I was not created with incredible height; yet, I did not let that limit me in my pursuit of playing basketball and competing on the court. I was a part of some incredible teams in high school including one that went 32-3 and made it to the state championship game at the highest level in the state of Tennessee. As a 5’10 (or maybe 5’9”) point guard, I was not always the first pick based on appearance but definitely strived to make an impression based on my play. The key was not letting a limiting belief like my lack of size compared to other people hold me back from competing and achieving my best.
Based on my experience, here are 7 leadership lessons that I learned from this journey:
- Run Every Sprint – In practice, I was the one who ran every sprint as hard as I could. It was a race, and I was determined to win each one no matter how tired I was. Sometimes, people don’t want to “run every sprint.” They take plays off, or in life, take days off. If we are toeing the line, we have to be engaged and give it our all. As you do this, it will inspire the people beside you to give their all as well.
- Do Every Drill - Every day, I focused on doing every drill that our coach told us to do in order to improve my game. I never once thought I had arrived, and I sought role models that were better than me who modeled this same attitude.
- Compete Always – Whenever I stepped on a court of any kind, I always competed. Whether it was a pickup game among friends in a driveway, 5-on-5 practice runs, or an actual game, I always strived to give it my all and play to win. This intensity gave me the ability to focus on what I could control versus other factors that might distract me from achieving my goal.
- Associate With Champions – I learned to find champions who I could learn from either by watching on TV or playing with in a game. I have always been drawn to those players who separate themselves from the rest for a sustained period of time, not just the players who occasionally make a superstar play. Sustained greatness is a habit that is cultivated through hard work and a strong will. Associating with champions gives us role models to follow and accountability to help us achieve our goals.
- Never Give Up - No matter if we were losing or winning in a game, I never gave up! Even if there were only a few seconds left in the game. I also hated being around teammates in the locker room who talked about how good the competition was or how we might lose. My natural tendency was to run from this kind of talk and suit up, compete, and see what would happen. The moment you give up in sports or in life is the moment you are defeated no matter what the scoreboard says.
- Find A Way - I always looked to find a way to win. I usually guarded the best player on the opposing team, regardless of height. If I was playing a taller player, I would use my quickness to frustrate him. If I was playing a superior player in talent and/or speed, I would player tighter defense and deny him the ball instead of backing off which would be the natural tendency. When we are faced with obstacles and hurdles in life, we must find a way to solve the puzzle, persevere in the moment, and find a way to be successful.
- Enjoy The Journey – Throughout it all, I enjoyed the journey of growing and developing into the best basketball player I could become based on my potential and talent. Some people strive to be their best but never enjoy the journey to get there. Others give up along the way, because they don’t want to put in the work to achieve the goal. I believe there is a way to both work hard and enjoy the process, and passion fuels the journey to goal achievement in sports, business, and life.
I think all of these lessons can be applied both on the basketball court and off. Take time today to consider your strengths, your opportunities, and the goals you have set for yourself, and then consider how you can apply these leadership lessons in your life. As Vince Lombardi said, “The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”
What does it mean to you to “never give up?”