Dear Coach Dena,
I'm writing to share with you some feelings I've been having since my season came to an end. I am hoping that you will have some insights or thoughts to pass along to me...
What I'm basically feeling is just a strong sense of disappointment and sadness... I've been left with that feeling of wanting more, thinking about what could have happened, or how it could have been different had we won that last game... Perhaps part of it is knowing that I'll never get the chance to play competitive basketball with some of my teammates ever again. Perhaps part of it is just missing spending time with the guys in the locker room, or out at team dinner. Either way, it's been a tough pill to swallow for me... Any words would be greatly appreciated. -Josh
Reply from Dena Evans:
...Unless you're the team that wins the last game of the season, I have never been able to figure out how to feel anything *but* sadness and disappointment at the end of a season, at least for a while.
I think you just need to allow yourself time to grieve. The word "grieve" may sound crazy because I know it's not like anybody died or there was any great "tragedy." But you *have* suffered a profound loss. Your season (which you cared deeply about) is over; you will never play on this particular team (which you gave so much of yourself to for so many months) again; and you will never be high school teammates with some of those guys again (and those kinds of bonds are rare and special and hard to replicate in the "real world").
People who have never experienced those kinds of losses can never understand just how much all of that hurts. You gave yourself completely to something, and it didn't turn out like you wanted. And to make it even worse, now it's gone. Over. Done. That's hard and it hurts.
But... that's how life works. Everything passes. You'll eventually lose everything - your parents, your friends, your health, your pets, your youth, and, inevitably, your life. It's all gonna pass away, just like this season, and this team.
Which, to me, is all the more reason to give those things you love and care about everything you've got. It all goes by so fast, and the ONLY thing you're guaranteed is that it WILL, in fact, go by. This can all be pretty depressing UNLESS you just accept it as reality (because it is), and THEN you can be freed up to focus all your energy and attention on giving every single moment of the rest of your career the very best you've got.
As the seasons go by, and as you experience the feelings of sadness and disappointment that you're experiencing now, and as you begin to get a clearer and clearer sense of the finiteness of your career, your sense of urgency will grow exponentially. That's why seniors often play with such care and passion. It's why aging superstars are willing to take less money and less playing time to get on a team that has a chance to win a championship.
You begin to realize what matters and what doesn't, and you begin to sense how precious an opportunity it is to get to be an athlete who's playing for something that matters with people who matter to you. So my point is... everything you're feeling right now is appropriate and even good. Don't resist it. Be sad. Be disappointed... Until you're not anymore (and it will go away, I promise). And then, you will do what every great athlete and every great hero does... you will pick yourself up, dust yourself off, dream your next dream, and you'll go at it again... even though you know the risk and how much it will hurt when it's over.
But really, that's the only way to fly in my opinion. Way more fun, exciting, meaningful, and fulfilling than living a life where you play small and never put your heart on the line for anything that matters to you. And one last thing... while winning a championship *would* feel really sweet and could be incredibly rewarding, the truth is that even THAT feeling will pass after a few weeks or even days. And then you would STILL have to feel the sadness and disappointment of not playing with some of your teammates again and of not ever having this particular team together again.
So don't fall into the trap of believing that winning a championship will make you not have to feel the pain of the ending of something you love. Granted, it would make it a lot easier and is the preferable way to end a season. But what's *more* important is always that you gave your best in every moment, regardless of whether or not you were fortunate enough to be on the team that won the last game of the season. -Dena