I love sports! The sporting life has been stamped on my heart since I was a young girl. My parents introduced competitive athletics to my siblings and me at a very young age. My twin brother was a gymnast, swinging from the rings and flipping through the air, as early as four years old; he also competed in soccer. My older brother played basketball and my younger sister, soccer. I was active in three sports; soccer, basketball, and I ran track.
My father was a coach of various sports over the years and coached each of us at one point or another. My mother was the taxi service who shuttled us from one athletic activity to the next. Sports unites our family. It’s something we all relate to and express incredible enthusiasm for. There is nothing like watching a nail-biting, series-clinching, championship-riding, underdog-fighting exhibition of awesome athleticism and teamwork beam through our TV into our family room. We sit at the edge our seats waiting to erupt in sheer elation or utter disappointment, and sometimes blood-boiling infuriation over a dual between two teams.
What’s so incredible about witnessing such epicness is that you don’t have to be a sports enthusiast to experience the tug-of-war of emotions that riddles through your body when you’re watching athleticism at it’s finest. You don’t even need to understand the rules; you just have to embrace the energy and cosmic shift that happens when you see the impossible shattered right in front of your eyes.
Last Sunday millions of other Americans and I watched the impossible achieved when the Minnesota Vikings beat the New Orleans Saints with NO TIME left on the clock to cement their trip to the NFC Championship game – just one game from the Super Bowl! It was an extraordinary play and moment to be part of. That game inspired this blog entry. The game-winning play also brought me back to last years Super Bowl when the Patriot’s beat out the Atlanta Falcons to win the championship in a similar fashion. No one, I mean no one thought they could win. Even I was losing hope, and I’ve been a Patriots fan my entire life. I know some of you hate me right now, but I won’t apologize. I grew up in New England and was raised to pledge my love to the Celtics, Bruins, Red Sox, and Patriots. And just to set the record straight, Tom Brady is the G.O.A.T!
As I marveled at the constant replay from Sunday’s game, I was reminded of how much my life has been shaped by being an athlete, and so much of my values and characteristics stem from that time in my life. I played competitive sports through college and captained every team I played on in high school and college. I was fiercely competitive, didn’t like to lose, and only played dirty when I felt like I needed to defend myself or my team ;). I may be girly, but back in the day, I was a jock and no wimp!
I presented as a person with leadership qualities at a young age and took my role as team captain seriously. I valued my coaches (even the ones that sucked, and there were a couple), and tried my very best to support and encourage my teammates. Many of my philosophies, disciplines, and lessons in life came from the field, court, and track.
I want to share them with you because no matter who you are; athlete or no athlete, what you do in your career and life, or what your family dynamic is, you can apply them into your lifestyle to elevate your quality of life and the lives of those around you.
In no particular order:
- Play Big. I was the center on my basketball teams, and when I was in the paint, close to the basketball hoop, my coaches would tell me to make myself as wide as possible, so I could keep the defender behind me and open myself up for a scoring opportunity. I was told if you don’t play big, you can’t score points. In life, to score the successes you want to achieve you have to live big. Open yourself up, push doubt and fear behind you so you can achieve your goals!
2. There’s no “I” in team. I love the phrase “teamwork makes the dream work.” This is so relevant in so many areas of life and business. These days it takes a village to raise a child, capable people to run companies, and a support system to enjoy life with. You may call your team a tribe or a squad, which is totally cool. The most important thing is you have one, and you can lean on them to help you navigate through this thing called life at your highest potential. In my post about resilience, I wrote that resilient people aren’t afraid to ask for help when they need it. It’s so important to be able to do this in life. Whether you utilize your current team members or add to your team, they’re your best resource to conquer the world!
3. It’s not over until it’s over! I think the Vikings/Saints game and thousands of other historical sporting events sums this up pretty well. Never give up. Ever. You can never fully realize what could be if you quit before you can see it accomplished. Perseverance is a hallmark of achievement. It should be practiced in everything we do!
