Over the past four years I have become accustomed to waking up everyday for the betterment of a team and not just for my own good. I literally woke up and started my day because I made a committment to a group of people that a little while ago, I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW EXISTED.

As a freshman, I was walking home with someone who was a complete stranger, but soon would become a person I call a friend. I don’t know how the conversation started, but we were talking about failure as a collegiate basketball player. It took me four years to realize that my definition was all wrong. Actually, I thought success as a basketball player was clear until I lost the third and final collegiate championship that I would ever compete in. Losing to Oswego State during my final game was easily the most heartbreaking moment of my basketball career. It didn’t matter that my career was over. It mattered because I had let my fellow seniors down.

I had spent four years grinding in the weight room, shooting in the gym, watching film, and ultimately having the time of my life. The problem was we weren’t happy or satisfied because we didn’t win and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it. This is when,

My definition of success as a basketball player changed.

I’m not sure who’s kid it was, but as I walked across the court after my interview, this kid caught my eye. I don’t know if I just wanted someone to say hi to or if his yellow minion hat was too cool to resist. I was still teary eyed, but he said “Basketball team,” and waved at me, so I couldn’t resist. I had to give him a high five which was probably the hardest thing to do. I was trying to smile but my smile immediately turned to tears. Digging for any positivity that I had left, I said thank you buddy and gave him a head tap even though I hated that when I was a kid.

My definition of success as a basketball player changed.

We lost. Not once, not twice, but three times. We had gotten to the big game three times and never left victorious and he still had a smile on his face. He was happy and entertained. No offense, but I didn’t play basketball to entertain people. Only minutes before meeting the minion-hat kid, I thought I played basketball to win games, but I was mistaken. I played basketball because I loved it. I played basketball because I loved my teammates, the coaches, the trainers, and the fans. I played basketball to be part of a transformation. I walked away from the minion-hat kid and soon realized that I used to be that kid. I had watched seniors walk off the court with tears in their eyes years before.

Success as a basketball player was never solely about winning games. Winning games is fun and we definitely won our fair share, but that doesn’t sum up collegiate sports. It’s about setting a platform for future players which cannot be denied. It is about the relationships I built which cannot ever be taken away from me. I have stories, memories, and friendships in my eternal possession.

For current collegiate athletes, do not take it for granted. At one point you will be leaving the court, field, ice, or track to never return as a college athlete. This isn’t supposed to make you upset. Just do your job. Your job isn’t to plainly win games. Your job is to improve a program in every way and lay a foundation for future players.

Working to do those two things will win you some games and I guarantee, you’ll have a hell of a lot of fun on the way.