Saturday, April 18, 2009

Inspired by the Lady Utes

Although I know and love many sports fans, I’m not one of them. I’ll sit down to watch a sporting event occasionally, but usually do this only as part of building friendships with sports fans. “If I could change what I’m interested in, I’d really like sports”, said my cousin Heather, and I have to agree with her.

Despite this, this week I had the unique and wonderful experience of having dinner with the University of Utah women’s basketball team. My friend John is a season ticket holder and had been invited to the team’s year-end banquet; he kindly invited me to join him.

When we arrived, I was surprised at how few people were there, and immediately regretted my lack of basic homework about the team, because it was clear that we would be interacting with the coaches and players. We shared a table with the associate athletic director and the team's information director, and chatted with one of the assistant coaches, all of whom were incredibly gracious.

What made the event so fabulous, though, was hearing head coach Elaine Eliott talk about the season and the players. She is extremely well spoken, and despite my lack of interest in sports, I found her comments inspiring.

The Lady Utes started the season with a 1-4 record, and she spoke of how damaging losing games can be to a team’s confidence. Then she rephrased “Losing games can be demoralizing, if that’s the way you choose to react to it.”

She spoke a great deal about choice. She spoke about character. She spoke about effort and growth.

Her team chose to react to their difficult start (their first games had been against some of the top teams in the nation) in a charactered way, believing that although they had lost several games in a row, they could choose to make their future better.

And that’s what they did. They ended up winning the Mountain West Conference during regular season play, won the MWC tournament, and won the opportunity to participate in the national NCAA tournament.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right”, a wise person once said. I keep relearning the truth of that statement. I saw it when I traveled to Central America with a microcredit organization; while their “outer” work involved providing loans and business training to help women pull themselves out of poverty, the heart of their job was to help the women BELIEVE in themselves. The first, middle, and last steps were always to build the women’s confidence in their own ability and power to choose a better future.

I’ve seen it also in my weight loss and fitness efforts. Your thinking controls about 98% of the results you get. What you say when you talk to yourself about mistakes you’ve made or challenges you face, is what determines whether or not you will be successful.

I loved watching the season highlights film, which was full of exciting moments, although I was sad to see that the arena was mostly empty at their home games (at away games, the arenas appeared to be full). Coach Eliott did not say one word about that lack of support; instead, she focused on what she had control over, which is building the people she worked with, and building an excellent program.

I was delighted to receive a T shirt from them, which I will start wearing to my weightlifting class. When the class gets tough and I don’t think I can or want to do it, I hope to remember Coach Eliott, and draw strength from her example of chosing the charactered path towards growth.

1 comment:

HW said...

That's the kind of thing that makes you think maybe you COULD become a sports fan--of sorts. Thanks!