Enduring through tough times

AP Photo/Jessica Hill

It's been a tough season for Tina Charles and the Connecticut Sun. The team was riddled with injuries and officially eliminated from the playoffs Aug. 31.

I have always felt like it is important to take something out of every experience, good or bad. And especially in the face of disappointment, not learning from it would be the real disappointment.

So in the end, what do I take out of this season with the Connecticut Sun? Maybe that I will never again take winning for granted. I have won championships in high school and college, and I have been to the WNBA playoffs. Sometimes it's easy to think you are always going to win.

Then you have a season like this, and you realize nothing is guaranteed. We are 8-23 right now, and we were officially eliminated from the playoffs with five games left in our regular season after a loss at Phoenix on Aug. 31.

So what happened?

Injuries definitely played a pivotal role in our season, and it wasn't just because we lost key players for long stretches. It was also that the players who weren't sitting out games sometimes had to play different positions. You had Kalana Greene playing point guard, for example. She is a shooting guard and small forward.

Being so short-handed also forced us to add players to the roster and make changes to our lineup. We had 14 different players on our team this season, and 12 of them made at least one start! Injuries definitely made it tough for us to jell.

As a team leader, the challenge for me was to try and keep people together and to stay positive -- to come to work every day with a positive mindset. I have no trouble admitting it was hard. It's something I have never had to do in my playing career. But again, it was an experience I feel like I can benefit from in the future.

Away from the basketball court, there was a bright side. I established my Hopey's Heart Foundation last spring, and it has started to show results. The foundation is named after my late aunt Maureen "Hopey" Vaz, and it supplies automatic external defibrillators to eligible schools and recreational centers. We have been able to deliver more than 20 AEDs to different schools and organizations.

Before the season, I also pledged to give one AED for each double-double I earned in 2013. I had 17 this year before I was forced to shut down for the season with my own injuries after we were eliminated from the playoffs in Phoenix. So I will be donating 17 AEDs in the near future.

I would like to think I am young and still in the beginning of my career. I have a lot of basketball games left in me, and a lot of things I want to try and accomplish off the court before I am through.

A season like this will only help me grow as a professional. Losing was not a lot of fun, but some lessons can be painful. Not learning from them would be really painful.

Until next season ...