Column: I forgot

By Josh George

Bodies were flying everywhere. Vicious Texans perched atop rolling battering rams screamed across the court. There I was, the little guy in the orange and blue. I could see myself, transcendental-like, bad pass there, miscue after miscue. Don’t we all speak English? Where did the communication go? Stop the ride. I remember now.

The season for the U of I wheelchair basketball team began last weekend at the University of Texas at Arlington. The team thrust onto the playing field after months of early mornings and rough practices without an opponent in sight.

I had forgotten what the beginning of a season felt like. I didn’t come in until the beginning of the year last year due to a short hiatus to race in Greece at the Olympics. I forgot how hard it is to gauge how hard you’re working and how much you are improving when you haven’t seen the competition in seven months. “Good” is a comparative term that doesn’t mean anything unless there are at least two things to compare. In the preseason, we had no competition to compare ourselves to. The philosophy is somewhat vague; work as hard as you possibly can and improve.

Then comes the first tournament of the year. A chance to finally figure out where we stand in the world of intercollegiate wheelchair basketball teams.

We started out strong. The first day bode well, we dropped the Cowboys from Oklahoma State 67-37 and 52-35, before taking care of the Arizona Wildcats 66-47.

It was on the second day that things got interesting. After losing to last year’s champions from the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater in our first game, we scratched by Arizona, and then got thumped by the University of Texas at Arlington.

Problems arose that you can’t find in practice. We learned what we do well and what we need to improve on in a way that can’t be found anywhere else but in a game situation. We learned the value of communication and how a team is dead in the water without it.

At the end of the day, I remembered what else I had forgotten about the beginning of a season. I had forgotten how frustrating it is when you finally have enough information to come up with what good is, then realize your team is not yet good enough. I forgot how frustrating it is to lose to a team that you know you can beat. The painful realization is that, though your potential may be far greater than any other team out there, you are not yet at that level. Those are the losses that hurt. Fortunately, those are the losses that you pin up on the wall forcing you to work harder than you ever had before.

You know what else I forgot? I forgot how much more you learn from a failure than you learn from a success; and nothing feels better than looking around a room full of your teammates and seeing that each and every one of them understands that.

One thing that athletes need constantly throughout a long season is a reminder of how hard they can and need to work. Athletes forget what “good” is. They forget where the high-water mark is. After last weekend, I remember again. The team remembers again.

Josh George is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]