On January 1, I took out a notepad and made a list of long term and short term goals followed by another list of things that I was going to do everyday — New Year’s resolutions. Whether it was working out, blogging more, or trying to get home earlier, the idea was to be consistent and develop good habits for 2013. I like to think that I meant well in doing this, but today, I’m somewhat frustrated at the fact that some of these resolutions have been neglected. And this isn’t the first time this has happened. Somewhere along the way, I get thrown off, distracted, and then discouraged. I’m on track, but then something comes up, an event happens, routine is thrown off, and boom — I get stuck–I disengage from the moment where I am supposed to show resolve and redirect my energy looking backwards at my own inability to carry out that particular resolution — and there lies the problem.
I’m convinced that New Years resolutions fade away not because we lose ability to for doing the task, but because we’re mad that we didn’t get something done in a moment — perhaps we’re mad that we’re not perfect? Maybe we forget about what resolution even means — look at the definition…
1. The state or quality of being resolute; firm determination.
2. A resolving to do something.
3. A course of action determined or decided on.
Resolution is about being determined — MOVING towards a realized goal. I don’t think I give up on resolutions because I can no longer get it done — but because I spend too much time dwelling on the fact that I didn’t get it done in a particular moment / day — or I stop for too long because of a setback: a roadblock, a bad conversation, a tough day, a double bogey, a missed opportunity, inconvenience. Of course these things are not unique to anyone’s life, but they can really throw us off can’t they? Why is this? Because on January 1, my resolutions probably didn’t take into account the fact that everyday is different, I can’t perfectly plan life, I’m not in control, and that we say roll with the punches because punches are inevitably coming our way.
One of the great philosophers of our time — Mike Tyson — once said that “everyone has a game plan until you get punched in the face.” Maybe you’re a coach and everything was working until you lost the game you shouldn’t have lost. In the process, perspective is lost and your team dynamics suddenly change because your plan didn’t go as you wrote it.. Consequently, you and your team get stuck in what was supposed to be over after the game — your players watch you abandon your original plan, continuity is gone, and now, you just lost Friday’s game because of what happened on Tuesday and the lack of forward thinking on Wednesday and Thursday in practice — resolve is nowhere to be seen. Maybe your team gets stuck in failure or maybe they get stuck in their own success. That’s probably why Babe Ruth said, “Yesterday’s homeruns don’t win today’s games.”
In the spirit of sounding like a P90X infomercial, here is your solution to keeping your New Year’s resolutions – STAY IN THE PRESENT — don’t get caught up in what was or the thought of what will be. I seriously hope you are doubting my credibility with my last sentence because while staying in the present sounds good /achievable in Golf Digest, in your self help book, or in your Yoga class, this blog will never be a recipe for finding yourself through yourself. Nobody stays in the present perfectly because they tell themselves to. You might perceive someone to be calm and collected about everything, but their inner insecurity would tell you otherwise. We all have things that cause us to stop moving forward–certain kinds of punches that test both our endurance and our resolve.
Growing up, my mom always reminded me that God’s grace was sufficient for each day — like staying in the present, this sounds good, but that Grace is the only place where I have truly found rest — a place where I don’t have to prove — a place that can cure my getting stuck in my own successes and failures. As for the resolutions — thankfully, the apostle Paul didn’t say “be transformed by a New Year’s Resolution — he said “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2) — not in ourselves — not in our trophies — not in our shortcomings, but in Grace that says true resolution has already been realized.
And he said, Press on — or keep going, but not in your own strength.
What happens when you put 12 individuals together that, week in and week out, care about one score – their own? Well, if this is your experiment, the Ryder Cup is your testing ground. Watching the lack of fluidity in these players’ high fives and fist bumps says it all–these golfers are not used to being teammates.
In any team sport, one of the more challenging roles is that of the player who must sit in their shortcomings while the rest of the team succeeds. How do you think Tiger Woods must have felt upon completing his round on Saturday knowing that he and Steve Stricker were the only members of his team not to have won a point? Whatever his emotion, his disappointment was overshadowed by his actions when he gave Steve Stricker a huge hug following the round that basically said, “I was proud to be your teammate this week.”
Sunday morning, Tiger was placed in the last group of the day, but what was he doing 2 hours before his match started (while Rory is watching TV in his hotel room!!)?. He was walking down the first fairway cheering on Bubba Watson in Team USA’s first match. Even Johnny Miller of NBC said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before.”
