An RWU Student Writes:

I was just cut from my college basketball team today, and I don’t know what to do. I love basketball and I put 95 percent of my time and energy into it. I think I am good enough to play on the team, but I had a bad first week of practice, and then I got cut. There’s not much I do at this point. I only have 3 classes now, and a lot of free time. I don’t want to give up on basketball, I don’t know if I could, it’s been a part of my life for so long. I just feel really depressed and my motivation to be successful in college is running low. Any advice would help me so much.

RWU Advice:

First of all, anyone who has ever participated in organized sports (including myself) can relate to the disappointment of being cut or not being able to play due to a season-ending injury. It’s okay to feel dejected, rejected, or even neglected. However, it’s not the end of the world. It’s was once said that a setback is nothing but a setup for a comeback. And that’s the philosophy that you must adopt.

I’m a little disappointed to hear that your academics may suffer as a result of this temporary setback. First and foremost, you want to make sure you get your college degree above anything else. It’s not a coincidence that even the top ball players like Vince “Vin-sanity” Carter went back to get his college degree and almost missed a playoff game just to sit in on his graduation ceremony. That’s called a clue.

Use this “down” time to hone your skills and come back stronger for next year. Remember vividly what it felt like to not play your best during tryouts, and vow to never let that happen again. Every great athlete has had to endure failure at one time or another. That’s what makes them so great — they respond well to adversity. True champions don’t get bitter, they get better. As you know, even Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team. And there are literally thousands of other athletes with similar stories. I would highly recommend that you rent one of my favorite movies called, “Rudy.” If that movie doesn’t inspire you, quite frankly, nothing will. I’ve watched it about a dozen times.

The only thing that will set you apart from the “doers” and the “wanna-bes” is HOW you will respond to this setback. Ask yourself, “What are you made of?” I will share at least one personal story that I hope inspires you to get up and get tough.

During my sophomore year in high school, our defensive coordinator for our high school football team asked me to go out for our wrestling team (a team that was consistently ranked in the top five in the state, and a team for which he was the head coach). I didn’t think I could even wrestle, let alone make a team that was filled with state champions. I had never even wrestled a day in my life. But because of my quickness and athleticism (even though I was vastly undersized — 100 lbs. and some change soaking wet), the coach thought I had the necessary talent to succeed.

Well, to everyone’s amazement, including myself, I DID make the team. However, during my very first match (at a tournament), I got pinned in the first period of the match by a lesser opponent. No one on our team is ever expected to lose, let alone get pinned. I was devastated, and my confidence was in the pits. Not only did I cry like a little baby, I vowed I’d never return to the mat to embarrass myself and my teammates again. I was pitiful.

All of my friends agreed that wrestling was not the sport for me, and that it was reserved for “special” atheletes. And I agreed. However, my younger sister asked me did I like the sport, and I told her that I really did, and I had worked my butt off to make the team. Well, she challeneged me to forget the naysayers and get back on the mat again, much to the delight of my coach who couldn’t convince me to return.

Well, to make a long story short, not only did I return to the mat at the beginning the new season, I went on to an 8-1 record that year (losing a match by one point). The next year, I went undefeated, and qualified for regionals (where I lost by 2 points). And in my senior year, I went undefeated again and made it to the state tournament where I placed second overall, losing in overtime. Although, I went on to enjoy a lot of success as a wrestler, the one thing I’m most proud of is the fact that I NEVER gave up. Even better, I never got pinned again in a wrestling match (not even close).

I have an old high school class ring (I don’t even have a college ring, and I’m a professor), and I wear it every day to remind me that I can accomplish anything if I put my mind to it. See, when it comes to athletics, school, or life, it doesn’t matter where you start, what counts is where you decide to finish. Take this to heart, and remember this when you try out for the basketball team next season. Good luck my friend, and as always, live purposefully.

Living Purposefully,

Prof. Joe “Cujo” Martin (Cujo was my wrestling nickname)

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