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The Emotions of Sports: The joy at varied levels

Euphoria comes not just from winning the top prize

Posted: August 6, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: August 6, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Saugus High graduate Nicole Giordano won a CIF title in high school, an NCAA title in college and an Olympic gold medal. Saugus High graduate Nicole Giordano won a CIF title in high school, an NCAA title in college and an Olympic gold medal.
Saugus High graduate Nicole Giordano won a CIF title in high school, an NCAA title in college and an Olympic gold medal.

The utter bliss that an athlete feels after winning an important contest can be unlike any other emotion in sports and can provide a person with their most fond memories.

But that emotion can come in many forms and for many different reasons, depending on expectations.

Expectations can be everything in determining an emotional reaction to a given outcome in a sporting event.

Accomplishments in sports can range in degree and magnitude, but the more important part is how each one is perceived.
If a team is supposed to win a championship, anything less is considered a disappointment.

At the same time, not every team can go into a season with realistic hopes of reaching that point of euphoria.

Saugus High graduate Nicole Giordano remembers many moments from her Olympic experience and she remembers the joy felt from winning it all.

She also puts a lot of stock in the Women’s College World Series she won with the University of Arizona softball team in 2001.

Yet more so than those two crowning accomplishments, no moment was more euphoric for her than winning the 1996 CIF-Southern Section Division II championship with Saugus.

“I think it was because we were the underdog and we weren’t expected to get anywhere near where we did,” she says of the 1-0 win in which she scored the game’s only run.

She scored the run with heads-up baserunning, streaking from second base all the way home on a seemingly routine groundout to short.

“People still come up to me and say, ‘Oh my God, you scored from second,’ and they still remember,” Giordano says. “It’s the weirdest thing.”

It was the school’s first and only CIF softball title, and it came against what Giordano remembers as a heavily-favored Woodbridge High of Irvine.

Jeff Cody, who coaches both the boys and girls volleyball teams at Golden Valley, has guided two struggling programs throughout his career at the school. Recently, the boys team has found success, earning CIF playoff berths two years in a row.

Sure, the Grizzlies haven’t won any Foothill League titles or CIF championships, but making the playoffs for the first time in program history in 2010 was just as big.

Greatness comes in many ways, Cody argues. He refers back to the sayings of legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.

“He knew tons of coaches that he thought were the greatest coaches ever, but they never won as much as he did,” Cody says.

Cody adds: “I think sometimes we equate happiness and enjoying your experience with winning. Just because we’re not winning doesn’t mean the kids aren’t enjoying their experience.”

So what is it about sports that can bring the occasions of joy, even if it isn’t about winning at the highest level?
After all, win-loss records are the best measurement of success in sports.

Sometimes, it’s just about the events that lead up to an individual victory.

Trinity Classical Academy, for instance, won its first-ever football game last year on the heels of 10 straight losses that dated back to the 2009 season.

“It definitely didn’t come easy or anything,” says Trinity football player James Brooks. “We went through a whole football season just working really hard, but didn’t get any wins and didn’t get any rewards we could show people.”

The 48-0 win over Ojai Valley came in the second game of the regular season.

On the surface, a regular season 8-man high school football game could be viewed as inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

For the brand new Trinity football program, it meant everything.

Afterward, a lengthy celebration ensued that included a jug of water on the head of then head coach Ben Froemming.
Brooks, who caught four passes for 93 yards and a touchdown in the game, struggled to put his feelings into words when discussing it.

“When that game came and we won, and winning like we did by such a huge amount, it was just, it’s so hard to explain just thinking about it,” Brooks says.

On the other hand, another area 8-man football team took things to a whole new level when it won back-to-back CIF championships in 2008-09.

Santa Clarita Christian School, once a struggling upstart program that finished 0-9 in 2001, managed to build toward a memorable title in 2008.

“Guys are crying,” SCCS football coach Garrick Moss recalls of the 2008 title game. “Football is such a physically exhausting sport anyway, and emotionally exhausting, but to go through that. To go through a championship game like that is just such a rewarding experience.”

For Moss’ team, it was the journey that counted.

Winning it all can make someone look back on a season full of long practices and constant pressure.

Still, Cody argues you can’t judge a team or a career solely on how many championships it’s won.

Happiness is the same across all levels of competition. From the outside looking in, one accomplishment in sports can appear much bigger and more important than the other. To an athlete, all that matters is the ultimate feeling of satisfaction.


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