I learned this last year. I had always heard you work hard towards your goal (destination), or have your eyes on the prize (destination), but I didn’t hear much about the actual journey. With all that has happened in the last week regarding sports, it made even more sense.
As a coach, I did my best to tell my players to play every game like it was their last because they didn’t know if it would ever be. This included practice. You had to play your hardest. Never take a play off. Give 100%. Do whatever you needed to do and give it your all. When I would say this, I always had an injury in mind. That is how you think your career or season could end, because of an injury. Honestly, the same could be said about an untimely death. Never in my wildest dream did I ever think that a season or career could end because of a pandemic.
I have a friend who is contemplating leaving his job or getting out of the business of college coaching completely. Luckily for him, he came to this conclusion at the beginning of the year. He made it intentional that every time he stepped on the floor, he coached as if it were his last. He made sure that he enjoyed every second he was with his team and coworkers. Similar to a senior year, if you will.
I spoke to him on Sunday and he was devastated for his seniors. You’ve probably heard stories very similar to this. He has six seniors. They are a veteran team that was a shoe in for the tournament. They had fought all four years to get there. Those six seniors won’t go pro. Two might have the opportunity to play overseas, if they choose to take it. The others, their college careers were taken from them from an invisible opponent.
He was devastated for himself. He loves the staff he works with; he just knows that there is something else out there for him and it is time to move on. When we were talking on Sunday, he said he took the court each time as if it were his last and he made sure to enjoy each day during the good and the bad. He was completely frustrated that they didn’t even get the opportunity to reach the destination they had set out for. I asked him if he enjoyed the journey. He said yes. I told him that is what he has to focus on. He enjoyed that journey through all the ups and downs. He gave it 100% every single time on the court. You see, you have to enjoy the journey and not just the destination because you don’t know if that destination will be ripped from under you.
When I was on the mountain, the first few days were brutal for me. I was coming in dead last. In my mind I wasn’t winning, even though I finished each day. When I realized the people who were there with me were FOR me and all about helping me get to where I wanted to go I started to enjoy everything about the journey. When I realized that I was on a mountain in Tanzania, attempting something the majority of my friends would never think of doing, I knew it was something special. And I needed to enjoy every second of it, because it was not guaranteed that I was going to reach that summit. When I finally did reach that summit, the journey made reaching that destination even better.
Playing or coaching college sports is similar. Not everyone can or will do it. It is special. It is unique. As an athlete or a coach, you know that a player’s career could end due to injury or it does end because of a final game. If you are the number one seed, you could be upset and not have the opportunity to hoist that championship trophy. This year, it is uncharted territory, yet similar.
My heart goes out to all of the seniors who will not get that chance. My heart goes out to all the seniors who may not get their graduation. My heart goes out to everyone who is affected by this invisible opponent. My heart says, enjoy every last part of your journey and not just that destination.