First off, I should tell you that I have been critical of Tiger these past few years–using his struggles on and off the course more as a conversation piece than a concern for someone who clearly made decisions that were reflective of a void in his life. In terms of golf, he won 3 times this year, won 6 million, and gave himself a shot to win the Fedex Cup — the guy makes 93.33% of his putts from 5 feet — not so terrible.
At this point, I’m exhausted by Tiger tabloids. For now, I am not reflecting on who Tiger is outside the ropes (I’ll let TMZ cover this space) — these are simply observations from the weekend.
The bottom line is that if you are wondering about the true fabric of your team, watch your most notable player—what they do when they’re down, how they react with their teammates when the rest of the team is thriving. Can they feel what someone is feeling amidst struggling personal performance? This will tell you a lot – just like Tiger told us this weekend – not bad for a guy who some people have written off as selfish.
Probably not a good idea to write off anybody.
I suppose golf becomes selfish when we get so engaged with our own swing thoughts, our good shots, or our bad shots that we miss the relational part of the game. Normally, I watch The Golf Channel to learn how to hit a fairway bunker shot or to catch tournament highlights. To my surprise, I have become a big fan of David Feherty’s new show Feherty–a weekly opportunity for the sometimes crass, but clever CBS golf commentator to interview various characters in and out of the game. The show is not about golf, but about life–the joy and heartache that shadow any journey. Feherty is very open about his past and his struggles with addiction and as a result, his guests are seemingly more transparent. They know they are having a conversation with someone who doesn’t claim to have it all together.
When President Bill Clinton first sat down for the interview, Feherty’s first question was, So Mr. President I have to ask you, Why the hell are you here? (It’s hard to do it justice without the Irish accent). Like with any of his guests, Feherty made no effort to hide the fact that he felt very lucky to have the 42nd President on his show–a humble approach no doubt. During one segment, Clinton touched on this idea of humility as he reflected on some of his recent relief work in Africa. In particular, an observation he made about their culture’s unique way of greeting each other. He said, “The people there do not simply say, hello as they pass each other, but they say, I see you.” He went on to characterize this custom as the ultimate sign of dignity and respect–to really see someone–to notice them. How many people did I greet yesterday, but did not really notice? Too many.
What does it mean to view ordinary, everyday exchanges through a lens that suggests each person God puts in our path matters? This week I definitely needed a reminder to get over some of my own swing thoughts–maybe it’s idolizing wanting life to slow down, a failure to let go of work when I come home, or just too much focus on what I have to do next – needed a people thought.
I’m on a plane right now reflecting on my recent trip to Atlanta where I coached my 17 and under AAU team in the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions–a high profile venue for high school prospects to be seen by college coaches from across the country.
As I was driving the big white team van to one of the games, I was reminded that each of the 12 seventeen year olds behind me had unique personalities, strengths & weaknesses, and a different set of issues at home–that’s a lot of variables.
Have you ever had a member of your team that was just not into it? As we got closer to the gym that day, I looked in my rear view mirror and couldn’t help but notice one of my players (we’ll call him Desmond for now) with his head in his hands. He looked like he was about to go to sleep as all the other players seemed quite alert, fully in tune with the rap music that was blaring in the van (did that lyric just say what I think it said — how is this stuff on public radio?)
Then, we get to the gym–everyone is warming up, but Desmond. He is sitting on the bench as if he is waiting on his mom to bring him milk and cookies–he’s clearly not ready to play. As I’m sizing up the other team at center court, I’m thinking, “What is he doing over there?” There are 25 college coaches sitting against the wall trying to decide if they are going to give him or anyone else in this gym a scholarship–where is the sense of urgency!?”
Desmond averaged over 25 points a game in high school this past year, but during this particular game, he barely saw the floor because I believe that body language is contagious. Our team can’t afford to have a player on the floor who is too cool to communicate–too cool to call out a screen or yell, “I got weak side help–I got your help.” It’s a privilege to put on a uniform and as Coach Prosser always told us, “Playing time for me doesn’t work like Halloween; just because you put on a suit, that doesn’t mean you get candy. Desmond received very little candy that day.
After the game, I explained to my players that some of them needed to change their behavior. I went on to tell them that scouts/coaches are watching every move they make–how they carry themselves when they walk into the gym, how assertive they are during warmups, what they do when they get taken out of a game. Do they cheer, do they sulk (sulking = selfish), DO THEY STAY ENGAGED? No coach wants to recruit a player that can’t get out of his own head.
