Applying champion life lessons learned from the game of sports.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Talent or Character?

Interesting question isn't it?  What does it mean?  Why the words "talent" and "character"?  Well, the question to the question is, what is the more desired trait or best recipe for success when it comes to what an athlete possess; Talent, or Character?

Watching an athlete with a great deal of talent is an awesome thing!  Consider volleyball players competing in a match in the sand, digging, setting and spiking with great fluency.  What about the basketball player that can dribble through any trap, sees the whole court, knows where teammates are and is able to get the ball to them at the right time, in the right spot.  Think of the the linebacker that instinctively knows where the play is going and what the best angle is to make the stop or intercept the pass. Talent is a very valuable thing and it is something that is "given" to [us] by God.  Talent is a great thing and it should not be taken away from or devalued in any way.  However, is talent alone the most desired thing for an athlete to possess?  Perhaps, but there may be something else to consider.

What about Character?  Some very successful NFL Coaches have weighed in on this question of which is better, talent or character and the answers they give may surprise you.  Jim Fassel, former New York Giants Head Coach and current Head Coach of the Las Vegas Loco's in the United Football League had the following to say about this.  "If a guy doesn't have character-if I determine he doesn't have a substance and a character about him, a love of the game, to play the game and a responsibility about him, I don't care how good he is, it's not going to happen".

Former Head Coach of the Indianapolis Colts and Superbowl winning coach, Tony Dungy indicates that the Colts put a greater emphasis on character over talent when they were considering which player to take in the 1998 NFL Draft; Ryan Leaf or Peyton Manning.  Obviously, the Colts chose Peyton Manning. Both players were record setters at the colleges they had come from and both had the size and physical skills [Talent] to be great players.  In Coach Dungy's book, "Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance", he states, when Colts President, Bill Polian, was faced with the decision of who to draft, "what tipped the scales in Bill's mind were Peyton's work ethic, his love for the game, his approach toward football as a job and his quiet personal life.  Ultimately, when faced with the choice that would define the course of the franchise, the Colts based that decision on character..."  Coach Dungy adds, "For the Colts, character is a quality that can be measured just like height, weight and speed.  In fact, we put more emphasis on this area than we do on physical tools [talent].  Coaching ability or talent cannot make up for a lack of character."  Finally, Coach Dungy added there are only a few things that would knock a player out of consideration for them in the draft and one of them was, "character".  He stated the Colts had a category on their player evaluation forms called, "DNDC"- Do Not Draft because of Character.  A team that was a power house for many years under Coach Dungy's leadership, was built on Character over Talent.  They were willing to risk losing a "good" player in order to choose one that had the type of character they were looking for.

Well, that was the 1998 draft, Tony Dungy was Head Coach from 2002-2008 and won the Superbowl with a team built on Character in 2007.  Things are a bit different now....much more emphasis is put on the "results" and sadly, it doesn't matter how the "results" are obtained; moving up is more important than the way you move up.  "It doesn't seem to matter if a person follows the rules or breaks them, just as long as you come out on top", adds Coach Dungy.  "After all, that is what people will remember at the end of the day".

Sports teams, big businesses and corporations are all willing to sacrifice the way in which success is obtained for the mere attainment of the success.  Breaking the rules and competing in any arena with a lack of character does not go without consequence.  Either a person will get caught or they will always be reminded of how they achieved their success.  At some point they'll realize their dishonesty and lack of character and realize that perhaps they didn't have what was necessary to compete or win under "normal circumstances".  There are those who do care how the results are obtained; a boss, coach or an employer.  If they find you have compromised character and broken the rules in order to obtain the results, they may well question their "business" relationship with you.  Are you the type of person they can trust, can they count on you, will you cut corners in other areas?

There is no substitute for character and the benefits that living with and out of character yields.  Character begins with the little the opportunities in life to prove character grow, so does the level of character you're personally developing.  The Bible gives a reference that is applicable to this:  Luke 12:48, "...from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked".  We are faced with opportunities to exercise and develop our character every day; in the little things and the big.  We are often known by others by two things...our character and our reputation.  I love what John Wooden says about these two things, "Be more concerned about your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are".  Obviously, our character reflects who we are inwardly.

