There was a point where Meg Stevens was so excited, I thought she was going to jump right through the phone. The Buffalo State women’s lacrosse coach was describing not just this season, but the way in which the program had been built over the last 10 years. The Bengals went from one of the worst teams in Division III to making their first NCAA tournament. They host a first-round game today as an at-large team.
I couldn’t help but think of Stevens and our interview the rest of the day. It wasn’t just her enthusiasm that was contagious, but the key to her team’s success. No. 1: Stay calm. No. 2: Challenge yourself and let the tough games make you stronger. There’s a pattern that’s beginning to emerge from the successful women’s collegiate programs I’ve covered this year, teaching me valuable life lessons. With a nod to the St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team and the women’s lacrosse teams at Canisius and Buffalo State come these keys to success:
Stay calm: The focus is not on how you got yourself into the current situation. It’s not how far you have to go to climb out of the hole you just dug yourself. The focus is on what you are going to do in this moment. What can you do now? Stay in the moment and play to your strengths.
Be true to yourself: What is your strength? Go with that. Working on your weaknesses remains important, but when we try to be someone we’re not — in our sport, in our training, in our life — we never quite feel comfortable. Be authentic. Believe in your intrinsic value. You don’t have to prove anything. You merely have to show up as yourself. By doing that you not only create an environment for success, you create opportunities.
Embrace challenges and failure: There’s a popula sports adage, “To be the best, you have to play the best.” In other words, the more you challenge yourself, the more chances you give yourself to grow. The key is not getting beat up, emotionally or physically, in the challenge. So what if you lose or finish last in your age group? Focus on what you did right, what you learned, how you’ve made yourself better. The “results” may not show up immediately, but it develops resiliency. Strength grows over time.
Your turn! Take a few moments to remember a time when you stayed calm and were focused. Write down your strengths and see what happens when you show up (at your next workout, at the office, at the dinner table) as yourself. Recall a time when you “failed” and note how much stronger you are today.