Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rethinking the Definition of Winning and Losing

From the outside, this may seem like it has been a very difficult season for my team at USF. Our record is flat out terrible and we have only won one game so far in our conference. Many people have asked how I am dealing with "losing." Almost daily, I receive encouraging emails to "keep my head up and remember that this experience is not a sprint it’s a marathon" when referring to building this basketball program.

When I took the job as head coach here at USF last May, I knew it was going to be difficult. In fact most deemed it impossible to build a winning program at a place that has been firmly anchored at the bottom for so many years. I am here because I am drawn to the challenge. I see potential, and I believe we will eventually win games. But the question I ask myself now, is are we really losing? We have small victories every single day. Without ever really experiencing "losing," this season has made me rethink the definition of winning and losing.

If I really think about what winning in life is all about, it’s about being challenged to improve every day to be your best. I have seen players on our team improve almost overnight. I have seen players who would never imagine being able to shoot knocking down three-point shots. Players who have never been in shape are asking for extra workouts. Some (although I wish more...) ask me to come in the gym and work extra. Each time we step onto the court we are better than the day before.

Unfortunately, the improvement is not enough to outscore our opponents. We have had to work very hard not to focus on the scoreboard, but rather to play each possession to the best of our ability. When we played Stanford earlier this season, Tara (Stanford head coach and my college coach) came into our locker room and spoke to our team. Ironically, her message was to continue to work to be our best and not worry about the score. The true battle is with yourself and playing the best you can each time you step on the court. Whether you are the top team in the country or you are building a program it’s the same — work hard to be your best.

I admit I don’t like to lose, but I want to win more. Ultimately, the only way to win is to be positive, work hard, and believe we can. I can’t judge where we are by our record, but by the victories we have each day. We will have three seniors play in their last game at USF on Saturday. They will leave here as winners. Anyone who can complete a degree at USF while being a Division 1 athlete is a winner in my book.