It is NCAA D1 Volleyball Year End Tournament time. 5 months late.
The fall volleyball season for many colleges was pushed to spring due to…. duh..
College athletes have pushed through regular co-vid testing, quarantine, cancelled games….
and playing in front of empty stands.
The NCAA D1 Volleyball tournament held in Omaha,NE has allowed limited fans in the CHI Health Center Stadium for the finals. Our family loves volleyball and we could not be happier for the return of a sport we enjoy so much. It is exciting to hear the cheers of live people in the stands and not the recorded background noise we’ve come to find normal over the last year of COVID impacted sports seasons.
The sounds of the fans is so energizing.
When they remember.
To cheer, that is.
Which begs the question? How could you forget? More importantly how could Nebraska fans forget?
Nebraska has the largest college volleyball venue in the Big 10. It seats over 11,000 and in non co-vid times is usually sold out. The atmosphere is electric. People of all ages show up to cheer on their Huskers who have a long tradition of winning. Tom and I are always eager to tune in to a televised home game in Husker arena.
So why were they so quiet? The tournament was held in Omaha giving the Nebraska team a clear home court advantage.
The No. 5 ranked Nebraska Volleyball team was one of the final 8 teams left in the tournament playing No. 4 ranked Texas. It was an exciting match. They were in a must win situation and the Texas fans were on their feet. They were loud and proud – waving their Hook Em horns hands – ready to usher their team in to another NCAA tournament semi final.
And the Nebraska fans sat.
They stayed settled in to their comfy arena seating – all decked out in their Husker T shirts, pom poms and one man even wore a hat that looked like a corn cob. They had all the signs of excited, loyal fans ( I mean how many people do you see walking around with a corn cob hat?)
But they remained quiet.
I probably would not have noticed this – but the TV announcers calling the game drew it to all the viewers attention.
“It’s like they forgot how to cheer!” Said one.
“Yes – the Nebraska team needs their fans to get behind them. They were playing so much better earlier in the match when the fans were ON THEIR FEET and CHEERING.” said the other commentator.
The team needs to hear their fans but it appears they forgot how to cheer.
Texas went on to win the match against Nebraska and they went on to beat their next opponent No. 1 ranked Wisconsin in a close, hard fought match to take them to the NCAA tournament finals. As I watched the Texas/Wisconsin match I paid attention – to the fans. What I noticed was interesting and eerily similar to the Texas-Nebraska match.
In the final determining points of the set that Texas won to send them to the finals…
The Texas fans were on their feet.
The Wisconsin fans were not.
The team that had the loudest fans….. WON.
Now…. My Volleyball Coach husband will tell me their were a gazillion other reasons Texas won. They are a tough, talented team. They won because they deserved to win.
But gosh…. there are some lessons these fans can teach us. There are some important questions I believe we as a culture can ask ourselves in regards to the way we support or don’t support the people in our lives. I fear that a year of disconnect has caused us to forget the power of connection, community and full out cheering.
Friends – your voice of encouragement matters.
How you show up matters.
Your effort in reaching out to people matters.
Sociologists and Psychologists will tell you that the rise in suicide and substance abuse has sky rocketed since we all took cover in the safety of our homes in March of 2020. We need each other. We need to feel the energy that comes when we know someone believes in us because they have told us so. If we continue down the course of passivity the implications are far greater then not making it to the finals of a volleyball tournament.
I have realized that as I work to stay connected I am going to have to make a few adjustments.
Connection takes work. Friends and family that I used to feel united to because of shared beliefs may now find ourselves on opposite sides of well…. just about anything. Our culture has no end of issues we can disagree on and it appears that we believe that if we just get louder about our perspectives people will understand. I have not found that to be true. Taking time to understand the people in my life before offering up my perspective means I will work to listen first. Talk later.
Connection means you open you mouth. In a world where we can scroll passively past the lives of thousands of people we may have allowed ourselves to believe that act is true connection. We see what is happening, we note it, may judge it or ourselves and move on. Can I suggest that a start to connection is to leave a simple LIKE or ‘good job’ underneath the post? If you are wondering who may need your words… the answer is simple: anyone you encounter who is breathing. That is the only qualifier.
Connection means you move. You make the call. You pick up a pen and paper. You shift your gaze to the eyes of the people in the store – making connection with the parts of our bodies that some writers have characterized as the windows to our soul. Take the first step. Follow the nudge to reach out to the person that drops into you mind for no apparent reason.
A couple of years ago Tom and I were leading an event for students at our High School campus. It was required. We took attendance. One young man came in late and said the words I’ll remember forever. English was not his first language so he expressed his sentiments with the best English phrase he could put together…
“I’m so sorry I’m late…. I forgot to remember!”
Friends – It’s time that we stop “forgetting to remember” ……
how to cheer.
How to encourage. How to love. How to support our people in a way that helps them push through their hard, those last final moments before the finish line. Our silence serves no one. Your CHEERS matter.
I can hear the voices now.
“Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today.” Hebrews 3:13