The team started out with some challenges; barely enough players to field a team and a new coach for the third year in a row. On the plus side, they had some seasoned players who were anxious to make their mark, spirits were high, and the team was planning for a season to be proud of. They knew they could do it. Parents, looking on from our more jaded vantage point, were less hopeful, but we encouraged and cheered.
The season began to go off-script right away. The experienced, seasoned goalie, ready to be a team leader, suffered a fracture in his hand during the second practice. Out for the season before the season officially began. An experienced dynamic player in midfield moved to another State. A veteran player, in his haste to get to practice, closed the car door on his hand. The team, short on players to begin with, began to look a little ragged.
Against all odds, they never lost hope of winning. Players who had never held a stick before were, without warning, starters playing the whole game. Not because they suddenly displayed a heretofore unrecognized talent for lacrosse, but because there weren't enough team members to allow for substitutions. Parents held their collective breath lest there be another injury.
Losses piled up. The odds of a completely winless season increased as the days went by. And these were not close games they were losing. They lost badly, and often the winning team did not display the sportsmanship one would like to see. It can't have been easy being on this lacrosse team.
And yet, their coach never stopped coaching them to win. Not one player quit, or decided to stop showing up at practice. They showed up at every game, badly outnumbered, and held their heads up. They played hard, if not always well, until the final buzzer. The team goalie, in her first season playing the game, was a fearless competitor--never flinching in the face of the seemingly endless barrage of shots on goal. Hijab flying from beneath her helmet, she stood her ground and sometimes left me breathless with her courage and poise. (or maybe it was the pollen that was keeping me from breathing, but that's less poetic.)
At the end of the season the team finally won a game, and was able to celebrate a hard-earned victory. One victory, and the season is now over. One victory, eleven losses later I couldn't be more proud. They can "do the math." They could have quit halfway through when it was obvious that they couldn't have a winning season.
They know that it's not about the math, and it rarely ever is.