The take away here is that there are two very important factors that all athletes, business professionals, etc, possess and are evaluated on:  Talent and Character.  I believe Talent is extremely important and feel that everyone should work hard at continuing to develop their level of talent.  However, I also believe that 1.  Talent will only take a person or team so far, and, 2. that Talent takes second place or a back seat to Character.  It is documented that a person and a team that forms itself around and competes with Character will accomplish more, be more successful than a person and a team that is built solely on Talent.  When Talent reaches its maximum potential, success requires you to find another route to achieve it; this usually means cutting corners.  Character will never reach its maximum potential.  It is a quality whose potential is so great that it cannot be fully obtained; only developed.  Yet, the rewards and benefits of Character, far out-weigh those of pursuits, endeavors, teams, businesses and more built upon mere Talent.

Thanks for reading....

Sunday, August 12, 2012

"Watch Me"..."Now You" (or not)...

The title of this article is taken from a saying my Senior Pastor uses when teaching about how we model actions and behaviors.  Others, especially younger generations, watch our actions and behaviors and often, make them their own.  Remember the saying, "Do as I say, not as I Do"?  There is great wisdom in that.  My wonderful wife often reminds me that as the father of 6 awesome children, I have strong influence on them and of how my actions and behaviors will help to shape them in how they act and behave as they grow up.  I am grateful for the words of my wife because they keep me aware of the example I am children are trusting me that I am giving them a good example.

As adults, we have been given a charge to set good examples for those younger than us.  Matthew 18:6 gives us a clear understanding of how big a responsibility this is: "If anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea". 

Not long ago I was walking at a nearby lake and I stopped to watch a family of Canada geese that had caught my eye.  With one parent in front, the goslings in a line following and one parent bringing up the rear, they would run along the bank and flap their wings, then turn around and head back the other way doing the same thing time and time again.  The goslings trusted their mother and father that what they were doing was of some value, that this was "good behavior", behavior that would help them in life.  What they were doing was teaching their young ones the steps that go into taking flight.  I was recently back at that lake and this time I noticed there were many families of geese successfully taking flight, making short trips from water to land and going back and forth.  I trust the family I described to you above was one of them I was watching. 

This illustration depicts how important it is as adults, parents, athletes and coaches to set examples of good behavioral practices for those generations that come behind us.  We may not always know it, but we can rest assured some set of young eyes is always on us, somewhere, watching what we do and then trying to decide if they should adopt the same behavior(s) for themselves.  That's why having strong character and integrity in our lives is so important.  Integrity says you'll do the right thing, even when no one is watching (or we're not aware they are)...Someone is always watching-whether it is God or a person we don't see.

Actions and behaviors include how we speak, the language we use and the way we treat other people.  They include the way we are in private and in public; do we claim to be one way and act in the opposite?   All these things have influence and shape the way others will act and behave; we will all be held  to give an account for our actions and behaviors one day.

In the fall of the 2010 College Football Season, I saw an image that burned in my mind and broke my heart.  A particular team was not having the kind of success they were predicted or expected to have.  Frustrations on the part of the players and coaches were quite noticeable, especially as the season went on.  Much became made in the media and social settings about the level of anger the head coach displayed and the actions and behaviors that came with it.  In one late season evening game, this particular team was favored to beat a team they were visiting but instead, were being dominated by them.  As the game went on the frustrations grew and they made many mistakes which led to being further dominated.  Momentum and control of the game was clearly in the favor of the opponent.  It was late in the 4th quarter and a questionable call by the officials occurred and it went to the benefit of the opponent team.  The head coach of the losing team erupted in to a full display of rage; it was to the point he nearly had to be restrained.   He charged onto the field, red-faced and his finger in the face of the official and his rage grew and grew.  What gripped me and broke my heart was that standing next to the coach the whole time was a young boy holding the wires to his headset, standing motionless and with no expression, watching the coach the entire time.  He wasn't interested in the official and how he reacted and wasn't paying attention to anything else.  He had his gaze fixed on the head coach of a major college football program and he took in every emotion, word, action and behavior that coach was displaying in his rage. 

