The lesson of the missed free throw

There were 10 seconds left in the game and St. Bonaventure was up by three points. Senior Jessica Jenkins, the Bonnies best player, could have iced the game when she went to the line for a free throw attempt. Jenkins had been money from the free throw line. She had only missed three free throws all year. She stepped to the line for the front end of a one-and-one. The release was perfect. The ball touched the rim. Everyone thought it was going down. But it bounced out.

The defining moment came not in the miss.

It came in what Jenkins did next.

She got back on defense, played the switch perfectly and forced Marist to take a bad shot. Game over. Bonnies win and advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in their first ever appearance in the biggest event in women’s sports outside of the Olympics. Welcome to today’s valuable life lesson from watching the St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team.

Break out all the cliches and famous quotes about failure that you want. What life comes down to is not  avoiding mistakes or miscues, big or small, but how you choose to react to them. You can hang your head and sulk. You can get angry. You can curse out yourself or others or the cruel intentions of the universe. Or you can immediately shift your focus to the present moment. What can I do now? What’s important in this moment? In the microcosm of that basketball play, what was important for Jessica Jenkins was getting back to play defense with her teammates.

Sometimes, I get caught up in berating myself for mistakes and misses. But the other life lesson from the St. Bonaventure team is that if you’re going to go down, go down being yourself. Do what you do, fearlessly and fiercely. Act out of passion, not fear. You may not always win. But very often, you’ll find yourself in the Sweet 16 living out your dreams.

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