The good, the bad and the ugly. Success often comes from experiencing all three. The good will make you feel like you’re on top of the iceberg. It is when you win a game, a regular season, a Pac-12 championship or a national championship. Yet, as much as there is a tip of the iceberg, there are also kilometers more beneath the freezing cold water, invisible to passersby.
The build-up to good things isn’t always good. The build-up to good things is often bad in the form of annoying, frustrating, scary and, particularly in sports, ugly.
The good: Our team came off of a massive high from last year, with respective massive expectations for this year. However, the same expectation doesn’t fit every team in the same standard. Metaphorically, let’s say last year we were the monkeys who could climb the tree with the other monkeys. This year, maybe we’re more like fish, who can’t climb a tree, but you wouldn’t want to race us in the water. Our team is unique, with many different personalities, passions and characters. We are learning how to harness those attributes and find our strength as a team every day. The most difficult thing is patience. Expectation drives the opposite and forces us to want things now. Learning to be comfortable being uncomfortable in this growth period as a team, is what will drive the next few months.
The bad: I think this part speaks for itself. We are unranked for the first time in years, and let me tell you, the buzz of questions as to why are uncomfortable. So the question we must ask ourselves each day is how we make this feeling comfortable. We all established in practice yesterday that we hate to lose, maybe even more than we love to win. Losing hurts, and it is painful in all aspects of life, but pain has its own character. It can drive motivation, power and fearlessness, but it can also demean and tear us apart. We choose which. Losing isn’t fun, but what can we learn from how it makes us feel? To work harder? Maybe, but I think the most important is to remember, as I said last week, why we choose to play. There’s a little girl who started playing basketball a long time ago because she loved it. Sometimes, she deserves acknowledgment and a chance to sit on our shoulder when we run sprints for turnovers or lose a close game to a team we desperately want to beat.
The ugly: This part is the most overlooked. Success is not a pathway paved by Mr. Clean’s magic eraser on a marble white countertop, even if it may look that way from the outside, and you certainly don’t get to ride on top of it as it glides across. Everyone forgets that the eraser gets stained with just about everything, and when you flip it over after use it may look disgusting, but still, it got the job done. The most important note may be that it is reusable. Building success is a messy process, and right now, this team is in the thick of the mess, and it feels terrible. Resilience will be key. Sticking together will be key. Finding a way to be comfortable in the discomfort will be key.
There will be a point in time where, hopefully, we will see that we can choose how the story ends. There are two options: We can stay cold in the water, or we can swim to the surface and climb the iceberg, embracing each step of the way. And the last time I checked, monkeys aren’t all that great at swimming.
Contact Mikaela Brewer at mbrewer8 ‘at’ stanford.edu.