Sports news casts are airing stories of athletes and coaches at all levels who are caught breaking the law, be it driving drunk, involved in a domestic abuse situation, arrested with drugs, etc, at an increasingly alarming rate. These are often athletes and coaches who are saying a "good" message to young people on how to behave in commercials and public service announcements, but they themselves are behaving the exact opposite (do as I say...not as I do)...Athletes and coaches have an elevated platform that gives them instant credibility with the public.  Young people will often take what they say to be truth and interpret the way they act and behave to be "the right way".  Many times they'll act the way athletes and coaches do because they want to be like them.  The question becomes, "what type of example are we/you going to knowingly or unknowingly set for that that look up to [us]"?

I am not in the camp that believes one or two negative stories or examples we hear and see spoils the perception of athletes and coaches as a whole, but I do believe they have a stronger, more lasting impact on the younger generations that are watching.  The aim of this article is to challenge and encourage myself and everyone reading, to be aware of the example our behaviors and actions are setting for others and to commit to displaying actions and behaviors that are good for a younger generation to adopt and make for themselves.  As the picture of the little boy watching the raging coach reminds us, we have influence and we are being watched...

Friday, May 4, 2012

The "Off Season"

I was recently up in the offices of our athletic department and it was or was about to become the "Off Season" for many of the sports.  In my minds eye I could envision the coaches preparing to sit back, take a deep breath, relax some, maybe sit on the couch a little at home and put their feet up...after all, they've worked hard this past year and they've earned the right to do just that.

As I was taking items out of my mailbox, a celebratory yell came from the women's basketball offices indicating the commitment of a recruit!  I stopped by another office to say hello and found a white board full of names of recruits with rankings by them and notes.  In another office, coaches had just said goodbye to a recruit and were already preparing for the arrival of another one.  Then I recalled the week prior; I was asked to come in and meet with a junior college recruit that our basketball team had invited to campus.  Softball and baseball coaches, though busy with their seasons still being active, were busy evaluating film.  Basketball coaches were talking of summer tournaments they will attend to scout high school stars.  Hockey, volleyball, all busy preparing for additions to their teams and plotting changes for the next season.  Meeting schedules were on doors up and down the halls, indicating when coaches were meeting with athletes to evaluate the past and plan for the future. 

There was a fury of activity, strategy and planning going on.  "But wait...this is the off season" I thought to myself.  For a staff that is committed to excellence and being successful, there is/was no time for a let-down, no time to let their guard down and relax or lose focus.  I talked with the strength coach who informed me he was constructing summer training and conditioning programs for the athletes.  He explained how they evaluate the current physical condition of the athletes based on testing and measure that against the levels of strength and fitness that will be required to meet the goals the coaches have for the upcoming year.  They then formulate the daily plan the athletes will need to follow and give discipline to in order to be at that level by the time the next season starts.  He told me how important it is the athletes continue their training through the summer and don't take time off because it's easy to get out of the habit of lifting and conditioning and you can lose the progress you've made very quickly. 

I walked out of the athletic department that day feeling so grateful that I get to be a part of "it".  A culture where character and integrity from the leadership throughout the staff, fosters success in life and athletics.  But then it also dawned on me that we often see ourselves as going into an "off season".  A time that follows a test or trail we've faced and we've passed it (had a good season).  We reason that it is "okay" to take a little time off, let down a bit and relax; after all, our walk with God must be strong, right?...I mean we just passed a trial or test didn't we?  A little time off from the daily discipline of time in God's word, time in prayer and journaling won't cause any harm...we've earned it...WRONG!!!

