Well…that was exciting (and at the same time, heartbreaking)! Our University of Denver team just finished our up and down season with a one-goal loss to the number one seeded Loyola team in the NCAA quarterfinals. We had five one goal losses on the year (three to top five teams), which shows we were SO incredibly close to being able to win a national championship. But, like my father used to tell me when I was young, "Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, son!". Such a comforting phrase...
It can be an emotional experience after a season ends, especially after a roller coaster ride like the one we went on this year. There is so much work and dedication that goes into the pursuit of a "successful" season at any level and that is even more so true at the college level. The players spend hours on the practice field, in the weight room, in the video room and in the office preparing for their opponents all year. Coaches basically sacrifice their entire lives at this level, just to be able to keep up and compete with all of the other teams and staffs out there. When I was young, people used to ask me what my father did for a living. I would reply that he was a college lacrosse coach. Then they would ask, "Well, what else does he do?". I would laugh and tell them there was no time for anything else and that they probably saw their father more at home, than I did. But, that's life in collegiate athletics.
Anyway, there can be a lot of anger and / or shame that comes up when a season ends.
We can be angry at the team that beat us or the referees or at our
teammates and coaches for not being perfect. We can also feel a lot of
shame within ourselves. If we are players, we might say, "Well…if I had
just made this save…or won this face-off…or scored on this shot, then I
would not have let my team down." If we are coaches, we can think to
ourselves, "We should have worked on that other thing the week before or
I should have run that offense or that defense or played that kid at
that time." All this anger and shame can eat away at us and be very
destructive once a season ends to ourselves and to those around us.
A couple of weeks ago, I randomly met a Zen master and priest named Doshin, and I was fortunate to be able to talk with him for a while. He was a fascinating man with a big smile and an even bigger laugh. He seriously looked like a modern day Buddha! He asked me, "Trevor, can anyone make you angry?". I said, "Sure, lots of people make me angry." Then he said, "Okay, well let's say other people can make you angry. Who makes you angry right now?". At the time, my father and I were knocking heads on a daily basis from working together so much. So, I told him my father made me angry.
Finally, he asked me, "If you really feel underneath all that anger, what is there?". Then I felt the care and compassion and love that I have for my father. My eyes welled up and I told him, "Well, I really care about my father. I want him to be happy and successful." He laughed his big laugh which made me laugh at the whole joke as well. Again he asked me, "Can anyone make you angry?". The way he asked made me laugh at myself again and realize that no one could actually make me angry. I chose to get angry at other people! It was an incredible insight. I was able to see that we choose to get angry when we care deeply about something or someone!
Then, Doshin told me that the same is true with shame. We choose to get angry at ourselves and direct that anger inwards when we actually just care about something. So, instead of feeling how much we care or love something, we beat ourselves up for not being perfect. That can be incredibly destructive in our own lives and can keep us from having the happiness and success that we all deserve.
So, as the season ended for us on Saturday afternoon, I had a lot of anger and shame start to come up after our loss to Loyola. But, I reminded myself of the great lesson that Doshin had taught me and was able to see what I really felt down deep. Underneath it all, I care deeply about the players on our University of Denver team and my fellow coaches. I am incredibly proud of them for all their hard work and the successes that we had this season. I know that towards the end of the year, they played their absolute best and left everything out on the field. As much as I would like to see the DU team win a national championship one day, the high of winning it all and making it to the top cannot even compare to the love that I have for them all today.
Sometimes, we might be disappointed to not "win it all" and get everything that we want, but we can still be grateful for having all that we need.