4. Practice Makes Perfect. I don’t believe in perfection, but I strongly subscribe to striving for it as often as possible. How you perform on the field, in a boardroom, or any other setting where you need to show what you’re capable of is totally and completely up to you. It’s about accountability. Can you hold yourself accountable when you stop practicing at life? If not, look at your team, your tribe, your squad and identify someone who can. We all need a push now and then – some of us more than others – and that’s perfectly OK – ASK FOR HELP. Utilizing the help of others is not a sign of weakness, instead a personal strength. The key is to just keep practicing. I always say any motion forward, massive or minuscule, is a sign of progress and should be recognized.
5. Just because you lose doesn’t mean you’re a loser. This is important to remind ourselves of. Losing is necessary for progress. It reminds us that we’re not perfect. It can show us where we need to improve. Losing and failing are stepping stones to success. With the right mindset, they can teach us to be humble and provide us the wisdom we may not have acquired otherwise without the setback; and that’s just what it is, a setback, not defeat!
6. You’re only as limited as you think you are. Mental strength is as important as physical strength; in some circumstances, it’s more. Our minds can play wicked games on us and can throw us off course or keep us down from achieving all we’re capable of. Acquiring mental strength and a shift in our thinking makes all the difference in the world. If you think you can’t, you won’t. If you think you’re going to lose, you will. If you think that person isn’t going to buy from you, they won’t. To be a superior athlete you need to perform without limitation. You have to believe you can win at everything you do. Life should be lived the same way. Don’t be your biggest roadblock. Live limitlessly.
7. No Pain, No Gain. Athletes progress when they push their bodies and minds beyond their comfort zone. They embrace that burn because they know if they don’t greatness is going to slip through their fingers. Life is no different. To achieve at a remarkable level, foster breakthroughs and invent things that no one else has, you have to live uncomfortably. Feel the burn, be bold, and take a risk. To be extraordinary, you have to live extraordinarily fierce.
8. Forgiveness. Messing up, making big fat mistakes is part of sports; it’s also part of life. I’ve been the reason why my team lost games before because of a mistake, and there were times when it was someone else. In sports, there was no time to hold grudges. If you did, it hurt your performance and it hurt the team. Don’t hinder your growth and performance levels by beating yourself up or holding onto grudges. Unforgiveness weighs heavy on your heart and will consume your mind, clouding your ability to experience true happiness and peace. It also keeps you stuck right where you are with no progress for a better life in sight. Let go and move on.
9. Sometimes Plans Change. There are two defensive tactics in basketball; man-to-man and zone. They’re often switched back and forth to disrupt the offensive attack. I remember many games when my team would take the court with confidence that our opponent would institute either of these approaches, only to completely stun us and hammer us with the defense we didn’t plan for. This usually led to a time-out or a series of them, for my coach to create a new plan.
There are a number of things that can throw a wrench into the best thought out plans. For instance, my Sophmore year in college I’m pretty sure my basketball coach thought she had the team dynamic she’d been waiting for. Well, I went and messed that up because in soccer season (which took place before basketball) I blew my right knee out and couldn’t play the entire basketball season. My coach had to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new team plan. Life, like sports, is full of surprises and curve balls. We can be blind-sided, and sucker punched, or maybe we’re performing lower than we projected. Whatever the scenario, plans have to change. A plan is a framework for what you want to happen, but it’s in no way shape or form a guarantee. When things happen outside of the plan, you need to adapt. Change is necessary for progress. It may be painful, it may not be what you want, but it can be the difference between surviving and thriving.
10. HAVE FUN! While sports can be intensely competitive, they’re also fun and should be wholeheartedly enjoyed by the person partaking in them. When you get so serious that you zap the joy from the activity, it may be time to reevaluate why you’re taking part in the first place. Life should be approached with the same zest and joy as any sporting event. It’s far too short to take so seriously. Sometimes, we need to sit on the sidelines, be a spectator and enjoy watching all the glory that surrounds us.
I’m going to leave you with some wise words once spoken by basketball legend Michael Jordan:
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Now, let’s PLAY BALL!!!
With all the love in my heart! XOXO