This thought pattern is a trap, set for us straight from the pit of hell.  If we just "passed" a test or trial, it's only because of the power and grace of God.  That means satan was defeated in whatever that arena of competition was.  So, what does the devil do when he gets defeated...he comes and tempts us to take a little time off, lose focus, be confident in our accomplishments and abilities.  Consider Matthew 4: 3-10.  Here, satan tries to tempt Jesus to ultimately worship him.  He makes promises to Jesus of which he has no authority to make.  He's trying to lead Jesus into rationalizing it's okay to enter into an "off season" for a little while...verse 10, Jesus gives the devil a tongue lashing with all authority and truth that is in His Name. 

Think of why it was so important for the athlete to keep training through the lose what you've gained quickly and you can fall out of the discipline or habit of working out very easily.  The same can happen in our walk with Jesus.  If we take just a little time away from it or enter into an "off season" we will quickly lose what we gained and run the risk of falling out of the critical discipline and habit of daily spending time with him.   We need to be disciplined at all times to our daily pursuit of Jesus.  As there is great benefit and reward for coaching staffs that stay to their tasks, and to the athlete that stays committed to the discipline of working out and conditioning, so there is to us if we stay committed to our walk with the Lord and avoid entering into an off season...James 4: 7-8, "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Come (draw) near to God and He will come (draw) near to you..." (NIV).
A coaching staff that doesn't continually recruit will not have the athletes needed to be competitive and successful.  An athlete that takes time off from lifting and conditioning in the "off season" will undoubtedly suffer defeat.  A christian that takes an "off season" from a walk with the Lord will find him/herself being defeated by the enemy of our soul.  Let's not be defeated!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

DONE "IN SECRET"...the great phenomenon...

You've heard the phrase, "What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas"; right?  This famous phrase or "promise" lures people to that city with the false sense of security that no matter what they go there and do, it won't be found out; that it will "stay in Vegas".  Well, many people have found out this isn't the case; that Vegas didn't deliver on its promise, and what was done there eventually came out or was found out.  The same reality exists in the thought that "What is done IN SECRET will stay IN SECRET".  Much like what happens with things done in Vegas, things done "In Secret" eventually are found out, come to light and are no longer, a secret. 

Today, people in significant influential positions, such as Congressmen, Athletic Coaches and Directors, Presidential Candidates, Business Leaders and Athletes are being removed from position and influence at an alarming rate.  These are people whose intentions were good, who were created like you and me, to have impact and influence, to make the lives of others better.  People who were once seen as credible, moral leaders, people that others wanted to model themselves after or model themselves after who they stood for, are overnight, removed.  The platforms of influence they once had are gone.  Positions and titles are gone.  The characteristics people once admired and wanted to replicate are now second guessed and thought to be better left alone.  Sadly, it is things from the past that were done by these people that they thought were "In Secret" and thought would always remain "In Secret" that have come to light that have removed them or taken them out. 

What cripples these people, stops everything about who they are, what and who they stood for and what they did, dead in its tracks, wrecks them personally and professionally?  The thing(s) that CONSISTENTLY do this  are things that were done, acts that were committed by these people that they thought were being done so "In Secret".  In the title of this posting, I used the word "phenomenon" because believing something can be done in and kept in secret is the direct opposite of reality.  The truth is, there is no such thing as "IN SECRET". 

How does someone come to the point of believing that what is done in secret will remain in secret?  Are we deceived?  Do we think we've achieved a certain "status" and that we are now above reproach or above being caught or even if we were caught, because of who we are that people will look past it and forget it?  These are questions worth pondering and also states of mind worth guarding against.  I believe that many of these thought processes are true in situations above and I am convinced it is all influenced by the author of all lies; by the one who wants to see every person ever created be destroyed; that it is all part of a strategic plan of Satan and those in his camp.  Let me explain. 

