Last night, my daughter’s volleyball team, The Lady Rebels, had their final home game of the season. Just like every year, the last home game is also Senior Night. This game marks the last chance for the seniors to play in front of their home crowd. You could see in warm-ups for their last game of the night that they were charged up and ready to play hard to get that final win for their seniors and close the season out the right way.
In order to understand the power of last night’s game, I have to share with you how the rest of the season went. The Lady Rebels had a roller coaster of a season with a lot of tough losses. At one point they were in fear of not making the state tournament. Too put it plainly, they were down on themselves. When you watch the Lady Rebels play, you can see the emotion, or lack thereof, on each of the athlete’s faces and in their body language. They were a good team this year. They were mechanically sound and genuinely knew how to play the sport. The problem did not come in their ability, instead it came in their belief in themselves, not only as individuals but as a cohesive team. They lost a lot of tough games that they were totally capable of winning simply due to them getting down on themselves over a couple of lost points. In most cases, their coach and captains were able to snap them out of it, but there were some times where the Lady Rebels were rattled to the point of no return. Their negative emotions drove their team in the wrong direction.
Back to last night. The team was different. There was a fire in each of the ladies eyes that I didn’t see up until this point in the season. For the seniors, it was their last chance to get a “W” in front of their home crowd that packed the stands to watch the Lady Rebels play. For the underclassmen, it was their opportunity to fight alongside the seniors and send them off on a high note.
The Lady Rebels last game of the night was against the Lady Wolverines. Watching both teams in warm up, they seemed evenly matched. Both teams had sound mechanics and worked well together as a team. You could tell that the season had brought both teams together and they were firing on all cylinders. What separated the teams at this point was the attitude. The Lady Wolverines seemed flat. There was no real fire in the way they were warming up. They were seemingly out of it. The Lady Rebels were quite the opposite. They were full of energy even after playing two games before this one. They were warming up and just enjoying the moment. They were feeding off of one another’s energy.
The first set was an absolute battle that the Lady Rebels won fairly decisively, but not before going down 6 points early on in the game. These six points seemed to cripple the team for a moment until their team captain (we’ll call her by her number 17), took over and showed the girls how to fight back. 17 didn’t give up. She fought hard and attacked the net viciously, stopping shot after shot from coming over the net until the Lady Rebels snapped the point run the Lady Wolverines were on. 17, a sophomore and captain of the team, knew she had to lead the team by example to keep that fire going.
The second set was more of the same, back and forth battles that ended the set with a lead of two points by the Lady Wolverines for the win. The Lady Rebels thought they had the win in this set and became a bit complacent, which ultimately led them to fall into their old ways of getting down on themselves after giving up a few hard fought points. 17 played hard and did her best to keep the Lady Rebels head in the game and driving to win. Even though they lost this set, 17 kept her head up and continued to lead the charge into the third and final set.
During the break between sets two and three, the team huddled. I’m not sure what was said in that huddle, but the team broke the huddle and took the court poised to win. You could see the emotion on their faces. The drive to win was evident, and guess who was leading the charge? 17. They played the third set under the example 17 portrayed to her team. Her fire and passion on the court inspired her teammates to rally and fight harder than they ever have. The Lady Rebels did whatever it took to keep the ball in play; diving for digs sprinting to get under the ball to set and giving it everything they had to send the ball over the net for the kill. Every step of the way, no matter if they won or lost the point, 17 was there to lead her team. She kept her team’s heads up, shoulders back, and confident in their abilities. The Lady Rebels won the set decisively and took the win for their seniors on their night. This win also marked the first time in several years that the Lady Rebels were able to best the Lady Wolverines, who are a fantastic team in and of their own right.
So, what is the moral to this story? Although the win was a team effort, the effort was driven by one athlete, 17. She was the leader in this game. Her attitude, desire, and determination to win was infectious to her teammates. The harder she played, the harder the team played. The more she hyped up the team by her actions in both play and support led the Lady Rebels to this huge win.
When we look at anything in our lives, both personal and professional, we can all learn a lot from 17. Her positive attitude no matter what the circumstances led this team to success. If a leader gets down and gives up, so do their employees. Having a positive, can-do attitude is infectious. When this behavior is displayed correctly, especially by an identified leader, those around the behavior will follow suit.
There are a few extra takeaways in this story as well that I want you to consider in your own life, both professional and personal alike:
1. Emotions, when harnessed correctly, can be a powerful motivator for an individual or team.
2. Never give up. Ever.
3. Stay positive, even when those around you have seemingly given up. Your actions could very well lead the team to a successful outcome.
4. “Leave it all on the court.” Give whatever it is you do one hundred percent effort. Win, lose, or draw, no one can ever take away the fact you gave it everything you had.
Based on what I witnessed last night and throughout the season, I am confident that 17 has a bright future in whatever she sets her mind to. Good luck to 17 and the Lady Rebels Volleyball Team as they head to the State Tournament!