Thursday, August 24, 2017

A Loss, But Oh, What a Victory!

For the first time in my coaching experience, I have never been more proud to lose.

Tonight marked the first match of our Varsity volleyball season.  On the road traveling with three teams this year, the pre-game jitters seemed to be amplified.  It’s never easy to acclimate to a new environment, especially when opposing fans come out in droves.  But we started out the evening with the first win from our inaugural freshman team.  Go Griffins!

I’m always a bit nervous before a Varsity match.  I double and triple check the lineup, I think through substitutions I’m planning to make, and I even try to anticipate difficult situations in which I might need to call for an opportune timeout.  There is no way to plan for everything, but I do what I can to get into the zone so that I am aware and present in each moment for my team.

While I have reiterated in practice a number of times that we train hard in order to play hard for 90 minutes in any game, I have not yet coached a team that has ever fought for that long.  Until tonight.  For the past two weeks in practice, we have been focusing as a team on cultivating the virtue of grit – passion and perseverance for accomplishing long term goals.  We discuss how passion increases from God’s grace and perseverance requires our daily choosing to move forward, especially in the midst of adversity.  We, as a team, play volleyball for something other than ourselves.  We play for Jesus Christ.

Standing on the sideline of tonight’s match, I witnessed the perfect example of what it means to have grit.  My girls played for over 90 minutes, remained within five points of the other team for all three games, fought with tenacity to come back from several difficult runs, and always seemed to answer with a surprising offensive attack that caused an eruption of cheer I have never before heard in a gym.  I saw my team play with inspiring passion and incredible perseverance.  Don’t get me wrong, I wanted that win desperately.  But in every huddle during a timeout, it was my girls who reminded me that, win or lose, it was for Christ that we played.

We lost the match 22-25, 25-22, 22-25.  But I will never forget the reaction from my team after that final point.  The six on the court came together in the center and communicated to each other without words that there was much more we had gained tonight than a loss.  This was one of the most exciting matches any of us had ever been a part.  I have never been more proud to see a team stand in front of an immediate loss with such integrity.  There were tears, but they weren’t because of a failed victory.  They came because we had all just experienced what it felt like to commit every bit of ourselves to playing for Jesus Christ.