Welcome to February, the proverbial crunch time for collegiate basketball programs. March may be filled with madness, but February can be riddled with anxiety as teams position themselves for conference tournaments and potential post-season runs.
It is in February that you never want opportunities to pass by.
But perhaps the greater lesson comes from the University at Buffalo women’s basketball after the Bulls dropped an overtime decision to Northern Illinois on Saturday afternoon. On paper, the Bulls should have beaten Northern Illinois and continued their climb in the Mid-American Conference standings. Instead, they shot the ball poorly, didn’t adjust to Northern Illinois’ interior defense and failed to secure rebounds late in the game.
The opportunity for a fifth-straight win fizzled in the haze of a bad performance. The momentum was gone. And February is not the time to lose momentum, right? It’s not the time to fix things. It is not the time for a poor performance.
So there should be a level of concern, right?
Well, maybe not, said Buffalo coach Linda Hill-MacDonald:
We don’t have time to worry. We need to prepare. If we sit around worrying, we will be foucsed on the wrong things. We need to take care of our business, not looking at the big scheme of things. That’s when things will fall into place.
Welcome to another lesson in not dwelling on past performance.
Life tends to move in the direction on which you focus. Sure, every once in a while the universe throws you a curveball. But generally speaking, what you focus on grows.
In the world of basketball, focusing on the mistakes only reinforces the mistakes. So, for example, instead of reliving the horrible rebounding numbers the focus shifts to practicing good positioning, holding the box out longer and collecting the defensive rebound.
Dwelling on the negative only brings more negative. Moving on to the next game creates the setting for success.
Just ask Buffalo center Kourtney Brown.
The fifth-year senior is the program’s all-time leader in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. She already has a bachelor’s degree in computer engineer and will have her second degree, in electrical engineering, this May.
But things didn’t always come easily for Brown. She had a season-ending ACL injury during fall workouts her sophomore year. Returning from a knee injury isn’t always an easy task, particularly for a player whose job it is to bang with big bodies and collide in the low post.
Her sophomore year also brought family hardship as her home back in Solon, Ohio burned to the ground. Her parents, siblings, even the family dog, were unharmed, but every material possession of hers was gone forever.
Dwell on the negative? Not Brown.
She kept focused on what was in front of her, on her task at hand. She trusts her family, her coaches and her teammates. (See my complete story on Brown in today’s edition of The Buffalo News.)
Sometimes, opportunities seem finite. Chances are rare and precious and we’re taught to hold on to them, to not screw them up or let them pass us by.
But what if opportunities were limitless? What if one chance passed by and another came along on its heels? What if instead of focusing on what was lost, the focus was on what was to come?
The goal could be to win a basketball game or run a personal best in a 5K or achieve a desired outcome in work, home or relationships.
Focusing on the negative only brings more negative.
February is crunch time. And in crunch time, there is no time for the negative.