After a rough performance last week in our loss against Pully, I realized that I was in a bit of a slump. The thing about being in a slump is that it’s not like you just wake up the next day and BAM you’re out of it! It doesn’t quite work like that, you have to fight to get out of it, and sometimes it takes a whole week of practice where you feel like nothing is falling for you in order to get out of that slump. Needless to say I had a rough week of practice: I missed lay-ups and free throws and had to fight hard to stay out of my own head. When slumps happen, I usually have an internal fight until I change my thinking, which I was thankfully able to do this past week. I’ve never really flourished in basketball when I’ve solely focused on “me” so to speak. Yes, when I’m in an individual workout I have to focus on me and I do: I think about my shooting form, my footwork, how to breathe and maintain a routine at the free throw line, keeping my dribble low and close to my body, you know, the basics. However, come game time and team practice time I like to think about how I can help the team. Thinking about helping the team partly takes some of the pressure off because I’m not consciously critiquing every little thing I do, but more so it just reminds me that my individual game is only a part of the bigger picture, the team. Sometimes helping the team means giving someone else who’s having a rough day a high five, cheering after someone makes a tough shot, encouraging my teammates to be aggressive on defense and up in passing lanes, doing my job when I’m at the free throw line, converting my lay-ups on a good pass from a teammate so they keep looking inside, or diving on a loose ball to show that we’re collectively willing to sacrifice our bodies for the love of the game.
Just a quick tangent on that last statement…sometimes I think I am absolutely crazy to put my body through what I do in order to play the game. I see bruises on my teammates and go home and find similar ones on myself and think, “Wow, when did that happen?” This is the less glamorous side of living the dream. Even as I write this I have ice on various parts of my body trying to numb the new pains I’m feeling today. The morning after a tough game is always rough; I lay in bed and debate whether or not my body can even get up. But when you have the basketball itch (which I can feel pulsing from my chest to the rest of my body right now), as soon as your feet hit the floor, all you can think about is how you will get better today, when you will get your next victory, and how good it feels to overcome the little battles which lead to the bigger ones. Winning those battles, small and big, is completely addicting…so when I look in the mirror and notice a new bruise I sigh for a brief moment and then realize that this is a small price for that amazing feeling of invincibility that comes with a victory.
So this past week I worked really hard focusing on my teammates and what the team needed so I could, in turn, focus on myself and get out of my slump. I would definitely say that I played 100 times better yesterday than I did last weekend. Sure, I still missed a few shots, and I can always do some things better, but I felt like myself, the Hillary I’m used to being on the court. I’m so glad that I fought all week to get her back.
Our game yesterday had incredibly promising moments that it would be our first league victory. In the first quarter we were up by 12 (18-6), their American center picked up her fourth foul with about two minutes left in the first quarter, and it looked like this game was going to be ours. Then the other team switched up their defense and slowly started climbing back into the game. At halftime we were up by only one point. We’d stopped attacking and found ourselves slowly sinking gasping for air while trying to maintain our lead. As much as we tried to attack their center so she’d foul out, she managed to play with four fouls until the very end of the third quarter, at which point I also had four fouls and found myself on the bench. There’s a VERY big difference between playing ‘not to lose’ and ‘playing to win.’ After the turn of events in the second and third quarters, it seemed like we were no longer playing to win, but were trying not to lose. This isn’t uncommon for a team that’s in a situation like ours. I’ve been on teams like this in the past, where we really want to win, but can’t seem to put the pieces together to make it happen. In talking to my coach this morning, I completely agree that once we get one win and realize what we have to do in order to get that win, something will click, and we’ll be okay. Sometimes that actually happens, where a win will spur that click and a team will fire themselves up (I’ve been on teams like this :)), but sometimes it doesn’t (I’ve also been on teams like this :(). After seeing how our team played against Pully last weekend with all that passion and desire I absolutely believe that our team can fire up after a victory and keep that flame going.
Oh, so some of you are probably wondering why the Swiss Cup win doesn’t count in this mix-up. Well, from what I gather all teams in Switzerland compete for the Swiss Cup, and our first game was against a second-league team. We won by 20 or so, maybe more, but did not play well at all. In order to get that fire started the win HAS to be a challenging game. Nothing is guaranteed in sports, but since we knew we had a good shot at winning our first Swiss Cup game, it wasn’t a surprise when we won without playing particularly well. That first win has to be a tough one, and it has to boost our egos into knowing that we can compete. Our game yesterday would have been ideal, but now we have to look forward to our game next weekend against Basel. Wish us luck!