benderd

In the last 72 hours a lot has been going on in both my personal life and business life. What has been interesting is the thread of connection back to a place some 1,800 miles away and 10 years ago, I called home. I have been privileged enough to be part of a successful program and what I learned during it and my time at SMU has given me an edge on life, and business. In this I have been taking solace/escape in the trials and tribulations of my alma maters basketball team during their March madness run.

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(surprising nobody has yelled at us yet for not warming up)

I wear a lot of college gear, (thanks to all of my collegiate athletes hooking me up with hoodies that I wear proudly). If you didn’t know though I am a proud pony. What that means is a bit different than most though. I am part of the Mustang Nation not just as an alumnus, but also as a letterman. I was fortunate enough to be part of a highly successful program, one that continues that success everyday. Being part of four championship teams I got to ride high. So watching your fellow athletes, train, study, train, eat, study, train, get hurt, get healthy, compete, and not be able to see them succeed is hard.

Rough days of training. Endless trampoline/dry board work, weight training when my body was already wrecked, the Nat, Eddie’s always good natured temperament, Jim’s constant push, dragging my a** to evening classes barely able to stand, studying with one eye open knowing I needed a nap but my course load didn’t care. Long trips across Texas in vans, competing on the road and knowing you have to go back to a mountain of work when it was all over, good or bad. These are the things fans don’t quite get. While I was there the “big” sports struggled while the rest of the teams were producing conference champions and championships, All-Americans, world-university games competitors, national team members, national champions, and Olympians.

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(This was my world for a long time)

Yet some of the hardest days were standing in the student sections with all the other athletes from the other teams, and the rest of the school body watching yet another blowout on the gridiron or the court. Those were the hardest days as an athlete. Not the close loss but the ruthless beating. It wasn’t the coaches, athletes, facilities, it was just something that was off and it seemed nobody could figure it out.

With the NCAA non – decision for the tournament, you can say a lot of things. One way or another they didn’t make the field of 64. So be it. To the NIT they go, and watching them struggle and rally has been something all athletes no matter their colors understand. For me getting text messages from friends, teammates, family, with score updates while at work reminded me of so many great things but biggest of all some key lessons.

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(Lets be clear, this sucks)

Being an athlete teaches you how to get knocked down and how to get up again. Learn from it, and to perform no matter what. How to manage your time, stay cool under pressure, multi-task, depend on others to do the same, risk big, fail often, and understand that all you can expect on any given day is to be average. You just have to make sure your average is better than everybody else.

So as schools both public and private, universities and grade/high schools look at their budgets and slash and burn sports (and the arts but thats for a different post). You forget that those things are what teach character, and at the end of the day, it’s the athlete that is going to stand naked in the thunderstorm with a metal rod in hand because if that’s what they have to do to get ahead then they are going to do it. They just want it more, and they might just do it to beat you.

The 22 point run SMU went on Tuesday night against Clemson in the second half to win and head to the final is a true testament to their character. It comes from years of being kicked when you’re down. To great teachers like Coach Brown, a supportive community, and the best thing that could have happened, was for them to not make the tournament, now they have something to prove, and that makes them dangerous.

205804_511730211579_756_n(nothing like getting snowed in on the road)

On Thursday night in a packed Madison Square Garden in their final game of the season against Minnesota this show down will be epic. No matter how it unfolds every athlete that will be watching that game will feel both the pain of defeat and the joy of success; because at the root of it all, we just want to be there all over again.

Personally I’ll be in the second row, behind the goal with the rest of the Red and Blue.

– Pony Up –

diversIMG

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