For better or worse, depending on how you look at it, there is usually only one winner in sports. You’ve probably heard commentators throughout this month’s NCAA basketball tournament coverage cleverly point out “the season ends in a loss for everyone except one team.” Such great wisdom, I know.
You may have also heard coaches telling their teams to “be present in the moment and enjoy the tournament,” most commonly from teams that find themselves in uncharted waters. I heard Coach Andy Enfield from surging sweethearts Florida Gulf Coast tell his guys something along those lines as they celebrated their improbable Sweet 16 berth.
In our society, especially among younger generations, we’re always looking for the next best thing. Our attention spans are short, ask anybody that produces multimedia or teaches for that matter. Sadly, the same can creep into our careers.
Because so many talented athletes have come out of our area, it’s almost taken for granted that you’ll play in a big game or at the next level. But that is rarely the case.
Your high school career and college career on average will cover about eight years of your life, and only a select few will go on to play at the professional level. Eight years is a drop in the bucket on the average American life span, but within that time some of your fondest memories can occur.
I played in the NCAA tournament twice and made it to the Sweet 16 once, nearly upsetting U-Conn. That memory still haunts me — I’m convinced my life would be different had we beaten the Huskies. Nonetheless, those opportunities were incredible and are some of the most memorable from my college career (yes, even the loss). But the one WCAC championship and City Title I actually won in high school might rival those as the best moments of my overall career.
For the 68 teams playing in the NCAA tournament there are 32 playing in the NIT, and a whole slew of other folks whose seasons are long over. Whatever your moment, whatever the level, savor it.
In the midst of it all you often can’t fathom the end, but it surely comes. I watched Victor Oladipo, Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell, and Cody Zeller saunter solemnly down the hall to the postgame news conference after falling to Syracuse over the weekend, undoubtedly a great season, but a mission unaccomplished. In contrast, Syracuse was excited, and rightfully so, after its victory. But during the next day’s pre-practice news opportunities, players were locked back into focus.
That aunt or uncle that’s always reminiscing about their playing days won’t seem as lame to you when you move on and your best athletic days are behind you. Be in those moments. Be all in competitively – don’t take anything for granted and enjoy those successes. Should you come up short, feel that pain as well, then you’ll do whatever it takes not to let that happen again – if you’re fortunate enough to have another opportunity.
Monica McNutt was an All-Met basketball player at Holy Cross Academy who went on to star for the Georgetown women’s team. She will be offering advice to high school athletes who are looking to make the leap to college sports.
Got a question for Monica, or an idea she can use for a future post? Leave it here in the comments, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @__MCM__.