Two of the primary reasons God created us were to (1) Have an intimate "spiritual relationship" with Him, and (2) for us to share Him , His heart for others and His great love with others; have impact and influence.  To do as Jesus spoke of himself in Matthew 20:28, look to serve others and not to be served. The Bible makes it clear that there are two forces at work in this world, the forces of heaven and the forces of evil.  Ephesians 6:12 tells us that these forces collide and wage their battle not here among the flesh, but in the heavenly realms; "For our struggle [battle] is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of darkness and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms".  Why? God and his forces purposes are clear and the devil will do everything he can to keep us deceived in our thinking and he'll do everything he can to keep us from having a positive influence in other's lives for God.

In the Bible we learn God is All Knowing (Omniscient) and He is Everywhere (Omnipresent).  Proverbs 15:3 tells us the eyes of the Lord are Everywhere (there is no "in secret").  Even when there may be no one around to see occur what we believe is being done 'in secret', God is around and He sees it...and He knows about it! The deceived thinking the devil tries to influence us with is that we can keep an action or behavior from people (a secret) for ever.  After all, there wasn't anyone around to see it; right? As time passes, we become more certain the things we did in secret are going to remain a secret and kept that way by the cover of darkness.  We forget that God is light and in Him there is no darkness (1 John 1:5).

God has a way bringing things once done in darkness to be exposed by the light; His light.  At that point, there is no hiding, no denying- people have no option but to confess and own up to the things they did in the past, the things they thought were done in secret.  A person gains revelation that a lie was being believed and are confronted with the reality there is no such thing as "in secret".  Sadly, it's too late at that point.  There is no going back, no redo's no going back and living that moment again.

This same reality exists in sports.  You can't go back and replay a possession, a down or a point. There is no hiding things in secret in sports.  If you don't put the effort into lifting and training, it will be exposed.  If an athlete uses performance enhancing drugs (in secret) they eventually test positive or someone will make light of it- they are eventually caught and exposed.  As it is in sports, so it is in life...there is a consequence for the actions and behaviors we thought were being done in secret.

We all have a God designed purpose and destiny to fulfill.  May we all live with the conviction and awareness that God is everywhere and He knows it all- there are no secrets and there is no such thing as something being done in secret.  Let us guard against being proud and be sure not to look down on our fellow man for his/her mistakes of the past.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Dependent or Independent...What is the "culture" of your team?

Well, the break from the end of spring to the start of the fall sports season is over.  With the College and Pro Football seasons at hand and the baseball playoffs just around the corner, I wanted to talk about two different types of cultures that exist on athletic teams and the effects they have.  The success of a team is directly driven by the culture on or of the team.  Specifically, is it a team that is dependent [on one another] or independent [of each other]?

Dependent is defined as: relying on someone or something else for aid and support; A person who needs or relies on someone else for support.  Having reliance, trust and confidence on another.

Conversely, Independent is defined as: not relying an another for support; acting by or on ones own self, irrespective of others.  Not affiliated to a unit, no sense of belonging. 

More and more, when the camera zooms in on an athlete after a big play, like a big run or catch for a touchdown, a goal scored in an intense soccer match or the winning shot in the NBA playoffs, you see an athlete celebrating "self"; that is, his/her own big play.  Increasingly, I've seen athletes run away from or push  teammates away who run to them desiring to celebrate what "they" have accomplished "together" as a team so that they can call for the applause and praise of the fans and make sure the spotlight is squarely on them and them alone.  They will extend their arms in greatness, while continuing to make the effort to remain separated from teammates, to ensure they are the sole focus.  I saw this in highlights from a college game where a touchdown was scored and a teammate came running up to celebrate.  The running back who scored the touchdown held the ball out in his right hand and extended his left arm to push his teammate away.  He proceeded to run the width of the end zone, pushing teammate after teammate away, celebrating himself.  Soon, he found himself alone in the corner of the end zone once he was done facing the fans and calling for their praise of "his" accomplishment.  His teammates got tired of trying to celebrate with him what they had accomplished together, so they celebrated away from him and headed off the field; without a "me focused" event. 

