Defense, confidence and believing in flukes

Much like some people love watching a no-hitter unfold in baseball, I enjoy watching good defense in basketball. Yes, I know this makes me somewhat of an anomaly because most people enjoy watching teams try to break 100-points but for me, there is something about the intangibles of the defensive part of college basketball which is wholly satisfying.

On defense, it’s often about how much you want it. Yes, there are skills that need to be learned, honed and executed. Yes, you need to be talented. But you also need to be determined, to be hungry, to playing from inside. Defense feels soulful. There’s little fanfare in being a good defensive player. There are few stats which bring about easy headlines and measurable amounts of glory. It’s often ugly and dirty.

On a good team, offense often flows from the defense. Don’t worry about the points or the final score. That will take care of itself. Play this intense part of the game with passion and love and you will find that you win more often than you lose.

But in order to turn good defense into wins, in order to turn your passion into production, you need to be confident in every aspect of the game. Case in point, Friday’s women’s basketball clash between St. Bonaventure and the University at Buffalo. The Bonnies have been the best program in the region for the past three years and while Buffalo is seems to be a program on the rise, they lacked the overall focus to get over the hump, win close games and earn that statement victory.

What’s the problem for UB? They’re talented. They’re well-coached. They have good team chemistry and trust each other.

What they seem to lack, according to their coach Linda Hill-MacDonald, is confidence. After Friday’s loss to St. Bonaventure she said:

We need to come into a game with confidence and show confidence and be confident. Even when you’re not confident, you need to act like you’re confident. I don’t think we do that. When things get a little rough, we become a little more timid instead of putting our shoulders back and saying, ‘It’s OK. It’s a fluke. Let’s do what we need to do.’

If you’re looking for an intangible skill that translate easily between the basketball court and life, confidence may be No. 1 on the list. It’s so obvious, we often overlook it. But how often in our daily lives do we have a mistake, an error, or a stumble and slump our shoulders? How often do we become timid, letting our inner selves say, ‘I told you weren’t really that good.’ instead of acting as if the mistake was a fluke?

Confidence isn’t a skill you use on occasion, like shooting a 3-pointer, or something you summon only on command, like before a key meeting at work. Confidence is a way of life. And the good news is, we can learn it, hone it and come back to it, time and time again, until it becomes a natural part of who we are. Eventually, we begin to believe our own goodness, believe our own talent and find ourselves notching that first statement win. With confidence as our base, the passion and intensity we bring each day will take care of that final score.

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