It's Supposed to Hurt

Someone once described the  postseason like this, "You don't know if you're going to a wedding or a funeral, and you won't find out until it's over."

Even though most will end their season with a loss, the result can still be devastating. And if you've done it right, it should be.

Our team was eliminated last weekend in the regional final. The winner advanced to the state tournament. We went home.

In the locker room immediately after the game there was a swirl of emotion. The disappointment was palatable as players reflected on their individual performance, each coming to grips with the outcome in their own way.

The game was played on the road, and it was loud. Our opponent came out with an intensity we had not seen from them before. They jumped on us early, and despite two close games in our previous meetings, on this night, we could not keep up.

In the midst of the silence, our seniors quietly wept in the corners of the locker room. Stunned at the abruptness of their careers coming to an end, they were not prepared for the weight of that moment. None of us were.

That's the way it should be.

I erased the board as we always do, and said a few words as I tried to catch each player's eyes as I share a few words that quickly evaporated in the sadness that was palatable.

We were proud of them. Just two years removed from a 1-20 season, they brought us to the doorstep of the state tournament. But far more than that, we were proud of who they became. Of what they created. Of what it felt like to be us.

At our last team meal our seniors shared how thankful they were that basketball had become something they looked forward to, and how much they enjoyed being around their favorite people everyday. 

In our post-season survey, one upperclassman wrote, "We created an environment so positive that everyone in it cannot help but to feel valued and loved."

And that is why the end hurts so much. 

As time begins the healing process, I wonder if this is what life is all about - doing our very best to create something worth missing. One thing I have grown to appreciate about the life cycle of a team is the annual reminder that all good things come to an end. We are offered only so many moments with this specific group, with these individual athletes, with our own children, family members, and friends. The scarcity of these moments is not always apparent, and yet on this day, I am thankful for the hurt that reminds me to enjoy every the moments while they're still there. 

Food for thought.

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