Saturday, November 11, 2006

What it takes to be No.1

Coach Lombardi, put it best in his famous speech entitled “What it takes to be No. 1”. He says: “Winning is not a sometime thing, it is an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all the time."

But, there is something else that Lombardi says in his speech that became poignant to me this week. He says, “I believe in God.” This part of his speech didn’t resonate in me until this week. Let me explain.

Here is the background. As a coach and teacher at an inner city Catholic high school, I have the priviledge of coaching and educating young people who have gotten the short end of the success stick. They come from broken families, single-parent families, some live on their own in shelters and many are at or below the poverty line – lucky to have breakfast or lunch that day. While some receive the love and support that they need at that age, many do not. Too few have had success in life. Too few have experienced winning. Too few have faith in themselves or those around them. I have challenged myself to help my students experience success and winning through sport.

This fall, it was going to be in boys soccer. We set our goal at the start of the season. To win the Tier 1 (top division) city championships in both junior boys and senior boys soccer. How were we going to achieve this – through the pursuit of personal excellence, teamwork, sportsmanship and dedication. There would be an emphasis on improving I, to help the greater WE; there would be no complaints about bad fields, bad refs, or other players; and there would be no quitting. Fast forward to this week, in which both teams make the city finals. The seniors play first on Tuesday and played their hearts out only to lose 1-0 at the final whistle. Something was missing in the game but I wasn’t sure what. We had another chance to win on Thursday in the Junior final. 110 minutes of regular time and the game is 1-1, two 10-minute sudden-death extra periods and it is still tied 1-1. Five penalty shots each and it is still tied. Finally on the 6th penalty shot, our player scored first and the opposition had a chance to tie. Then something happened. All of my players knelt on the ground and prayed. Prayed that their keeper would save the shot and they would win. He did just that.

Lombardi was right – winning is an attitude – in all that we do in achieving our goals. But, when he says, “I believe in God,” I think he highlights something even more important: We need to have faith. We need to have faith in ourselves. We need to have faith in our teammates. We need to have faith in our preparation. We need to have faith that hard work will be rewarded. We need to have faith that when the game is on the line, that we can do it. What it takes to be number one is a winning attitude…..and it takes faith!

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