Some would say, “Alan, you have to cater to these kind of players and just deal with the fact that a player might be ‘unengaged’. The reality is that people/players have to be willing to change. They have to be willing to do something different (not for the sake of making me happy, but for the sake of THE TEAM). The next game Desmond rose to the occasion and changed his demeanor. He went in the game and played at a very high level, playing through his mistakes, communicating with his teammates, and making it very difficult for me to take him out of the game.
With two seconds to go, we were down 2–Desmond knocks down a cold-blooded 3 and we win the game.
We’re about to land–time to put away all portable electronics–anything with an on and off switch. I wish my players didn’t have an ‘off’ switch’ — I wish they could always be “on”.
But then if they were always “on” / if they were perfect, they wouldn’t need a coach. Where are we taking this conversation anyway?
Bottom line–sometimes we have to be willing to change for our teams even if change means doing something that is not natural or uncomfortable. Change is hard–so is coaching.
I’m going to try something different…here are a few of my takeaways after a long week in sports.
Wear a helmet. Tell the truth the first time. Pride goes before the fall. A reputation is made by many actions; ruined by one. He has four kids. I hope there will be redemption in this story one day.
The AD of Arkansas showed America that winning isn’t everything if it’s not done with integrity. What a message to the Arkansas players.
Bubba showed us that you can win the Masters even if you hit 2 really bad tee shots in your last 3 holes…you’re never out of it, so stay with it! And with a pink driver?
Ozzie Guillen reminded us to think before we speak. Draw attention to your players–not yourself.
Odom taken off the Mavs Roster: Hanging with the Kardashians does not help your game. Stay focussed on what’s important–reality tv is not as fun when you don’t make your free throws.
As I watched the Elite 8 games this weekend, I was reminded that most people had Duke advancing past the first round. Naturally, I am not a Duke fan. As a former Wake player, the Cameron Crazies were sometimes a little over the top for me, especially when one of them would yell at me during warm-ups, “Hey, water boy, yeah you, water boy—gotta love a guy who is out there for the love of the game.” Mission accomplished for them I guess.
On a different note, have you ever watched a game and seen a Duke player over-communicating—constantly huddling up with their teammates any chance they get—what are they saying to each other anyway? They always do everything right and when Coach K says, “Every dead ball is an opportunity to communicate”—his players believe him and this is a good thing.
Several years ago, I was speaking to a company in the Carolinas and I jokingly informed the audience at the beginning of my talk that Coach K was supposed to be the speaker, but that he couldn’t be there because he and his wife were hosting a dinner party for all of the ACC referees. Even a few of the Duke fans chuckled. As much as roll my eyes at Coach K working the referees, I admire his leadership.
In a sports world where losing team’s coaches often give a cold, insincere hand shake to the winning coach after a game, I have watched Coach K on, more than one occasion, stop the winning coach to congratulate and encourage him—even after a most terrible first round loss to Lehigh in his own backyard.
His postgame interview was even more indicative of his sportsmanship. The reporter asks, “Coach, is this one of the most crushing losses you’ve experienced?” With his head held high and voice cracking, Coach K says, “The game has been very good to me. It’s a beautiful game with high highs and very low lows. This is a low right now for us, but congratulations goes out to Lehigh—they had the best player on the floor tonight and should be commended.” When asked if he thought the outcome would have been different had Ryan Kelly not been hurt, Coach K responds, “That’s not an excuse–we had time to adjust and did not make it happen.”
Now I know why Coach Prosser always told us–”Don’t criticize success; just analyze it.” In other words, analyze how they win and, in today’s case, what they do when they don’t win.
Maybe we should stop criticizing the Duke’s in our life. Maybe we should be looking at what they do and go make our teams better.
My dad always told me that success is where preparation meets opportunity. The funny thing about life is that we don’t really know when those opportunities will come. It has been well documented that Jeremy Lin was more than ready for his opportunity. Forget about Lin-sanity for a moment–tabloids linking him to a rendezvous with Kim Kardashian (really?) or the fact that Ben & Jerry’s created a flavor called Taste the Lin-sanity. Let’s step away from where Lin has landed and take a quick look at where he was.
