April 26, 2006
Throughout the season Illinois women's basketball players Maggie Acuna, Lori Bjork and Danielle Gratton have posted their thoughts in a weekly blog. In in the final BasketBlog this season, freshman Lori Bjork talks about being lost without games, and losing herself in class-work as finals approach.
Women's BasketBlog - April 26, 2006 - Lori Bjork
Following the end of every season, I always find myself going through a period of re-acclimation as I attempt to find my bearings in the normal world. I begin to philosophize on deep questions, like for example, how the average freshman can stand living in a dorm room and eating dorm food without the weekly respite of a team road trip? (I am still searching for the definitive answer to that one).
Sports doctrine teaches athletes to always focus on the next game, the next shot, the next play. But with the next game something like 7 months away, I suppose I had best strap myself in tight and prepare for a landing on Planet Earth as most people know it. (Yes, I am implying that there is an alien quality to Division I basketball: after all, it is populated by freakishly tall and athletic people who are willing to train year-round in pursuit of a dream - where else in the world do you find that?).
In high school my transition from a green Martian to a normal life was facilitated by the beginning of the track season. This year, however, I have no upcoming competitions on the calendar; nowhere to test my mettle. As athletes, we are so conditioned to set goals and methodically work toward achieving them, it can be terribly frightening to find yourself sailing full-steam ahead, utterly rudderless. This is not to suggest that our workouts and weightlifting sessions don't have a definite sense of purpose about them. Believe me, when you have to look at NCAA tournament brackets without your name on them, there is no shortage of motivation. However, no matter how focused you are on improving and working for that next (distant) game, it can't change the reality that there is no final test - no big game - on the horizon.
In a great irony, however, as I ponder the lack of measuring sticks in my athletic life, I am bracing myself for the whack of the ultimate academic ruler: final exams. I think, because of my athletic background, I have a slightly different perspective on academics than the average undergrad. I tend to view school in athletic terms. I compete and take pride in my coursework. I work at maintaining my GPA just like I do my 3FG% (if only the former was as enjoyable as the latter). Too bad 50% accuracy doesn't look as good for the GPA as it does for the 3FG%. Each test is really a game, and as any player knows, you play like you practice.
I also have that never-say-never attitude that manifests itself most prominently (and maddeningly) in the last minute of a clearly decided game when a soon-to-be-defeated team keeps fouling, believing that somehow, someway, it can still overcome that 10-point deficit. (Even I have to admit that when I am watching the end of a game, waiting to see the victors' final celebration, nothing angers me more than having to endure Losing Team futilely fouling 90% free throw shooters with mere seconds remaining - but I must also confess to being an occasional culprit of said offense, even going so far as to call timeouts after made baskets to set up the press).
This attitude extends into my academic life, as I always believe that somehow I am going to pull off an "A" on a test (my belief has been justified a time or two). No matter how lost I may feel in a class a week before the test, I always remain confident that over the next week, I can make the 2 out rally in the 9th and garner the "A". Even after an exam, I often return to my dorm room to check out the tape (the textbook) to see if the answer I wrote down was correct.
So, as I approach tournament time in the classroom, despite the 10-page final paper I have yet to start, I still feel I am primed for a Final Four run. I am conveniently not going to think about how many late night buzzer beaters this magical ride is going to require. Meanwhile, to the handful of loyal readers out there, thanks for letting me bounce my thoughts off you every couple of weeks. I promise you will see an improved game from me next year, and, if you're lucky, some improved writing too (or if you're really lucky, just a new writer).
Lori Bjork #20