... On our women's soccer team:
A paradox surrounds UCLA athletics.
The university revels in its record 104 NCAA championships but also reveres John Wooden, who preaches that making the effort to be one's best defines success, not winning one's last game.
UCLA Women's Soccer Coach Jillian Ellis grasps the paradox better than most. In 10 seasons, she's led the Bruins to seven College Cup appearances, including the last six in a row, but she has not won a national title.
"If I'd have won a championship my first Final Four, I don't think I'd be the coach I am today," Ellis says. "Every year I've come away from the College Cup final, I learn something. After last year's loss to Carolina, my daughter came running up to me and asked me, "Mama, did you win the trophy.' And I picked her up and said, 'You're my trophy.'"
Ellis reminds players that life is "about the experiences and finding the other things in life that have great value, like family and friends." Yet she acknowledges that for her players' sake she'd like to — yes — win a title. This year, the Bruins will be among the favorites to do just that. Ellis' 2009 team combines heralded freshmen and a veteran contingent that includes two Olympians, seniors Lauren Cheney and Kara Lang.
I get the aura of our 104 championships. Over here our expectations for all of our programs would be based on winning championships. However, we should always make sure we are judging our teams based on consistency and how they are always competing for the top spot.
Our women's soccer team IMHO has been one of the best programs at Morgan Center. To me it doesn't really matter that they haven't won a championship yet. What matters to me is how they come out and compete every year and find themselves in a position to make a run. I think a championship (or more) will be heading their way eventually. It's a matter of time. Meanwhile, we should appreciate their run and do what we can to support them.
It's the same mantra I think we should have for Ben Ball, football and all other sports programs. The important thing here is they should be competing for the highest prize and doing their best year in and year out. Given the athletes a place like UCLA attracts championships will keep flowing in. We just have to enjoy the ride.