There are moments in life when you work so hard for something and just barely miss your goal. It could be interviewing for your dream job, applying to your dream school, practicing non-stop for that presentation… or playing a rugby game for a shot at Sweet 16s. You put 110% into chasing your goal, but sometimes things don’t go your way and you feel like you’ve lost your “big chance”.
I coach a Division II collegiate women’s rugby team. This past weekend marked the culmination, thus far, of a year’s worth of hard work for the girls. The top 4 teams in the Mid-Atlantic region came together to compete for 3 spots in the Sweet 16s tournament, and a potential run to a national title. The winners from the first day immediately qualified for nationals. The losers would have to compete for the last bid, with one team ultimately destined for heartbreak.
In our first match of the weekend, the two teams wrestled the lead from each other. One team would score, the other would answer. The game was tied until the final play of the game. With the few remaining seconds ticking down, we made a costly mistake that allowed our opponents to take a penalty kick and win, 22-19.
In these moments, when it feels like that goal you wanted so much just slipped through your fingers, you forget all your hard work. “If only I had…” and “I should have…” and “I could have…” are rampant. As a coach and as a leader, what do you do to rally your team and remind them that they still have another chance? Feed them.
At the recommendation of the assistant coach, who insisted we visit a diner while in the Tri-State area, we found what appeared to be an ideal dinner destination near our hotel: Sungate Diner. When I first walked in the door, only a few tables were occupied. The hostess was very polite and asked how many people were in my party. I replied 18 (to clarify, we had called earlier to ask about the best time to come in) and the hostess stared at me before blurting out, “Are you serious?”
She ran back into the kitchen and we could hear her shouting through the swinging doors, “I have a party of 18! No, I’m not kidding!” The diner instantly burst into a flurry of activity. Tables were pulled together, pitchers of water filled, and menus distributed. Our waitress called everyone “honey” and graciously dealt with complicated orders and indecisive individuals. At one point, two priests who had arrived after our party came to our table to ask about our games and to compliment our waitress, informing us she was the best the diner had to offer.
The girls started to relax. No one talked about the day’s loss, or the next day’s must-win game. No one even talked about rugby. When all the food arrived, we had quite a sampling of the menu: milkshakes, pancakes, salad, sandwiches, paninis, pasta, and omelets. People passed their plates around, shared food, and just laughed and enjoyed themselves. It seems that, every now and then, the best thing to do is to eat your feelings.
And, as a happy ending to this story, the team did win its second match. We’re going to Sweet 16s!