I wrote last month about how weird it felt to be a senior on senior day. Surreal really… you don’t realize how fast college is going by until it’s gone. Our season ended with a 5-0 loss to a surging Norwich team. For those two hours, it seemed like everything was clicking for them and nothing was clicking for us. While I feel like I would be completely justified in mourning over this loss for at least the next month, I keep reminding myself about sports and why we play.
I flew home to Minnesota for the first few days of Spring Break before returning to campus to finish my senior thesis. I spent one unseasonably warm evening sitting on my porch “doing some reading” while really watching the webcasts for our men’s hockey and women’s basketball teams, who were both playing in national semifinal games. I watched as our women’s basketball team—the defending national champions, riding a 50-game win streak—lost a heartbreaking game to George Fox University. George Fox won 76-69 on the back of a player who scored 36 points. This one player had the game of her life, single-handedly sending her team to the national championship. I had a quick dinner before settling down to watch men’s hockey. All winter long, we had watched them work hard and put in the extra hours to become a great team. The game was knotted at 0-0 until halfway through the third when Oswego took the lead. I thought all hope was lost until we scored with under a minute remaining on the clock to send it into overtime. Amherst controlled the pace throughout overtime until an Oswego player was given a short breakaway, scoring on a beautiful deke. As I watched their reactions—the uncontrolled happiness on one end and the crippling sadness on the other—I thought back to all the wins and losses like that I experienced over my career.
Games like these epitomize our reason for playing sports. It hurts so badly to lose, but it feels so incredible to win. Ask yourself this: would winning feel so good if you didn’t know what it felt like to lose? The fact that an individual performance—a beautiful deke or a 36-point game—can define the outcome of a season is beautiful. We play for moments like these, because we know that on the other hand an individual performance can also mean the loss of a game or even the end of a season. Part of the reason we play sports is to win, to make that positive difference for our team, because all of us understand what it means to lose…to be the negative difference. So whether your season ended in celebration or in sadness, remember that without one you would not have the other. Do not let a season (or a career) be defined by one moment: think instead about the compilation of it all—use the ups to give perspective to the downs. It doesn’t all come down to what happens on the ice: I leave the Amherst program with great friendships and memories that have very little to do with hockey. I will carry those “ups” with me for the rest of my life. 20 years from now, I will have long-forgotten the score of the game that ended my career, but I could never forget the people I have met through this program.
So long—I’ve got a thesis to write!