It's easy to call a season a failure when we aren't the last team standing, but I believe that a season is defined by more than that. The seasons I look back most fondly on had drastically different trajectories and outcomes. I always point back to Berkeley '06 as an example of a unified and happy team that lost two devastating games-to-go and "failed" when it counted most. But I would choose to go back to that team and season over other years where I've qualified for Nationals with teams that were far less unified and happy. The success of a season cannot be measured by what you see on Score Reporter. In my mind, the growth experienced by players on and off the field, the relationships built, and the legacy left for the team in subsequent years are all part of what makes a team successful.
As a small group of teams punch their tickets to Appleton and Boulder, and others close the books on the 2012 season, I wanted to share this excerpt from an email I wrote to a college player earlier this week:
"I have spent a long, long time blaming myself for premature endings of seasons, whether that be in games-to-go at Regionals or elimination rounds at Nationals. As a leader, you are so invested that any outcome other than the one you had imagined seems unforgivable... There are always hundreds of things that you could have done differently, and you wonder if one little thing here or there could have changed the outcome of the season. Sometimes I am still not sure that I've forgiven myself for the "mistakes" I've made... And the truth is, we can always do better... and hopefully we will, in whatever we face next. I think the key is to always be looking to the future. Of course, take time to be sad over the ending of a season and to reflect on the things you could have done better. But ultimately, you are not defined by the past. You are defined by how you take those lessons into the future."