What do you think happens to the culture on the teams where this occurs?  What happens to the unity, a vital component of success to a team?  When an athlete pushes teammates away or moves away from them in order to celebrate "self" and infer to his/her teammates, "no thanks, this is my moment to highlight 'me' and what I've done", it erodes unity and creates a culture of Independence; a culture of Individualism.  This type of culture spells disaster for a team; a culture of Individualism (Independence) will destroy a team. 

When individualism (a culture of Independence) prevails, it reduces loyalty and mutual trust within a team.  Tom Osborne, one of the most successful coaches in college football history states, "to have a great team, there must be a great deal of loyalty, mutual trust and genuine caring and love [by teammates] for other teammates".  He adds that it was loyalty that served as the foundation for the winning teams he was known for at Nebraska.  When a team member is only interested in celebrating him/her self and ensuring they are the focus of attention, it causes teammates to question and doubt him or her.  They have given of their blood, sweat and effort so they could all be successful and celebrate what they have done, together.  It causes them to ask, "are you as committed (dependent) on or to me as I am on or to you?"  "Do you have the best interest of me and our teammates in mind or are you only out here for your personal accomplishments and glory?"  It brings about the opposite of loyalty which is brings about the opposite of a dependent culture on the team, which is an independent one.  Disloyalty is a synonym of Independence.

Above I referenced that a culture of Independence will destroy a team.  With disloyalty (an Independent culture), there is no trust among teammates.  An Independent culture causes players to speak poorly about each other, disrespect a coaches authority and team rules and players to plot against one another in order to elevate themselves and achieve their own personal goals and agenda.  They lose site of "team" and team goals that were set early on in training camps.  Players lash out, quickly challenge a teammate or appoint blame to a teammate during an interview or press conference.  A well managed team doesn't tolerate this.  The source of the Independence on the team is most often either suspended, cut from the team or traded.  A well managed team does what is necessary for the culture on that team to be a culture of Dependence.  One where teammates care for and are committed to others, where there is love for teammates and celebrations are team oriented and not individually focused.

It is easy for a culture of Independence to take over a team.  Conversely, it takes a great deal of effort and purpose to have a culture of Dependence on a team.  Someone has to model the dependence within a team.  Someone has to model dependence on teammates and to teammates.  Someone has to show he/she is willing to be dependent on others so that teammates can be dependent on them.  This process then replicates itself and the desired culture of Dependence is established.

Jesus modeled this behavior and culture of dependence for us many times throughout his life.  The Bible says in John 5:19, "the Son can do nothing by himself, he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the son also does".  He showed us what it means to be committed to the good of others (the team) and to live for the benefit of others (the team) and to see to it that personal agendas or goals are set aside for the good of others (the team), in Mark 10:45, "for even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." 

So what is the culture on your respective team?  It doesn't matter what level you compete at; little league, high school, college or professional, in order for there to be success and accomplishment of goals established by your team, there must be a culture of dependence.  If it already exists, then ensure you're doing your part to ensure it continues on (replicates) from day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to month and year-to year.  If your team is lacking a culture of Dependence...good news:  it is never to late to change the culture!  I encourage you to be the one who steps up, takes the lead and models it to your teammates.  Establish the dependent culture, live by it and others will be drawn to it.  Then, great things will be accomplished by the team and great celebrations will be had as a team. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Little Under-Sized...

As I watched much of the NCAA Basketball "March Madness" Tournament and as I've been listening to analysts talk about college football players that were prospects and players drafted in the NFL Draft, I've noticed a phrase that I'd like to take issue with; this phrase is "He's A Little Under-Sized".  Allow me to expound a little. 

This phrase has the potential to do great damage to a young man/woman when it's spoken yet interestingly enough, normally it is not the intention of the person speaking it to cause damage.  I have witnessed high school, college and pro coaches make the statement that a person is a little under-sized and I've witnessed athletes hear that spoken about them in person or in an interview on television.  No matter how the athlete hears it said about them, I see a common reaction; some conceal it better than others, but they still display the common effect of that being spoken about them.  Their facial expressions show disappointment, sadness and rejection.  Their mindset becomes that of not being good enough, not having what it takes and they become convinced they'll never get the chance to prove what they're capable of because someone else has chosen to "label" them just because of their size. 

