I am always sad when the college basketball season ends. As a huge fan, the absence of games to dissect leaves a void in my life. During this off-season, I find myself reflecting on the important lesson of persistence this year’s men’s basketball team taught me these past few months. While during several of the games the team fell behind—sometimes by significant margins—they not only did not give up, but they saw the remainder of the game as an opportunity to improve on their playing.
I particularly remember the game against the Fordham Rams when GW did not lead the entire game. With 6:18 left in the second half, they were down by nine points and their opponent looked strong. But while I, one of their most loyal fans, was starting to give up, the team was not. Instead, play-by-play, they started an unwavering comeback. By the 2:25 mark, the game was tied. In the last few seconds, it was three clutch free-throws that gave the Colonials the win. But what stayed with me long after the final buzzer was not the win, rather it was the resolute four minutes in the middle of the second half that demonstrated what it means to be resilient.
Many of us tend to add up our own deficits and see ourselves as losing long before life’s closing bell sounds. We focus on what we are not or what we are missing and say, “Well, I am not successful,” or “I can’t do that.” This is particularly true when we compare ourselves to those around us. I remember a former student of mine saying she “wasn’t as successful as everyone else,” and was “definitely not going to get into a good grad school like they were.” However, as my wise mother has told me several times, “We only know what even our closest friends want us to know.” (On a side note, this student is now a master’s student at the University of Virginia.)
Those playing alongside us in this game of life may have pains or problems we know nothing about, but that are causing them strife. Instead of being hash when you face problems, be gentle to yourself the way you would to those you care about if you knew they were struggling to achieve their goals. Remind yourself the game is not over.
Regretfully, there are no guarantees that even when you continue to fight, even with a positive attitude, you will get that win or reach that goal. The Oregon Ducks fought back from an 11-point deficit to be behind by only one with six seconds left in the penultimate game of the NCAA tournament. Yet it was the North Carolina Tar Heels that went on to win this game and the championship. And my valiant GW Colonials? Well, even with all their persistence, they certainly did not win every game. However—one thing is for sure—if the team had decided their deficits were their destinies, they would have won fewer than they did.
I will try to skip the, “life is like a basketball game,” cliché closing here. Nevertheless, it is in watching the young men on our team fight for every win, particularly as I faced my own life challenges, that I was reminded again and again to not count the score as final while life is still taking place. My life may not look like I had once thought it would at this point. However, if the women in my family (many who lived long into their 90s) are any indication, at 42, I am not even at half-time and still have many plays ahead.
-Abby Jones, B.A. ’97, Ph.D. ’13, is a Visiting Scholar at the Annenberg School for Communication.