Emotional Extremes of Sports

“this too shall pass”                                                                                                                           __Source Unknown

When I was a child, I discovered this quote and its surrounding legend.  As I recall, it involved a king who commissioned wise counselors to devise a saying that he could inscribe on his ring.  The purpose of the saying would be to convey a truth by which he could live.  I was amazed by these words, and I have called upon them throughout my life.  When the lows were devastating, they provided hope and optimism.  They have served to ground me when the highs were euphoric, to remind me that neither will last forever.  Such is the nature of life.  This is a truth that is demonstrated over and over in sports.

In 1978, ABC network television aired a show called “Wide World of Sports.” Most people my era will remember that the announcer, Jim McKay, would introduce every single episode the same way.  There were video clips of various athletes in competition accompanied by these words: “the thrill of victory; the agony of defeat.”  It is the extremes in sports, the range of emotions, that provide the opportunity for indelible impressions and lessons for athletes.  Sports is a classroom with the added dimension of intense emotion, and therefore requires additional perspective and wisdom to navigate.  Wise parents of young athletes play a huge role in the process.

This past weekend I had the rare opportunity to watch a National Championship game between the remaining two mens basketball teams out of 448 institutions in NCAA Division III.  My emotions were  heightened for a couple of reasons.  One of the teams is coached by a family member, and a championship at any level is rare, much more so at a national level. The strong emotions in the crowd were palpable, from young children to grandparents.  Families were clad in school colors, chants of encouragement rang out from both sides of the arena.  The pace was lightning fast, the environment was charged, and players showed the effects of the high stakes on their faces.

Just the evening before, our team had won a game to put us in the championship finale.  All of our fandom was ecstatic and we went to bed with visions of a first place trophy in our heads.  The build up throughout the day was steady as we all anticipated the final game of the tournament and the declaring of a new national champion.  For anyone who loves to follow sports, it’s about as exciting as it gets.  In order to be positioned to play for a title requires winning a lot of games, some under adverse conditions, including fatigue, questionable calls, injuries, streaks and slumps.  And no matter how hard you have worked, how much you have sacrificed, there is no guarantee you will obtain the ultimate victory you seek.  You have to be the beneficiary of a few breaks along the way.

When the final buzzer sounded, the scoreboard indicated we would be 2019 National Runners-Up.   Confetti fell from the rafters, hats and t-shirts proclaiming National Champs were handed out to our opponents.   After shaking hands, our team headed to the locker room.  We had been so close, but not the result we hoped for.  I reflected on all the other teams whose seasons ended on a disappointing note.   Now we would join them, and only one team would go home elated.

Thirty-six hours later, I am extraordinarily pleased as I look back on our season.  What a run!  Though the immediate disappointment was acute, it evaporated like mist with a little time and perspective.  I am sure the players may still feel some lingering “what if’s,” but they will soon be longing to get back to the gym and start their journey toward a 2020 National Championship.   What they learned in this intense circumstance cannot be learned in any other way.  It is invaluable, and as clarity returns, they will have renewed determination and excitement for another run.


  • No  high or low in sports (or life) endures, so encourage your child to pursue and enjoy the highs, and to take solace that the lows will not last.
  • Use the victories to celebrate hard work and sacrifice, and develop gratitude and humility knowing that not everything is in your control.
  • Use the defeats to appreciate enduring lessons that will improve your sports journey as well as your life.

4 thoughts on “Emotional Extremes of Sports”

  1. Your thoughts are so insightful. Your family had such a great experience this past season! Our grandsons are at both ends of the baseball spectrum–one playing AAA ball and the other playing Tee ball. It is so important (yet so difficult) to cherish the journey!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Actually, I didn’t mention two more grandsons in playground ball. We have the opportunity to work on our attitudes every day during baseball season!

    Liked by 1 person

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