Paulson: 'Adversity'

Nov. 8, 2000

Recently I read a quote summarizing one student's perspective on their college experience: 'It's a test to see if you can handle four years of stress.' I think you can sum up the college athletic experience using a similar perspective: 'It's a test to see if you can handle four years of adversity.' Overcoming adversity is one of the most common challenges athletes face, because adversity is so inevitable in athletics.

ASU's Women's Basketball's first exhibition game was one of adversity, having only one returning starter in the opening line-up. The prediction of many trips to the foul line, and spreading the floor for open shots, proved true of our international competition. Trailing almost the entire game, struggling to get into a flow offensively or defensively, we ended up losing to a team that traveled half way around the world the day before their first collegiate competition.

A football player reminded me in the elevator of the student athletic building the other day, 'there is no progress without struggle.' Although no one likes to lose, and it is not a prerequisite to progress, we can definitely take away some positives and build on them throughout the rest of the season.

One of the things athletics stresses is the importance of getting better everyday you step onto the court. With this in mind, there is always some form of adversity to overcome, and things happening from which you can constantly learn. With a team full of competitors who all hate the feeling of losing, it comes down to simply executing the things that we can control on the court.

Coach often teaches us things and later says, 'it just hasn't clicked yet.' One particular story really clicked for me the other day, after one of my most mentally and physically challenging practices of the year.I was sitting in a fifty-degree ice bath up past my waist, flipping through the book 'Chicken Soup for the Soul,' trying to make the fifteen minutes of treatment go by as fast as possible, when I came across a story that spoke directly to me regarding adversity.

This particular story was about a family that had just purchased a new car for their family vacation. Upon arriving home late from their vacation they parked the unloaded car outside on the street. When they woke up it was gone. The stolen car was recovered a week later with nothing in it, and a huge dent in the side. As they were driving their fixed car home from the dealership, they got rear-ended. The wife looks at her husband, who had little patience left at this point, and says before he jumps out of the car, 'honey, we can either have a brand new dented car and not enjoy it at all, or have a dented car and enjoy the fact we still have a car, either way we have a dented car, so lets enjoy the fact we still have a car.'

We can take on the same attitude in athletics when we are faced with adversity. Just the other day I was told I couldn't play in our exhibition game for a variety of health reasons. I thought immediately of the husband and wife that faced adversity with their car. I thought to myself, 'I can either not play and be mad the entire game, or I can not play and stay positive, and learn by watching the game.' Either way I wasn't going to play. This attitude can be applied to any situation in life when you are faced with adversity, by making light of even the most frustrating and challenging circumstances.

Adversity combined with stress causes some student-athletes to quit the sport they grew up loving, noting that the challenge to overcome their circumstances just wasn't worth it. I was fortunate to be raised by two parents who never let me quit. They stressed the importance of finishing everything I started. I remember hating softball so bad one year I was in tears. They said, 'Liz you have an obligation to your team, and you better find a way to enjoy it because you have a whole season ahead of you.' It was one of those lessons you think is so stupid when you're little, only to realize the significance later in life.

The adversity and stress student athletes face everyday requires a commitment to staying with things, and never giving up on yourself or your team. For progress to emerge from our struggles, we must approach them in a positive way that enables us to realize the broader picture and the full potential of our goals. Whether adversity comes to us in the form of a loss, an injury, or a unfortunate circumstance in life, it is important to understand that progress comes first and foremost by the attitude you take in overcoming your adversity.

ASU women's basketball remains positive through its loss, knowing we lost to a very good team, however the team understands we must keep progressing to overcome the adversity of losing our first game. ASU has one more exhibition game on Saturday November 11th, before our season opener on Saturday November 18th at 7pm vs. Texas-San Antonio at Wells Fargo Arena.

Now on Pac-12 Network
7:00 AM PT

Airing on:

  • Pac-12 Network
Get Pac-12 Networks
Pac-12 Networks Channel Finder