Flying from Rochester to Philly after our game on the weekend, I read the Sports Illustrated magazine devoted to Michael Jordan. It was interesting to get a sense of what MJ is like now in his life after basketball. MJ the person is much different than MJ the basketball player. It really had me thinking about our perception of sport and athletes.
As a player in the NLL you get consumed with the wins and losses throughout the season. You are emotionally invested and it becomes easy to lose yourself in the highs and lows of the season. Losses stick with you … eat away at you. You hate the losses much more than you enjoy the wins.
When I find myself getting too high or too low, I think about my old coach at Georgetown and the messages he reinforced to my teammates and in every day. Coach [Dave] Urick always reminded us that lacrosse at Georgetown was important, but it was not everything. The key was to strive for balance and to use lacrosse to help you become the person that you can be. We practiced beside the Georgetown hospital every day and had a tangible reminder of how lucky we were to be playing the game we love. It reminded us that the game could be taken away from us at any time and to really enjoy and appreciate the opportunity to play. You don't "have" to play, you don't "want" to play, you “GET" to play.
Coach Urick's messages tended to make you feel better during adversity and more grounded during success and they had very little to do with the technical side of the sport.
As an athlete, I think it important to look in the mirror at times and ask yourself who would you be without the game?
We tend to pass judgment on athletes, positive or negative, based on their athletic performance. We link athletic performance with the character of the person. Sport does have a way of revealing character in certain situations, but I think it is important to remember that winning a lacrosse game doesn't make you a good person just like losing a lacrosse game doesn't make you a bad person. The two are mutually exclusive.
Lacrosse, as with any sport, can be a big part of your life. Whether you are MJ or a high school athlete, don't let your sport define who you are. Use the sport to help you become the person that you can be.
It is also important to remember that your team is not defined by your last performance. Three consecutive losses doesn't change who we are as a team, just like two consecutive wins doesn't change who we are as team. We just have to be confident in who we are regardless of the outcome.
We hit the road for a big game against our rivals the Buffalo Bandits this Friday. Before the game, I will be doing a Google+ Hangout on the NLL’s Google+ page on Thursday at 7:30, from the Buffalo/Toronto game in Toronto. We return to Philly on March 9th for a game against the Washington Stealth at 8:00 p.m.
Look forward to seeing everyone back at the Wells Fargo Center in a couple weeks.