Paul Valencia: There's heart in winning and losing

Paul Valencia: High schools

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

That team has heart.

That is the typical description when a team loses a first-round game in a tournament and then goes through the consolation bracket to earn a trophy.

That team showed tremendous heart.

The Woodland Beavers did that this past weekend in the Class 1A state softball tournament. They lost their first game, then won two more on Friday, then won three in a row on Saturday to take home the third-place trophy.

That is a tremendous bounce-back from disappointment.

The Prairie Falcons were almost as impressive. They lost in the first round of the Class 3A softball tournament before winning four in a row to get to a trophy game. They lost the final matchup but still brought home a fourth-place trophy.

But what about the teams that don't recover for the consolation bracket?

Every year, whether it is in basketball, volleyball, or softball, we witness teams expecting to compete for state championships go 0-2 in their tournaments.

Were they never really that good?

Nope, they were.

It is just sometimes the heart longs for something so much that it cannot handle the crushing defeat.

Which is why I was so impressed with Camas pitcher Harli Hubbard the other day. She admitted that she and her teammates just were not ready to play another game after losing in the first round.

Remember, this is Camas softball, the team that lost in the 2013 championship game by a run, and only after the other team made an amazing catch to save the day. The Papermakers were that close to winning it all last year. This was their second chance.

Only for whatever reason, the Papermakers had an uncharacteristic letdown in the first round, with errors and other miscues that added up to a loss.

Just like that, the Papermakers could not return to the finals.

"It wrecked us," Hubbard said.

Camas then lost in the consolation round and, just like that, was done for the season.

The Papermakers did not quit. They just did not play to the best of their ability.

This has nothing to do with heart. It has everything to do with heartache.

Athletes compete knowing all about the risk-reward, the deal they make with sports. They want to win to experience that joy. They know, though, there can be no joy without the risk of misery.

There is a great life lesson with that, too.

Just about every time I was at Camas this school year, including back in the fall and winter, I saw Hubbard and other softball players in the weight room. Seriously, almost every time.

They were dedicated. They were preparing. They put it all on the line to go win a state championship.

It did not happen, and they were devastated. Then they acknowledged as much.

All teams that make it to state, to the sweet 16, have heart. And in a sport such as softball, four of the 16 teams have to go 0-2. It's the math of the brackets.

Going 0-2 at state does not mean a team lacks heart.

In fact, investing the time necessary to be good enough to make it to state proves that a team has plenty of heart.