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losing streak


Last night we cheered on Brooklyn and her team while they lost another basketball game in a long succession of losses this season. We have five more games to go, and we are hopeful to bring, at least, one win home this year. Some games have been so close that I am convinced my heart is going to stop beating, while other games have been awash from the start of the first quarter.

Losing is the worst. In fact, even admitting that my daughter’s basketball team is on a losing streak is really quite humbling. We love winners. And we love being winners. Nobody loves losing.

But losing is a part of life. I wish that weren’t true. I wish there was a way to bypass losing altogether, but no matter how we try to create nonsensical awards and convince our kids that “everyone’s a winner”, losing still happens. And it’s hard.

In spite of this losing streak, there are some things that I am learning as I help Brooklyn navigate through the emotions and disappointments that come with losing. In life we are not guaranteed that everything we set our hands to do is going to be successful. There will be times when we are on the winning team, and times when it seems we can’t pull a win out to save our lives. I really hate those seasons of failure, but those seasons are usually the ones that have taught me the most about myself, the value of team, and how to keep pressing on without giving up hope.

Here are five lessons that we are learning through this losing streak:

1. Sloppy passing will lose the game. As I have watched Brooklyn and her teammates tackle some pretty tough competitors one thing I have noticed is the sheer panic that washes over them as the game intensifies. With this panic comes an inability to think straight, and when they are not thinking straight, they throw the ball away. Passing gets sloppy. Instead of thinking it through they try to get rid of the ball as quickly as they can, and typically pass it to the opposing team.

I get it. When I played basketball in high school I felt like it was more of a game of hot potato. Nobody wanted the ball because we were terrified of what to do once we had the ball. So instead of making calculated passes, we threw it and hoped someone from our team would catch it.

I see this play out in so many areas of life besides the court. When things aren’t going well, or we start seeing more losses than wins, passing becomes sloppy. We don’t want want to hold the project for too long because we aren’t quite sure what to do with it, or we’re afraid that we’ll get stuck with the hot potato and bear the weight of the loss. So we throw it out there hoping someone will catch it and take it to the basket. But most of the time, we lose the ball altogether.

Which leads to the second lesson in losing…

2. Tunnel vision dribbling isolates us from our team. From my little spot on the sidelines I try my best, without embarrassing Brooklyn in the process, to encourage (scream loudly) the girls to keep their eyes up when they are dribbling the ball. (Just by typing that sentence I can feel my blood pressure rising…PLEASE keep your eyes up when dribbling the ball!) While they are improving each game and are growing in their confidence, they continue to struggle to keep their heads up when they have the ball.

Why is that such a big deal? When we have our heads down we are only focussed on our position, the ball being in our hands, our pathway to the hoop, and we lose sight of our team. We start to think that everything begins and ends with me. We can’t see what is going on around us. When our eyes are down we miss opportunities to pass the ball to our open teammates. When our eyes are down the the chance of turning over the ball increases 100%. When our eyes are down we forget that we are part of a team and not a one-man show.

In life, as in basketball, when we’re dribbling down the court we need to keep our eyes up. We need to look for our teammates, and be visually aware of our opponent. And then we need to make smart passes.

3. It not only takes skill, but wisdom, when taking an outside shot. Brooklyn and her team have grown tremendously in the area of shooting since their first game. Kind of along the same vein as my first point, early in the season I could see panic rise up as the clock was ticking and we were heading for another loss. The girls started tossing the ball from the three point line, fingers crossed, hopeful it would swish right in. Unfortunately, none of those shots made it, and once again we would lose the ball. Even some of the more skilled shooters would see the scoreboard instead of the team around her, and take the shot only to watch it bounce off the rim.

While I am not encouraging anyone to never take risks, because sometimes the best wins come from some risky plays, what I am trying to say is that the “it’s all up to me” attitude in basketball, and in life, will only lead to more loss. When we see our team, our organization, our family, or our friends circle struggling it can feel out of control. Nobody likes to feel out of control. It’s a horrible feeling. But the fastest way to kill the team is to take the game into our own hands and completely dismiss our teammates.

While risky shooting can be exciting, and even beneficial if the shot makes it in the basket, it oftentimes alienates the rest of the team, and is not a guarantee of a win. When we’re doing life with people there may be times when our teammate has a better chance of making the shot, and we need to pass the ball. Even if we feel super confident in our own skills, if our teammate is open and under the basket, then we need to pass…and make it a good pass. This doesn’t necessarily mean our teammate will make the shot, but we have definitely upped the odds for a win.

4. The fastest way to kill a team is by playing the blame game. Gratefully, Brooklyn’s team excels at positive reinforcement. I give all the credit to her fantastic and gifted coaches. They have instilled in these girls a value that will serve them well for the rest of their lives: lift each other up, don’t tear each other down.

When we’re losing it becomes so easy to start pointing fingers. I think the root of that is insecurity. “If that other person had done a better job then we wouldn’t be in this position.” And in one statement the team dies.

When we win, we ALL win. And when we lose, we ALL lose. Losing in a team sport in not the fault of any one player, but a reflection of the entire team.

And finally…

5. It’s okay to fail. I said it earlier, and I’ll say it again, everyone loves a winner. Nobody wants to lose. But the greatest lessons in my life actually came out of failure. I gained more wisdom in one mistake than I could ever achieve in a record breaking streak of winning. Life is going to hand us all some really tough competitors, and if we get knocked down for a season, there is nothing that says we can’t get back up and try again the next time around. To assume that we only have one chance, one opportunity, one “golden moment” in life is preposterous. When we fail we learn, we grow, we see our weaknesses, we recalibrate and then we try again.

If you’re on a losing streak right now, don’t assume this is the end of the game. Or the end of your career. There is always another season coming. There is always another game to play. Don’t give up. The Bible is filled with people who failed their first time out on the court. And yet, God didn’t bench them for the rest of the season. He put them back in the game. He knew they would finish well…and they did.

Remember your team. You’re not playing this game alone. Watch your passes, keep your eyes up, utilize the gifts of your teammates, you’re not alone when you lose and you’re not alone when you win, and don’t be discouraged when failure comes.

Trust me…a win is coming.

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