After our loss to Washington, Coach Tara asked us, "After making a piece of art, what does the artist leave?" As seniors, we had heard this before and responded, "Your signature." She followed by asking our team, "Would you be proud of leaving your signature on this game?"
From the start, I have had an amazing college experience. Going to a great school and playing in an elite program is a dream turned reality. One thing I have noticed is that every year in both school and sport, I have had a defining moment that has helped me grow as a player and a person.
With regard to school, my freshman year, I met professors Michele and Harry Elam, who gave me the confidence to “be me’’ at a place in which so many remarkable individuals stand out. Sophomore year, I declared my major as international relations. Junior year, I did something student-athletes hesitate to do and studied abroad in Nigeria. And senior year, I have tightened my bond with my mentor, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, and will graduate in a few weeks.
With regard to basketball, my defining moments have not come during my triumphs but rather my struggles. Multiple times freshman year I wanted to deck my sideline coach, Nneka, during practice. She would embarrass me with tons of criticism. (Please note that I would never deck her because I cherish my life. We have never gotten into physical fights because I know my boundaries. Nonetheless, she did it all out of love and helped me earn a starting spot as a freshman!)
My sophomore year, I felt as if I let my big sis down when we lost in the Final Four against Baylor. Junior year, we were ranked No. 1 and got smacked by UConn in front of our home crowd. And now my senior year, my goal to go undefeated in conference went up in flames as we got outplayed and lost to Washington on Sunday.
No matter how hard you try to spruce it up, it doesn't matter: Losing sucks. My team was on a roll and had not lost since the second game of the year versus UConn. That leads to my first insight: Never justify a loss. In the back of our minds after the UConn game, we might have justified our loss, saying that, "we are a young team, we are not completely healthy, or it's early."
While those things are true, a loss is still a loss. And consequently, after we lost to Washington, it kind of felt as if I had lost for the first time this year. As soon as I checked my phone, I had a flurry of texts from my family. It’s funny, Nneka never calls me directly from China because it is too expensive, but I had three missed calls from her. But what resonated with me the most came from my mom, "If the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder can lose, you can lose, too."
And that leads to my second insight: We are all human. The pressure and expectations of a being a winning team can be tough; you get everyone's “A” game. But, more important, it is a privilege or honor that opponents bestow upon you, and we welcome and embrace it. With great power comes great responsibility.
Even though I am so proud of my team for storming back late in the game, we were outplayed for a majority of it. The loss reminds us to never take for granted an opportunity to play the game we love, because failure is just as possible an outcome as success.
I guess you can call me the Taylor Swift of women's basketball bloggery, because bad things tend to motivate and inspire my writing. I am my toughest critic, and after four years of self-discovery at Stanford, I have finally realized that there is a big picture. So my last and final insight is: Keep it real. Life is about perspective. All those struggles have made me the player and person I am today. Therefore a disappointment can be a blessing.
At the end of a game there is always a loser, but everyone can have the attitude of a winner. Use failures to become a better you. Also, it's great that the game is growing. Kudos to Washington for reminding us how to play with urgency. I have so much respect for our opponents. It's funny, before the game, [Washington guard] Jazmine Davis asked me for a rematch in ping pong from our time at Pac-12 media day in October (our coaches were getting after it at Pac-12 Studios at media day). Along with the great memories of going to the Final Four and winning Pac-12 championships, I will remember those little things that make our game special.
So, to wrap up, it is important to know that everything you do, you leave your signature. Sometimes your work will not be pretty. But as long as you take ownership of your improvement, anything can develop to be a masterpiece. I am looking forward to what the next weeks will bring!