The picture on the right was in the Hartford Courant a few weeks ago, and while it certainly is worth a thousand words, it was the caption under the picture that really caught my attention. The caption read, “UConn’s Lauren Engeln and Heather Buck sit in the locker room after the 83-75 overtime loss to Notre Dame in the 2012 Women’s Final Four at the Pepsi Center in Denver Sunday. Neither played in the game. (John Woike, Hartford Courant / April 1, 2012)
Did you notice what I noticed?
Neither played in the game!
Throughout both the men’s and women’s tournaments we’ve been able to see and listen to each team’s best players interviewed after the games and have vicariously felt both joy and sorrow. Many of the “losers” have been emotionally distraught because they felt that they had let their teammates and coaches down when everyone was counting on them to step up.
But this picture is entirely different. These two women aren’t UCONN’s best players. They didn’t make one mistake, commit one turnover, miss one shot, or blow one defensive rotation. In fact, neither played in the game! Yet they are still obviously heartbroken to see the game and season end the way it did.
We all know “star” players at every level who are more concerned with their stat line than with the outcome of the game. We also know bench players who just aren’t emotionally involved because they don’t play as much as they would like. The two players above are obviously emotionally involved and it is equally obvious that the only stat they cared about was the final score.
It’s no wonder that UCONN reached the Final Four once again and was one defensive rebound from playing for another NCAA Championship. When the outcome of the game means as much to the players on the bench as it does to the ones on the floor, teams have a chance to be very special.