March Madness: A lesson in Human Resiliency

Posted by Leslie Bolt on March 21, 2016

There has been a familiar stir around the office this week. Sports websites flooded, fee’s collected and endless, and I mean endless, discussion of who will make the Sweet 16, Elite 8 and of course, The Final Four. It’s March Madness time and across the country, millions of brackets have been completed in the hopes of being the one person whose predictions become the winning combination. Some picks are based on experiential knowledge whereas some are grounded in statistics googled ahead of time. Still others are random guesses or based on benign factors such as jersey color or the best cites to shop in; just to be included the fun. March Madness a staple in our country, a hopeful time which tears many of us away from the winter blues and serves as a reminder that even the little guy can still dream big.

As the Tournament began this Thursday afternoon, cross country hopes were as high as workplace absences. Locally, most people seemed to focus on our #2 ranked Michigan State Spartans, an ever-present Final Four contender and a favorite to win the 2016 NCAA Championship. The first round games continued during the day on Friday, and before many enthusiasts were even geared up for the two and a half week long ride towards victory, Sparty and his “nation” was defeated by #15 ranked Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders. As a non-bracket holder and a non MSU (nor U of M) fan, even I groaned at the news, knowing that not only would my Facebook feed would be overtaken by gloom and misery for the weekend but that my relatives would be in a foul mood.

In just a short two day period, there have been several big upsets in the NCAA Tournament, including big wins for #13 ranked Hawaii over #4 ranked California and #12 ranked Yale over #5 ranked Baylor. For the underdogs, these early upsets is nothing short of a dream come true. Especially for a team like the Blue Raiders who in their history, have only made 7 NCAA tournament appearances winning just two games. Those of you who are tournament junkies know exactly what I am talking about; you understand the high of the victory as well as the quite literal agony of defeat. Unless you are a tortured Chicago Cubs fan.

Like so many of the staples in our life, March Madness is none other than a lesson in human resiliency. As humans, and sports enthusiasts, we are emotionally involved in the outcome of this tournament despite the fact that most of us were never actually a member of our favorite team and maybe didn’t even attend the school. Despite your belief, I can promise most of you that Tom Izzo is not actually your friend. But nonetheless, we invest in our teams and we make them our own. We live vicariously through them as if they were our own family and when they inevitably fall short we are devastated.

The resiliency it takes to surf the ebbs and flows of life appears very similar to the resiliency required to be March Madness fan. Each March, our high hopes are dashed by life not cooperating with our plans or our favorite team not playing how we know they can play. We are shocked by the sudden turn of events that get in the way of our plans or destroy our brackets. We complain and post on Facebook to express our anger and turmoil. We become jaded, promising to never be vulnerable or place our faith in the Big 10 again. And as with any challenging event, we eventually come to our senses, face our losses in order to regroup and move forward, in hopes of building the perfect bracket again next year. Human Resiliency at its finest.

About the Author: Leslie Bolt is a Limited Licensed Psychologist with a master’s degree in Counseling Education, Counseling Psychology from Western Michigan University. She is currently in the 3rd year of her Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program through Fielding Graduate University. Leslie has provided psychological services including therapy and psychological evaluations for Children’s Protective Services for the past 10 years. In addition, she is also a telephonic clinician for the Productivity Assurance Call Center at R3 Continuum.