Thursday, February 9, 2012

Believe in Red

I used to have a professor (who shall remain nameless) who would ask questions that seemed harmless but were actually nearly impossible to answer. They all started the same way: “What is *dramatic pause*…” and then he’d throw in a word. What is language? What is development? What is morality? You’d sit there stammering for a minute because you knew you were supposed to know the answer, but the simplicity and size of the question stumped you. Eventually, you’d throw out some semblance of a definition that started with an “umm…” and finished with enough upspeak to make it clear that you had no idea what you were talking about.

The team is into gut-check time right now, and a topic that keeps coming up is belief. And whenever we talk about it I can hear Dr. Nameless in my head: “What is belief?”

Okay, well let’s start with the basics. Belief is a psychological state of being where a person holds something to be true. Sure, that makes sense, but I could define spherical trigonometry for you, but that doesn’t mean I actually know how to do it.

As a team, we’ve talked about it quite a bit. Our mental skills coach, Barb Ramsay, brings it up a lot. For a team to succeed they need to believe in themselves and each other. But it’s way easier said than done. Barb told me that when I’m having a day with low self-confidence to add up all the hours that I’ve invested into the game, and to focus on that.

So to my team I say: do you remember that day we had to do the tower run along Dundonald? Do you remember preseason legs days with Sean that hurt so badly we were seeing spots? Do you remember the stuff we’ve learned over 72 practices and who knows how many shoots, individuals, video sessions and lift days? Think about those hours, those hours combined with all the years before that we played. Think about each shot you took (including the ones that day it took you 20 minutes to figure out how to set up The Gun).

Have you ever seen Utah State’s “I Believe” chant that their fans do? If not watch it right now here. There are 5000 people who believe in a team. 5000 people who jump up and down and yell that their team is going to kick the crap out of whatever team was foolish enough to walk into their gym. That’s a belief that is entrenched, that is generations old, but it probably started with one guy who just said that he believed.

Muhammad Ali said “It's lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.” He said believed, he said faith, but he also said afraid. Fear is big for athletes. Fear is what makes me work hard: fear that the season will end and I’ll wish I had done something differently. Early in the season fear is far away but it’s February and I can feel the fear coming. I’m an athlete, and I’m supposed to be tough, so maybe I shouldn’t say that, but it’s true.

What Ali finishes with though, is that his belief in himself was more powerful than the fear. And this is a guy who went a decade without losing a fight, so let’s give him a bit of credit. So while fear is coming for me in a few weeks, right now the belief in my team is more powerful than any fear.

I don’t have a marching band and 5,000 fans behind me right now (okay, I’m sitting at Tilly’s and my kitchen table) and I have lost a game or two in the last ten years, but I know enough about the girls on my team to say that I believe in us. Dalhousie, I hope you’re ready because you’re in for a fight tomorrow night.


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