I submit that size has little to do with how well an athlete can perform and compete or how much he/she can achieve in their sport.  To help prove that point, here are some examples of some athletes that have been labeled "undersized" and a short mention of their accomplishments.  In basketball, from the teams in the NCAA tournament this year:  Madison Davis, UNC Asheveille- 5'10 Guard, Shawn Vanzant, Butler 5'11 Guard, Kemba Walker, UCONN, 6'0 Guard, all said to be undersized when recruited and it was also written that "size was their weakness".  Look at 5'10 Guard Andrew Albicy from France who is projected to be drafted in the NBA draft this year.  What do you think is written for his "weakness"...size.  Continuing in basketball, how about former NBA stars Spud Webb (5'7), Earl Boykins (5'5), Nate Robinson (5'9), Calvin Murphy (5'9) and Mugsy Bogues (5'3) shortest player ever in the NBA who also managed to block an amazing 39 shots in his pro career. 

Let's take a look at some of the NFL players that were labeled "undersized".  De Sean Jackson, WR 5'10 who had 125 catches, 2079 yards and 11 TD's when entering his 3rd season in the NFL.  Bob Sanders, 5'8 Safety, 2 time Pro-Bowl selection, taken in the 2004 draft when it was said his weakness was he was, "undersized".  Steve Smith, 5'9 WR, taken in the 3rd Round 2001 draft, 10 seasons, 574 catches, 8330 yards and 50 TD's.  Darren Sproles, 5'6 RB, he was said to be to small when coming out of college, 130th overall pick in fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft.  Danny Woodhead, 5'7 RB.  No D1 offers for college despite a strong high school career, holds the single season and all-time D2 rushing record.  He didn't receive an invite to the combine, so relied on his "pro-day", he went undrafted in 2008, signed a free-agency contract in the NFL and still plays there today.  Lastly, how about Defensive Lineman, Dan Klecko, 5'11 3 time Super Bowl Champion who, although had a great college career, was labeled "undersized". 

Lastly, consider a non-traditional athlete taken from the Old Testament named David.  In 1 Samuel 17 we read of the battle between David and Goliath.  What is interesting is that there was no one in King Saul's army that was willing to or had enough courage to face Goliath on the battle field.  David was only there because he had brought some things from his father to give to his older brothers that were in the army.  Yet, when her heard Goliath step forward and shout out his usual defiance, David took exception to it and without hesitation, told King Saul that he wanted to fight him.  Saul tried to plead with him not to saying, "You're Just A Boy" (today that sounds like, "he's a little undersized")...see the parallel?  David would have nothing to do with being limited by his size.  He knew who he was, who's he was and what he was made of and capable of achieving in that battle and wasn't about to back down.  The Bible tells us in 1 Samuel 17:48 that, "As the Philistine (Goliath) moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him."  Scholars say Goliath stood better than 9'0 Feet Tall and David was maybe 5'5 at best...the 5'5 young boy ran to the battle field and decisively defeated Goliath! 

Do you think David was listening to anyone say of him that he was "undersized"?  Do you think David was willing to be limited by someone else’s opinion of him?  I don't think so.  The same thing goes for you!  No matter what others say about you, your size, your appearance etc, it does not define you!!!  Just as David knew he had everything he needed to compete and win, you have that same thing in you.  You have everything you need to compete at any level and win!  God made you the way you are because it's just the perfect way for you to fulfill the plans he has for you.  Thus, don't back down, don't go into competition with fear or hesitation just because someone may stand taller than you.  Be bold!  Run to the battle field, let what is in you come alive and compete with a furry that puts the bigger person on the retreat!  Only you can limit you...

It is my prayer that your ears will be deaf to anyone’s opinions about you and further that people will learn not to label and limit people because of their size or appearance etc.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Where Will You Play?...On the Perimeter or Down In The Paint?

