“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2
Sports teach us so much about life. Because I was consumed by basketball for more than 18 years, it might be why I can find so many stories that relate to such broad topics. I always go through seasons of withdrawal as I remember how much I loved the game of basketball. I was reflecting on the days when I played summer AAU ball with my then coach Dave Chatmon and now LIFE mentor. Dave always made sure in the off-season of March to August that we received a lot of exposure in many tournaments all over the country. I remember the four years I played for him we played in more than 70 games each summer. That was more than triple the amount of games we would play in a normal school season with almost double the amount of playing time per player. Needless to say I had so many opportunities to learn, develop and grow as an athlete.
Anyone who understands the game of basketball (or any team sport for that matter) knows that there are certain rules that can limit your ability to perform like you want to. Fouling happens to be one of those rules, and I was a master at it. In basketball, you are only allowed five fouls per game and if you exceed that number you are then benched for the rest of the game. There was one tournament in particular we played down in Indiana. I believe we only had five players for that entire tournament which meant we had no back up subs for any of the games. And these tournaments are set up in bracket format – many of which were elimination brackets – meaning we could play anywhere from 3-6 games in a weekend depending how far we made it in the bracket. Nevertheless, it was risky only going down with five players in the middle of July when it was sweltering hot – we could have probably used a sub or two. When we arrived at the tournament, we were not prepared for the competition we were about to face. The little Kenosha Wildcats strutting in with our point guard standing at 5’5″ and our center at 5’11”. I still to this day don’t know what Indiana feeds their athletes, all I know is every time we played down there, the athletes were always bigger, stronger and faster than any girls I have ever seen. It was not uncommon to have our 5’5″ point guard defending a 5’10” point guard and our 5’11 center defending a 6’4″ center. We just never seemed to match up well!
Fast forward through the weekend and somehow we managed to make it to the championship game which was game #5. I remember everyone being exhausted but we were so determined to win that we somehow managed to find more energy to play the last game. We fought the entire way for every point, every steal, every defensive stop, every block and every rebound and we got to a point where the game was so close that the lead changed almost every possession. With only a few minutes left on the clock (in the lead) our center fouled out. That left us with four players on the court. Dave reminded me that I was also sitting at four fouls so I had to be careful not to commit my fifth foul. If you have ever played basketball under complete exhaustion then you would know sometimes you can’t control your movements. Going up for a rebound with only moments left on the clock, now down by just a couple points, I must have hip checked someone and the whistle blew. FOUL!! I couldn’t believe it – I was so angry with myself. The very thing I knew I shouldn’t do I did anyways. We were left with three players on the court, only seconds left and we were competing against five on the floor. We had lost the lead and the game.
At the time I had very little emotional intelligence. My selfish attitude is embarrassing to think about looking back but I remember not speaking the entire rest of the day or the entire drive home. And on top of that, I refused to accept my 2nd place medal because I believed that my mistake costed us the game. It was as if the 2nd place medal represented failure because I knew we were meant to win that tournament. The entire ride home I remember thinking about all the times I had been reminded about being in ‘foul trouble.’ How many times I had heard my coaches tell me, “Kristen, you are too aggressive, you have to learn how to control your body better.” How many games I was benched at half time because I had already gotten three fouls and needed to make sure I was still available for the rest of the game. I knew the mistakes I was making, I just wasn’t changing anything in order to fix the mistakes.
There are so many times in life when the time is running out, we are sitting at four fouls and our coach is telling us, “now don’t foul out!” We work hard, we play to win and then we make the same mistakes over and over and kick ourselves later because we never learned from our mistakes. For example: finances – all the bills are paid, there is money left in the checking account, we are putting away 10% in the savings every month and we are finally in the green. Happy to finally get the finances in order we are tempted by the Cadillac dealership on the way home from work one day so we stop in to check out the new cars in stock. The salesmen tells us that you can get this brand new… for no money down, great interest rate, cash back, great monthly payment etc and we walk away with a brand new car we can’t afford. It’s no different than getting a speeding ticket (when we know we shouldn’t be speeding), running late to things (when we know we should just leave earlier), preparing much sooner for projects (when we know procrastination only makes us more stressed and anxious), etc. There are so many examples I could share that relate to my basketball scenario. So why is it that we continue to make the same mistakes over and over again without learning or changing? We know we have the power to do it and we always know the outcome when the lesson is learned. I believe it’s a matter of intentional practice and changing our thinking in order to overcome these setbacks. Orrin Woodward says, “lesson repeated until lesson learned.”
LIFE founder Chris Brady recently wrote an article titled: Don’t Waste Your Failures that deepens this concept so much more. Success isn’t so much about not making mistakes, we will always continue to make mistakes but unless we are learning from them we will never grow. My mentor and LIFE founder George Guzzardo says, “True learning is a growth experience that often times requires a different perspective about failure.”
And I believe Rafiki, the wise monkey in the Lion King said it best to Simba, “You can either run from your mistakes, or learn from your mistakes.”
I pray for the wisdom to learn from my mistakes and bless others along the way on the journey.
“For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.” Proverbs 24:16