our win over Laveyron on Saturday, DMBC Dunkerque officially avoided relegation (for more about that, read: Avoiding Relegation). Three games to go, and it's clear sailing! Here's to three more wins to finish the season!


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