Recently I was having lunch with a pastor friend of mine; Pastor Brian.  He made a great reference to how the devil really turns up the attack against us when we are on the verge of doing something really impactful for the kingdom of God and likened it to defense in a basketball game.  He inspired me to write this blog.

I love this time of year in college basketball.  Teams know that every win is important toward making it into their respective tournament.  They really increase their level of effort and take their game to a new heights.  This is especially true of those teams that know they're close to "being on the bubble" of getting in or being left out.   One area you can clearly see the increase in the effort and level of the game is on defense.  Teams know they must limit the number of "good looks" their opponents get and they know the high percentage scoring shots come mostly from within the paint vs. those that are taken from the perimeter and three-point range. 

When the ball is out on the perimeter you'll usually find a one-on-one coverage on the person with the ball.  Defense may be a little lose, not right on the person with the ball and if a shot is taken you'll see it somewhat contested and normally the defender is careful not to foul.  However, the defensive mindset and intensity changes once the ball is passed to a player that is in the paint, the area of high percentage scoring shots.  Once the ball is inside, you see defenses immediately collapse and the person with the ball is often double-teamed and played very tight.  If a shot is taken from inside the paint the shooter is often fouled in the attempt with the hope that it will prevent a score.  The defensive team is giving everything they can to prevent the opponent from threatening their chance of a victory by succeeding on a high scoring percentage shot attempt. 

The offensive team is a real and prominent threat to the team on defense at this point.  The defensive team will do everything in its power to prevent the threat of a loss, even to the point of committing a foul.  The rationale: if they foul and prevent the 2 points from being scored, they have a better chance that the shooter will only make 1 of the 2 free throws he or she has been awarded.  When the ball gets inside the paint, the defense becomes unrelenting, ruthless.

Every day of our life there is a game just like this going on around us.  A game where teams from the Kingdoms of Light and Darkness are playing for the win [OF US].  Unlike a basketball game, we can't watch it and the game clock never reads "0"; it goes on without end.  The devil, captain of the kingdom of darkness team, wants to keep people as far away from God as he can; he and his team are always on the defense.

God, captain of the Kingdom of Light Team, uses us, to influence and help draw those that the devil and his team are trying to keep from God, to God.  When our relationship with God is weak i.e. we are not reading the Bible and spending time in prayer, we are like the person with the ball on the perimeter.  We aren't much of a threat to the devil or his team so he lightly guards us.  He just brings a little trouble now in then our way to contest us and make us aware that he's there ready to turn up the defense if he needs to.

However, when our relationship with God is strong, we are spending time in fellowship, the Bible and in prayer, that's when we are taking the ball down into the paint.  We are on the verge of a high percentage scoring opportunity to impact someones life for God.  We are a threat to the other team and as a result, that is the time the devil and his team really seem to turn up the defense against us.  Seems like a lot of things in life go wrong and start to unravel.  We need to keep pressing toward the goal, take the shot and not be afraid of being fouled.  God promises us it is safe with Him, He promises to be our refuge, our protector, our shield:  2 Samuel 22:3 "my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation.  He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior".  2 Samuel 22:31 "As for God, His way (his offense) is perfect; the Lords word is flawless ; he shields all who take refuge in Him".  Psalm 18:2 "The Lord is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer; my God is my rock in whom I take refuge..." 

With an awareness of God and His power and safety within Him referenced above, we can be on the offensive and we can play the entire game.  We don't have to be on the sidelines or the bench waiting our turn to play.  We can take confidence in the promises and characteristics of God and take the ball in the paint and help our team win against the team from the kingdom of darkness.  Ultimately that team is going to lose:  Deuteronomy 33:27 "The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemies (kingdom of darkness) before you saying, 'Destroy Them'!" 

There are too many people involved in this game that are "on the bubble" of getting in or being left out when it comes to eternity for us to not be on the offensive.  Where do you want to play:  On the perimeter and not be much of a threat or down in the paint, going for the high percentage shot and defeating the team that is against us day in and day out?  Take the Ball Down Low and Score!