In service of the goal: Maintaining focus

Sometimes when covering an event in my life as a sportswriter, I like to arrive early. Really early. Especially if there is any travel involved. So while the women’s basketball game between St. Bonaventure and Fordham didn’t start until 7 p.m., I strode into the Reilly Center at 5:15, ready to give myself plenty of time to set up, eat dinner and fire off a few emails. But I wasn’t the only one looking to get a jump on the day. Two hours before game time, Jessica Jenkins was already on the court, shooting free throws, jumpers and three-pointers in her game shorts and tank top.This is what the senior guard does. She comes into the gym and works on her shot. All. The. Time.  This is what she loves. This is her passion. This is what’s in front of her. Right now. And so she’ll take it and make it her own.

Jessica Jenkins, two hours before game time, alone on the court.

The St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team clinched the top seed in the upcoming Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament. Depending on how games shake out on Saturday, they’ve won at least a share of the regular season title, something a school like St. Bonaventure — small, private, Catholic school with a shoestring budget in the middle of nowhere — should never do against big-name schools with plenty of money in big cities like Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Washington, D.C. This unknown mid-major is ranked 19th in the country and getting national recognition in the national basketball world while developing something no women’s team in Western New York ever has — a passionate fan following outside of family and friends.

Still with all the success and accolades, Jenkins is in the gym two hours before game time, working on her shot like she always does. See, the regular season title, the No. 1 tournament seed, the national ranking, those don’t really register with her. That wasn’t the goal. The goal Jenkins and her teammates set at the beginning of the season was to reach the NCAA Tournament. All those other things? Hey, if they help in service of the goal, then great.

I am a big believer in the happy dance. Heck, sometimes I do my happy dance to start my day, to set the tone for great things to come. I find it incredibly important to celebrate all my successes along the way, the big and the small ones. I find the positive reinforcement crucial to silencing my overly-developed inner critic, even if the positive reinforcement is as simple and corny as looking in the mirror and saying to my reflection, “Amy, way to freakin’ kick ass today on that run.”

But there’s a valuable lesson in Jenkin’s point, too. We can just as easily be sidetracked by successes as we can by failures. We can get wrapped up in those triumphs (big or small) and wander off course. We can end up “settling” for something good when something great is still in our reach. Perhaps now is as a good a time as any to pause and reflect on what my goals, what my intentions, are in training. And in work and home and life for that matter. Perhaps my goals have changed. Maybe they’ve stayed the same. But as I celebrate success each day, as I show up to be the best I can in whatever comes across my path, it’s important to remember where it is I want to go.

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