The regular season has started and I have been thinking a lot about what it takes for this team to meet its goals. I have for many years worked with students and worked with other professionals who work with students. We all want our students to feel good about themselves, have confidence and be self-accepting. As a person who struggled as a teenager and throughout my adult life with confidence I am quick to notice messages regarding self-acceptance and I understand why these messages are important. There are lots of such messages out there…”you are good enough”, “you are beautiful just as you are”, “you don’t have to change”. These messages of self-acceptance and empowerment are important but there have always been aspects of my life where they did not resonate. I am not good enough at looking after my health and fitness for example and I am not going to just accept myself as I am. To me that would feel like giving up, so the struggle continues.
Last year I attended a number of the games that this team played and they usually won. They were really good and sitting in the stands as a fan was my only vantage point for understanding them and their experience and performance.
Of course this year I have been sitting court side for most practices since August and I hear the messages that they hear from the coaches. They need to work harder, increase their energy level, communicate better, rebound better, be tougher, increase ball pressure, box out better, sprint faster, pay better attention to details, etc. As I hear the messages about their “shortcomings” or what they are not doing well enough, I start to think to myself…”oh my, maybe they are not as good this year”, or “why are they struggling to do these things that should know how to do”. I worried for them and didn’t really understand why they would want to put themselves through this experience. Of course I have learned that all the messages from the coach are about taking a very good and very talented team and making them better.
The “I am good enough” messages have no place in high performance sport and sport competition. The women on this team love this game of basketball but they are not just playing to play and have fun. They are playing to accomplish something that no other basketball team at Ryerson has accomplished. They are playing to break records. They are playing to win. And their performance is never “good enough”. Every work out is about getting stronger. Every practice is about getting better, individually and as a team. There is no good enough if they want to meet their goals. I have learned that every win, while worth celebrating, does not provide an opportunity to breath or rest because there is always the next game and complacency is the enemy of the team that wants to continue to win. The next day the work continues. The demands from the coach to work harder, be better, do more, continue. There is no good enough.
I wonder how some of our athletes maintain a strong positive self-image when they are constantly bombarded with messages about their need to do more, be more, try harder, be better. While I wonder about this I also see a group of positive, energetic, confident young women who are accustomed to this world and the demands of competitive sport. They are teaching me about how you can simultaneously love yourself and feel good about who you are in the world and still want to be better, stronger, and more skilled in the pursuit of your goals. No crisis of confidence, no negative self talk…just hard work and honest effort. I have so much to learn from them.
At the beginning of the season the Ryerson Women’s basketball team was ranked number four in the country by the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport). Their first game of the season was against the University of Toronto and they won 78-36. The second game they played McMaster who was ranked number 1 in the country at the beginning of the season. The game was at McMaster and these women did a phenomenal job. They took an early lead and maintained a lead throughout the whole game winning 74-64. On Saturday they beat the University of Waterloo 80-48. Their performance and the performance of other teams will impact these rankings, which will be updated regularly throughout the season.
Whether they move up or down in the rankings, the focus must always be day to day, step by step, each practice, each game as they move through the season. This week is a difficult one as they play the 5-time national champs Windsor on Wednesday and Western (who beat Windsor last week) on Friday. I can’t join them on this road trip but I will be watching on-line and celebrating all of their accomplishments…each rebound, each box out, each 3 point basket, and know I will see them at practice next week working harder to get better. This work does not end. There is no good enough.