Undefeated & Anxious. No, that’s not the name of my new hipster coffee shop. For the past couple of months, I’ve been coaching girls varsity basketball at a local private school, and we’re undefeated. That’s me, up in the left corner looking very un-athletic-like in my striped J. Crew Sweater and Big Round Glasses– a tactic I use to confuse the other team and make them think I am some sort of school librarian that has lost my way in the commotion of whatever sportgame is happening in the gym and not, actually, some sort of basketball guru (neither of which are true, though check out that excellent coaching form: hands on knees, incessant pacing, etc.)
In all honesty though, The Kids Are Alright. We may look like a cross country team (and in actuality, we ARE the cross country team, #smallschool) but we ball like it’s life (or something like that that the kids say these days. I don’t know. Hashtag it. Snap it. ::sigh:: I’m not cool anymore.)
Also I am most definitely sure that’s a foul up there.
But we’re 8-0. That’s pretty impressive for a group of high school kids to keep that up night after night and still finish their math homework and check their Instagram. But I think it’s all too much pressure. To be perfect, to not mess up, to not lose. I feel it, so I know they do, too. But–
Winning isn’t everything. I know I know. “Only losers say that!” Anyone who has ever played me in four square knows that I take winning VERY seriously, but as I’ve been thinking about this season, it’s the truest thing I know. It’s not everything.
I don’t remember the records of any of my seasons in high school (granted, we never went undefeated, so maybe that’s not a great comparison…) I don’t remember what my highest scoring game was, or who won State my senior year. I don’t even remember what my jersey number was– oh my gosh, am I getting old? Is this how it starts? Will I wake up tomorrow with a full head of gray hair and start drinking my water without ice because it hurts my teeth and kids are so loud these days and where are my glasses?
But I do remember my teammates. The hours spent in the gym working on my free throw. Talking with my Dad about defense and watching Duke games on repeat to learn how to draw a charge like Shane Battier. Strategizing with my Mom about steals and assists and secretly rooting for her Tar Heels behind Dad’s back. I think about my high school coach who, for all her faults and rough edges (she made me cry a time or two) had principles. She had conviction. She had her Way Of Doing Things and those things were to be done with Excellence, or else ( which was to cry, mostly.) Winning was a byproduct of Teamwork, Hard Work, Dedication, Patience. We didn’t win a ton, but like gold in the fire: the losing removed our dross.
“There is no teacher more discriminating or transforming than loss.”
― Pat Conroy, My Losing Season: A Memoir
I think I owe a lot of who I am today because of those fearful hours on the court spent trying to perform well/be good enough and utterly failing– to fail and realize you are still alive and still whole is to really understand what means to be loved by a God who doesn’t withhold from or give things to you based on your performance. This is a God who loves you simply because he created you, not because you can shoot 90% from the free throw line and are region champs. (Although that is totally my expectation, so get to practicin’ ladies.)
If we don’t win another game this season, that’s really OK with me. What I want the girls to have more than a perfect season or the anxiety of performance is to know this: the grace of God who doesn’t grade us on our performance, but on His.