We have all won championships and played in tournaments, received #1 medals, ribbons, and trophies; however,  if you had the choice to go against the #2 or #3 team to decide the title, who would you choose?  In some sports, the way that playoffs are structured is as follows:

First round:

#1 vs. #12, #2 vs. #11, #3 vs #10, #4 vs #9, #5 vs #8, #6 vs #7

Based on the winners of those games, #1 seed plays the winner of the #6 vs #7 game.  Usually teams aim to go into playoffs being seeded #1 so that you are guaranteed an “easier” game to face off against the lowest seeded team.  This is an earned position, the #1 team has performed well all season to dominate the field and have a stronger chance of advancing.  Of course we have all witnessed the upsets in March Madness where the #15 team takes out the #2 seed at which time the debate arises, should the #1 seed play the #2 or #15 team to decide the true “Champion?”

In May 2009, our #1 seeded HS Varsity Girls’ Lacrosse team went up against the #2 seeded High School team in the county.  The #2 team was clipping at our heels all season and the regular season games were tied 1- 1, they beat us away and we beat them at home.  It was an incredible match up of talent and will and a cross town rivalry.  The CIF playoffs culminated in a Championship game of #1 vs #2, the winner would truly have earned the CIF title this year.  Our #1 team squeezed out a 6-5 win at the end of a game riddled with checks, interceptions, incredible saves, perfectly placed shots and some of the best girls lacrosse the fans, the Head Coach and I had every seen.  It was an incredible sense of accomplishment and pride for the girls, it was a true championship and they felt they had beaten the team who challenged them and pushed them the most.  I don’t think the 2009 CIF victory would have been as sweet against any other team, both teams have a great deal of respect for one another, they pushed each other to play beyond their normal capabilities and stretch their limits.

It’s important for coaches to teach their players, and for parents to teach their kids, that in order to BE the best you must BEAT the best. It’s a lesson that applies throughout life.  In academics, in business, in any area in which your goal is be the “best.”  Push and motivate yourself and your team to continuously improve your skill level, your game, and consistently challenge yourself to compete against the very best competition the field has to offer.  You may lose at first but you learn lessons to improve and better prepare for the next time.

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