People walk into our historic gym and immediately gasp at the number of plaques on the wall. Yes, these plaques indicate the different Palo Alto High School sports teams that have won their respective league, section, or even state championships, but is this how success should be measured?
Being volleyball players at Paly ourselves, we are proud to be a part of the history represented by the plaques on the wall.
The Palo Alto High School volleyball team is historic. It has plaques in the gym indicating the last seven years of league wins (2004-2012), along with two Central Coast Section and two state championship banners. But all good things must come to an end.
This year, our seven-year De Anza League winning streak was snapped. To many, this may have seemed like a failure, a “Wow, they lost all those amazing players and couldn’t come back,” but we would like to argue that this season was a success on the largest of stages. We played the last game to ever be played in the 86-year-old Big Gym. We made it to the Northern California semifinals, only two wins away from going to Southern California for the state championship. If achievement can be measured in other ways, why are the plaques perceived as such a big indicator for the success of a team?
It is human nature to measure success by wins and trophies, by physical and numerical indicators that show that we have done our jobs. But success is more than that.
It is being resilient after a loss, competing at the highest level in clutch moments and building life-long friendships with teammates and coaches. A team that can come back from defeat often times will be more successful in the long run.
Other Paly sports teams may have been overlooked, their seasons put in the loss column this fall as well. But we argue that most of their seasons were successes, despite their lack of titles or trophies.
For example, the Paly football team finished its fall season with six wins and six losses after having to overcome many injuries and subsequently moving players into new positions. But the team’s record doesn’t reflect the extent of its success, as it went on to compete in the Central Coast Section postseason tournament. The boys lost many heartbreaking games, but they never lost their competitive nature and will to carry on.
The boys’ water polo team lost three consecutive times to cross-town rival Gunn High School this season, with one loss coming in the league championship tournament. When the Vikings were to face the Titans for the fourth time in the CCS semifinals, innocent onlookers were ready to mourn the impending ending of the season. Yet their earlier losses to Gunn made the Vikings stronger, and they stepped up to win the semifinal game in overtime to end Gunn’s season.
So, despite this fall’s lack of league champions, it has been an incredibly successful fall season for Paly sports.
Sports should not be defined by the wins, but by the athletes’ love for the sport, which is what ultimately translates into the end result. We play for the love of the sport, for the adrenaline rush when we make a miraculous up and our whole team cheers us on. We play for the sense of team unity and the will to achieve similar goals. We don’t play for the plaques. We play to be our best and that should always be good enough.