Imagine playing football for the last time – and not just playing it for the last time – playing your last game knowing that this game will be the last live football you see for a very, very long time. Even if you want to go watch an Atom game you can’t do it because the game isn’t going to follow you. What kind of game are you going to play? What kind of legacy are you going to leave?
Imagine working for years on a goal and being so close to achieving it but having it ripped from you at the last moment by a force you can neither contain nor predict. If every step you take is toward that goal, how do you feel when it’s all done and you wake up the morning after knowing it didn’t happen?
As fans of the great sport of football we don’t easily accept finality – the end of every season begets an opportunity to start again next season. That the game never ‘ends’ gives us an excuse to accept mediocrity from ourselves because it lets us eternally look forward to the next game or the next season or the next play … “well, I really blew that block – I’ll get him next time” … “I really should have thrown a flag on that – I’ll catch it next time” … “I guess I should go for it on 2nd and inches..”
I do not advocate perfectionism because I think it sets the bar too high to attain. This year I became a strong advocate for excellence. Excellence is something that nobody else can define for you. As a coach, official, or player you know what it takes, in your own mind, to have an excellent personal game and you are the judge, jury, and executioner when you compare your personal results to your personal goals.
Consider that our goals give us context – a milestone against which we compare our accomplishments. These milestones are what build excellence and we owe it to ourselves to renew our goals, review our goals, and accept our personal goals as benchmarks of our own excellence.
It’s often been said that football is a game of character. I recently heard a speech that illuminated the concept of character for me in such a way I will never forget it. The speaker says that “competence” and “character” are cousins. The measure of one’s competence is found in the answer to the question, “CAN you do the right thing” while the measure of one’s character is found in the answer to the question, “WILL you do the right thing”. Spend some time on this because it’s worth it.
We’re always told that if we put our minds to it we CAN do anything. If you can accept that as true, set your goals high, make a personal commitment to achieving them and you always WILL do the right thing. Think back to the questions I asked at the top of this post. The answers aren’t important. You can’t always achieve your goals unless you set them unrealistically low but you can be sure that if you strive with excellence that every step continues to make the journey to your goals worthwhile.
“The day you take complete responsibility for yourself, the day you stop making any excuses, that’s the day you start to the top”.