Jeremy Lin had a 3.1 GPA at Harvard where he scored almost 1,500 points. Despite a stellar college career in the Ivy League, he was undrafted in 2010. The New York Times described Lin as “a smart passer with a flawed jump shot and a thin frame, who might not have the strength and athleticism to defend, create his own shot or finish at the rim in the NBA.” In 2010, Lin signed as a free agent with the Golden State Warriors, but was called down 3 times to play with their D-league affiliate team–the Reno Bighorns. In 2011, Lin injured his knee during the NBA lockout, but used the summer to recover as well as alter his shooting form, gain muscle mass, and add 3 inches to his vertical leap. On December 9, 2011, Lin was waived by the Golden State Warriors. Two days later, he was acquired by the Rockets for a few preseason games , but would be cut within a week so that Houston could clear cap space.
On December 27th, the New York Knicks signed Lin to be a backup for a backup (Barron Davis got hurt). On January 17th, Lin was again called down to the D-league (Erie Bay Hawks). On January 20th, after a triple double against the Maine Red Claws (who?), Lin was moved back up to the Knicks. According to the New York times, Lin was attending a pre game chapel on January 27th when the pastor asked the players if there was anything he could pray for them about. Lin spoke out, “Can you please pray that I don’t get cut?”
After losing 11 of their first 13 games, Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni got so desperate that he decided to give Lin a chance and the rest is history. In his first nine games, Lin averaged 24.2 points and 9.2 assists and the Knicks record under Lin’s watch — 8-2.
When I look back at Jeremy’s journey over the past few years, I don’t see, what many media outlets have described as, an overnight sensation, but a beautiful story full of passion, persistence, heartache, improvement, preparation, faithfulness–a story full of unknowns. Lin’s favorite Bible verse is Romans 5:3-4 which says, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that our suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope”–fitting.
Lin’s pastor was quoted in the San Francisco chronicle as saying, “Through the years, its’ been a struggle (for Jeremy) athletically. He doesn’t believe in a prosperity gospel. He doesn’t believe that if you simply have enough faith that everything you want it going to happen in your life.” You definitely don’t see that communicated that clearly everyday as faith in athletics is usually mentioned only as the pathway to success (and I’m talking about State Championship / game winning shot type success).
Jeremy Lin was clearly ready for his opportunity, but I think his story reminds us that the getting ready part is not a switch that we just turn on, but a long process that is usually the road less traveled. You could easily argue that Lin’s preparation for the last month lasted a lifetime. I suppose in the newspapers, we’re always reading about people who were ready for their opportunity, but what about the millions of people who we don’t read about–talented people who say, “I will prepare for the opportunity once the opportunity comes my way.” Unfortunately for most, opportunities move too fast for this kind of thinking–they leave just as fast as they come. You’re either ready or you’re not.
One of the most common fears I see playing out in young athletes is this: What if I work really really hard…what if I do prepare, but don’t get the result I wanted. In other words, it’s too risky to give everything I have–to put myself out there like that. Over the past eight years, I have heard a lot of people reflect on their careers. Whether in sports or business, I have never heard someone regret preparing for an opportunity that never came. Instead, I’ve only listened to regret for preparation that never took place–the pain of wondering if working harder could have somehow led to an opportunity they never knew existed.
There are a lot of variables in life and for most of us, results don’t always look like Jeremy’s did, but one thing is for certain–preparation and perseverance never hurt any outcome. Maybe it’s time to look at opportunity through a different lins.
[This post is dedicated to Rudy Wu--the world's most dedicated Knicks fan--and my former intern who had an impact on Teammates Matter that will never be forgotten]
During one practice at Wake Forest, I failed to protect the weak side on defense and the late Skip Prosser yelled at me, “Alan Williams you’re better than that.” I immediately responded, “My bad coach.” That’s when coach yelled at me again, “I KNOW IT’S YOUR BAD AL WILL—YOU DON’T HAVE TO REMIND ME—NEXT PLAY, MOVE ON.”
Coach Prosser’s response to, what I thought was a ‘coachable’ response on my part, was indicative of his believe that anyone who ‘sat’ in their mistakes too long was selfish. Why selfish? Because if I got down for missing a shot, then I probably wouldn’t sprint back on defense—my body language would probably go sour and this would hurt my team.
Coach would say that “sulking = selfish” and wouldn’t accept it. Ironically, the kind of selfishness I’m referring to is often disguised as humility—or false humility I should say. EXAMPLE: One of my players has a terrible first half and so they put their face in their hands in the locker room at halftime. Conceivably, this player could be convincing himself that his frustration is derived from how much he cares for the team. Sharing Prosser’s playbook, I’M NOT BUYING IT. Prosser says this is selfish because that player is only focusing on their own ‘deal’.
