A letter from Coach Tony Bennett
Your time at UVA will likely bring out a series of triumphs, trials, and tribulations. Whether you are competing for a championship on the court or field, managing an unexpected setback, or simply trying to pass that one course that has always been difficult - your four years here will inevitably challenge you in one area of your life or another. I encourage you to view those challenges as opportunities and embrace them wholeheartedly.
Following our team’s historic season in 2017-18, we suffered a historic loss in becoming the first #1 seed to lose to a #16 seed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Analysts and fans alike had echoed the common refrain of “A #1 seed has never lost in the first round to a #16 seed…” until we did. In that moment, our student-athletes, coaches, fans, UVA students, Charlottesville community and beyond all felt the crushing weight of disappointment in becoming the first team to do so.
In the immediate aftermath, it was challenging to reconcile what had happened with the team’s need to move forward. That loss will forever be a part of our story, but we had to find a way to continue on and channel that disappointment into something positive and productive.
My wife directed me to a local TEDx Talk, hosted by Donald Davis, where he explains that if you learn to use adversity the right way, it can buy you a ticket to a place you would never have gone any other way. This struck a chord with me and I shared the video with our student-athletes and staff, in an effort to unite the team to be willing to share our story and focus our energy on our future.
For the 2018-19 season, our team rallied behind the theme of “United Pursuit.” This term took on slightly different meanings for each individual, but collectively, it brought us together for a common goal. My father, who was also a college basketball coach, always said that you need to be able to lose with a team first, before you can win together. That was certainly the case for our team, as we had to suffer the historic loss before we could find ourselves celebrating at mid-court in Minneapolis following the 2019 National Championship game.
As you face the highs and lows of your time on-Grounds, I encourage you to find your “team,” whether that be your roommates, classmates, or one of the many resources that UVA offers students (listed in the “Resources” tab of the website). The community here cares about you and values you, regardless of any historic losses you may weather.
I wish you all the best with the upcoming school year, and look forward to seeing you back at JPJ soon!
“How the story transforms the teller | Donald Davis | TEDxCharlottesville”
Coach Tony Bennett