The above quote sums up so many players and coaches that compete year after year.
When I was in college I had a t-shirt with this quote printed on the front. I had that t-shirt until I was 35. As difficult as it was for me to finally part ways with that old grey shirt with Lombardi’s famous words printed proudly, it was even more difficult to part ways with that way of thinking. I really did embrace the idea that winning is everything. Why else would you play a sport if it wasn’t to compete to be the best? It took me a long time to truly realize that sports are so much more than that. Winning is great and every team should play to win. But being a part of a team is a magical experience that not everyone is lucky enough to have. And some are really lucky to be on teams that win. But an elite few are lucky enough to be on teams that transform their lives for the better.
As a coach, I have come to realize that my job is multi-faceted and I believe that my role in a young man’s life may be one of the most important in shaping his development. With that in mind, teaching the fundamentals of basketball suddenly pale in comparison when I realize all of the other life skills I will play a part in developing. What’s more important in the grand scheme of things: teaching the importance of dribbling with the left hand or the importance of empathizing with others? How to properly set a screen or how to properly love his teammates? Cutting to the basket at the right time or being on time to class, practice and meetings? Standing strong in the paint on defense or standing up to bullies by coming to the defense of those who cannot defend themselves? Coaching is not just about putting your players in position to win a basketball game. Its about putting them in position to become the type of men that are built for others and make a positive difference in the world.
Our season came to an end last night when the final buzzer sounded and the scoreboard showed that our team came up short of a conference championship. Every loss stings. A loss in a championship game (one that took quite a journey getting there) stings a lot.
But it was a huge personal victory that I could heap love and praise on a team that was suffering through such a bitter defeat. I know that my role (in all situations) is to love them and tell them that. I need to tell them that I am proud of them, proud of their effort, proud of their journey, and proud of who they are. I also need to show that I can feel hurt and loss right along with them. It’s crucial for young men to see their role models be emotional beings and feel with their whole heart.
Real men feel. Real men choose to love others when they are hurting. I want to be a real man so my players see what it looks like.
So after 15 years of coaching high school basketball, I have yet to win a state or conference title. My teams have gone 0-4 in championship games played at the end of a season.
But in the stat column that really matters, I am on quite a win streak thanks to a recovering heart.