There has been a great deal of basketball watching at our house these last few weeks. Warren loves catching as many games as he can during the March Madness tournament.
If you don’t pay attention to sports, let me catch you up to speed. The tournament is now down to the final two teams – Gonzaga University and Baylor University. They play the final game tonight.
In the most recent game, Gonzaga beat out UCLA with a buzzer-beating, game-winning shot. Please enjoy this replay – set to the Titanic soundtrack. 😂
As I’ve mentioned here before, I don’t care much about watching sports, but I do enjoy the inspirational stories that go along with the teams or players. I have one such inspirational story to share with you today.
Warren is a huge University of Virginia fan – a team that has had some pretty high-highs and low-lows the last few years.
Here’s some backstory if you are unfamiliar with the team:
In 2018, UVA was highly favored to go far in the March Madness tournament. They were ranked #1 and had already won the title of ACC season champions. However, your ranking doesn’t mean a whole lot in the tournament because it is built around single elimination. If you lose one game, you are out.
Sadly, UVA was beaten in the very first game of the tournament by a 16-seed team – the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. This was a huge upset because it was the first time in history that a 16-seed team beat a 1-seed team – OMG, I totally sound like I know what I’m talking about right now!
UVA was completely heartbroken. They thought it was their year to go all the way but, instead, their season was finished after the very first game. The team was the target of a lot of jokes – with tons of memes about how they lost so quickly. It was painful to watch.
The UVA head coach, Tony Bennett is highly respected in the league as an upstanding guy. He plays the role of more than a coach to his team – he’s a mentor and role model. Coach Bennett began calling this experience “a painful gift” to his team. He used it as a teachable moment – both for himself and for his players, encouraging them to channel their pain into hard work, focus, and perspective.
The team worked really hard and became incredibly close after their painful loss. Many of the players said it was a turning point in their life that helped them deal with huge, and very public, disappointment.
UVA returned to the 2019 tournament in another strong position, this time ranked #2. In a series of incredibly close games, UVA navigated their way through March, winning every game and eventually taking home the title for the entire tournament.
I still often think of how Tony Bennett handled himself during the comeback, and even more so during the loss. I particularly love this article that shares how he unwound his own sense of accomplishment and success from any win or loss.
There are many situations in my own life where I can apply the concept of a painful gift – something that was incredibly heartbreaking at the time, but that helped birth something new in me as well. Not every challenge has a silver-lining or a come-back story – but certainly many do.
How about you? If this brings up any thoughts or reflections you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them!
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