By Bill Henk — The Marquette basketball faithful endured a very painful first round loss in the NCAA tournament this past Thursday. Our early exit just didn’t feel quite right, because the season had been so remarkable. Despite the many challenges the team faced, it not only made the field of 65, but garnered a surprising six seed. We were poised to be a true Cinderella story for the nation, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Although MU fans everywhere were clearly disappointed with “one and done,” it’s far more important to celebrate the extraordinary accomplishments of our players, Coach Buzz, and the entire coaching and support staff. Nobody expected much from a team that had lost three great players, lacked depth and experience, and would be at a physical disadvantage to almost every opponent.
For me, the many unforeseen triumphs of our over achieving squad served as a reminder of some important life lessons. But I’d like to take the premise further and suggest that the success of the Golden Eagles has much to say to us about teaching.
You Gotta Have Heart
More than anything else, our team exhibited extraordinary character and heart all year long. They might have run out of gas occasionally, but never once did they quit. Not a single loss could be blamed on a lack of effort.
Coach Williams summed it up in an interview before the final game. He said the team could be described in one word – PUGNACITY. To be honest, I didn’t even think that was a real word. Buzz knows better. Basically it means a natural disposition to be aggressive. Sounds about right to me.
But I actually like the blended meaning of the two words that apparently gave rise to the term ‘pugnacity’ – pugnacious and tenacity. Taken together, the word comes to mean ”combative in nature and relentless.” OK, now THAT that description REALLY fits our crew! Buzz knows best.
Teaching As Pugnacity
So what does all of this showering of respect on our team and its season signify for educators? It comes down to what I call TENACIOUS TEACHING TENETS. Here are the basic principles:
- Never ever quit on a student. Surrender is not an option, and resolve is particularly imperative when the child and everyone else has given up.
- Don’t sell your pupils short by prejudging their potential, and don’t underestimate yourself either. Expectations exist to be exceeded.
- Attitude deeply matters in teaching and learning. With the right attitude, knowledge and skill development will almost certainly follow you and your students.
- Dare to dream. If you aim high and narrowly miss the mark, you’ll stretch students’ learning further than by fully attaining a lesser goal.
- Commit to excellence. Give your utmost effort every step of the way, and you and your students will emerge as winners not only in school, but in life.
In other words, success as a teacher depends largely upon perseverance, ignoring pre-conceived limits, thinking positively, holding high expectations, and trying your very best.
Back to Basketball
I hope that fans will soon get past the talk of this year’s team over achieving, being physically outmatched, and exceeding expectations. Nothing is to be gained by complacency or settling. Instead the bar needs to be set even higher for next year. If we perform like we’re capable, there’s no reason to limit our aspirations. After all, the road to greatness is never paved with tempered expectations.
Next year’s team and Coach Williams deserve the respect that comes along with being held to Big East and national championship dreams by the Marquette nation. If we think those goals are lofty and unobtainable, they will be. As for me, I plan to look at the way this season played out as a reason to believe that almost anything is possible.
And for what it’s worth, I believe that almost anything is possible with teaching, too.
Note to Readers: For those of you who are NOT hoop fans, I promise to avoid writing any more posts that use basketball as a backdrop. Until next season anyway! In the meantime, let’s get behind Coach Terri Mitchell and our Lady Golden Eagles who are still very much alive in the WNIT. On Monday night they take on Illinois in Champaign. Not a believer? Well, then let me remind you skeptics that our women won this tournament in 2008!