Reviewing the Film

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One of my son Jed’s teammates had a bad basketball game. It happens to every athlete obviously, whether they play on a recreational level or as an elite professional. But because this was uncharacteristic of this particular young man, my husband Ben asked Jed if his teammate had been playing with an injury. Jed said no – that he’d just had a bad game – but watching film in practice was rough. “Oh my goodness,” I said. “I hadn’t thought about that.” After every game, the team watches the film back to figure out what they did right and what can be corrected. But watching back a game when someone plays poorly sounded miserable. I’m sure that the kid was not pleased with his performance in the first place so to relive it with the whole team must’ve been awkward and uncomfortable. 

On the other hand, once they’ve watched the film from the last game, the team moves on to scouting the team they’ll play next. They study who they will guard, the plays the other team runs, the style in which the other team plays. And by doing that, they look forward to the future. They’ve learned what they can from the last game and apply it to the game they’re about to play. But they don’t linger on the past game because to do so would keep them from getting ready for what’s next. 

Unfortunately, I think many of us spend too much time reviewing the film of our past mistakes, instead of giving it a quick look to understand our mistakes and make different choices. We often dwell on the past and replay it over and over again. We wish for a different outcome even though there is nothing we can do to change what’s already happened. We get stuck replaying our bad performance, poor decisions, and mistakes. The film loop never ends for some of us. Revisiting the past becomes almost a source of comfort because it is familiar even if the familiarity is in fact painful. 

Watching bad film over and over doesn’t move us forward though. It only mires us in regret and shame and heartache. At some point, we must take the lessons from the past and figure out how to apply them to the future. What are we facing in our lives now and how can we be better prepared? How can we avoid the mistakes that haunt us? Being afraid of repeating the past is a real concern but living in fear won’t propel us into a better future. Instead, we have to stop rewatching the bad and scout out what’s coming next. 

We all have bad days, seasons, experiences that replay in our minds. Sometimes they’re hard to shake. If an athlete can’t get out of their own head and pivot toward whatever’s next, their game is in trouble physically and mentally. But a mark of a healthy athlete is the ability to shake off the bad game and keep going. To keep shooting the ball until they regain their rhythm, to keep trying until they make a comeback, to practice becoming better until it happens. To believe that they are not defined by their worst game. To have confidence that better days are just over the horizon if they have confidence in themselves and their abilities. Let’s give the film of the past a look but then put it in its proper place on the shelf, striving toward a better future because of what we’ve learned. 

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