Upsets are one of the most exciting things to watch unfold during the tournament, and they seem to happen more and more. Experts talk about parity and the exodus of good players to the NBA. They talk about team experience of mid-majors versus the lack of high level chemistry at major programs.
Because of this interesting dynamic anything can happen on any given day. Players and coaches talk about giving their all on the court. They say something like, “We have to give it our all, stick to our game plan, and I think we will come out victorious.”
No one ever says, “I hope we can lay an egg and get lucky.” Maybe it’s poor sportsmanship to say such a thing, but my dad often said, “I’d rather be lucky than good. You can be good, but if they’re lucky they are the ones who win.”
Friday night I was watching UNI play Michigan State. I was watching Ali Farokhmanesh miss a three-pointer. He later proceeded to miss a free throw. The commentators were talking about how it was rare to see him miss a free throw, and three… in one game! What makes it so stunning is that he had only missed seven all season!
Later senior Adam Koch, who has an 84% free throw percentage, missed both of his attempts. They were performing sub par. Up to this point excellence had propelled them to the Sweet 16.
UNI ended up losing.
As I watched the final minutes I realized that the idea of giving 100% in order to win is an incomplete idea.
I watched Ali Farokhmanesh miss shots and heard in my mind all those commentators talking about players losing their legs because they are too tired.
I thought, “Giving 100% in order to win 6 games in a row is exceedingly hard, if not impossible.”
UNI won over the previous weekend by giving it their all (or at least close to it). But it caught up to them. When they needed those threes from Ali, they weren’t there. When they needed those free throws there was just enough tiredness in the legs to prevent them from going in as usual.
Winning is the reason people compete. You don’t win by competing at your best.
Giving it your all may make you feel better when you walk away a loser, but the fact remains – you’re a loser. You can’t do it even when you give it your best. You probably should feel doubly bad, but people will tell you to hold your head up high for giving it your all.
I’ll be first in line to tell you to try something else. You weren’t made to win in that arena.
You may be thinking talent is the key to winning, but that’s not really true either. Kansas lost to UNI. It’s not luck either; it’s competing at a level high enough to win.
People practice so they don’t have to give 100%. Commentators might remark, “He’s unconscious;” and that’s a good thing. When you aren’t giving 100% and winning, that’s a good thing. If you only have to give 1% to win, that’s a great thing.
Upsets happen because some team is executing at a higher level. I’m pulling numbers out of the air, but let’s say UNI gave 90% and Kansas stunk it up and gave 40%. As long as Kansas’ 40% is higher than UNI’s 90% they will win, but this year it wasn’t. The other way to look at it is if Kansas’ 45% is higher than UNI’s 98%, Kansas will win even though they performed horribly and UNI did great.
When we practice physical activities we develop muscle memory. When we practice scenarios we develop mental memory. Eventually it becomes close to automatic. When we practice we are extending our 100%, which is limited by raw talent.
The goal is to not have to give 100% so you have something left for another day. Life is a journey not an event, so for most situations it is much better to not give 100%. Just getting by isn’t being a slacker if intentional; it’s being wise.
You can be a slacker when it comes time to perform if you’ve practiced because the discipline of practice allows us to perform at less than 100% and still win.