The game was tied at the end of the second quarter of play. After the half-time intermission, the visiting team came running from the locker room onto the court. They went right into their shoot around, hustling for rebounds and trying to get lots of shots before the third quarter started.
These girls all had their heads up, enjoying the moment, but focused on the job at hand. The home team walked out of the locker room, a few players stopped at the door to visit with the girl taking tickets, some walked across the floor and found a comfortable spot on the bench.
A few players picked up basketballs from the rack and took them out on the court where they stood in a loose circle laughing and talking, interrupted by the occasional shot or dribble. These players were all walking around with their heads down, a forlorn look on their collective faces.
As the intermission was winding down, both sets of coaches returned to the bench, followed by a couple more players from the home team whom had barely made it out of the locker room.
The buzzer sounded and both teams returned to the bench for last-minute instructions from the coach. The visitors were back on the floor, ready to resume play before the home team had finished gathering around for the final words of inspiration. As you may have guessed, the final score was not close. The visitors seemed to score at will, while the home team struggled to add to their total.
A game that was dead locked half way through was a blowout when the final whistle blew.
Like so many other games, this one was lost in the locker room and on the practice floor. The skill of its participants hadn’t changed. The officials remained consistent, as did the crowd and the coaches. The only thing that had changed was the heart of the home team.
The game hadn’t gone as expected in the first half. The more talented home team was heavily favored, but the visitors still tried to win the game, catching them off guard. Since their opponent didn’t roll over, the home team decided they would.
A few years back, Wendover with a record of 1 and 6, hosted a team which was 8 and 0. A team ranked third in the state, but with a name very similar to a perennial cellar dwelling team. By mistake, Wendover’s girls thought they would easily win the game and proceeded to do just that. The only thing that had changed was the hearts of the home team.
General Dwight Eisenhower once said, “Optimism and pessimism are infectious.” Neither outlook has to be initiated by the coach; both can be spread from the lowliest player(s) and can infect the entire team. Ideally, the coach holds sway over the team’s mental preparation, but not necessarily. That is one reason why team chemistry is so important, and why it is so easy to keep on losing once you catch that bad habit.