It’s no secret that big egos ruin team—they destroy businesses. Too often, I think we characterize the egocentric person as someone who overly delights in their successes, but what about someone who overly bathes in their shortcomings—maybe Debbie Downer has a big ego too! Perhaps the lens she is looking through is fogged by her own pity.
I suppose CS Lewis, a novelist and wise man, calls out either case of the big ego (self absorption) when he says, “Humility is not about thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less.”
I’m starting to think that a lot of teams in life would be much more effective if they had CS Lewis and Skip Prosser coaching and yelling at them from the sidelines. Coach Prosser could acknowledge that “Yes” we messed up and to “move on.” And CS Lewis could provide a deeper rational as to why we can move on to to the next play. He’d probably use words like repentance, forgiveness, and righteousness, but it would probably make the best case for leaving our failures and even our successes behind.
Coach Lewis—a basketball coach–that’s a funny thought.
Earlier this evening, one of my friends sent this to me in an email:
“The NFL would not let TIm Tebow wear the ‘John 3:16′ eye black, so what did he do against the Steeler’s last night? He threw for 316 yards. He averaged 31.6 yards per pass, and the TV ratings for the 4th quarter were, you guessed it, 31.6.” I thought the same thing, “What are the chances?” Then again, not a big “chance” person.
I suppose I could try to make this post deeper than it should be, but it’s 1:00AM–I’m just going to say that was pretty cool and go to bed.
Here is the situation: 10 year old son has a rough game—bad shooting night, not a lot of playing time, and the team loses. The son doesn’t seem to be responding too well and to fill the silence on the car ride home, dad or mom says,“It’s ok, winning doesn’t really matter, sometimes it gets a little too competitive out there, just hang in there—it’s JUST a game.”
The saddest part about this conversation is that I think there are parents who could feel virtuous about initiating dialogue like this. Perhaps they might even feel like they have shared something with their child in that moment that would yield a nod from their pastor if he were listening in the backseat.
Why would we ever tell a 10 year old that “winning doesn’t matter”? If this is the right mentality to have, then what are we supposed to say when they are juniors in high school??–“You know what son, it really doesn’t matter what you get on your SAT—college is too serious now anyway.” Or what about when they’re 22—“The job market has gotten out of hand—it’s just TOO competitive out there…there is too much emphasis on being so good at your job anyway.” The reality of the matter is that not many parents would say that to their son or daughter in high school or after college. Why? Because reality/the now matters–winning matters–just like it does in elementary school and middle school sports.
The problem with youth sports is not that kids want to win too much or that competition is increasing. The problem is an inability to deal with and have perspective on reality—losing—not getting the playing time we thought we deserved. These are real circumstances and the problem is being controlled by these circumstances—controlled to the point where we suggest to our kids that certain circumstances don’t really matter at all. ”It’s just a game”–this mentality is predicated on avoidance not “perspective”.
For this reason, perspective in sports is not about judging other parents, it’s not about complaining about the way things are, and it’s not about avoiding the culture. It’s about dealing with what is real, what is present, and reminding our children that they are not defined by what they do, but who they are.
Originally, I put a picture of Tim Tebow up here because I figured if you saw his picture, you might want to read the blog, but now that I think about it, maybe it’s the perfect time to bring him up. Everybody always goes on and on that Tim is a Christian, but they should also point out that no one practices or prepares harder than Tim Tebow; his work ethic is unmatched. Maybe there is a correlation here.
In the fourth quarter alone (before his loss to the Patriots yesterday), Tim Tebow had one of the highest quarterback ratings for any player in the NFL at 96.3—nothing about his emotion and passion suggests to anyone that “It’s just a game”. Tebow is a fierce competitor and reading about him makes me think that he places great value on football, but an ultimate value on something else–something that provides a framework for the way he strives for excellence in everything he does.
I suppose you could substitute a lot of meaningful things in our lives for the word “sports” in this post. Perhaps what that 10 year old (or 20, 30,40 year old/me) needs to hear on the car ride home is that sports do matter, winning does matter, competition does matter—but appropriate value can only be placed on these things or anything else if we are looking through a lens that says there is “more”.
Might the Christmas season give us new perspective and define meaning for things like “sports” in our lives.
Talk again in 2012.
“Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in–aim at earth and you will get neither.” C.S. LEWIS