Dabo Swinney is the head football coach of the National Champion Clemson Tigers. Prior to the championship game last week he said to his players, “Let the light that’s in you shine brighter than the light that’s on you.” What does that mean to you? Who is he talking to? Is the “you” each individual member of the team, or is it the team as a whole? We think his words could apply to each person individually and to the team as a whole. First, it means that while the national spotlight will be on us, it’s more important for us to control the light, to be the light, rather than to bask in the spotlight. So, we must focus on playing the game, on doing our part, and not be distracted by the spectacle around us. It means “let’s do our best!” Let’s be sure that our ability, unity, teamwork and determination are what is seen, rather than ourselves as the objects of entertainment. Whether on the field or off, whenever we focus the efforts we wish to make for something greater than our own glory, we will shine in ways more important than points on a scoreboard. When we strive to be the light, to make a difference, we’ll always be “winning more than the game.”
Clemson fans are celebrating Deshaun Watson’s stellar performance as the quarterback of the National Champion Tigers. The only thing that is as important in Deshaun’s opinion is the work that he does for Habitat for Humanity. As a child he grew up in public housing surrounded by crime and drugs, but when his mother Deann learned that through community service and hard work she could qualify for a Habitat House, she signed up. After giving over 300 hours of volunteer service she earned the privilege of a house. When the day came for the ceremony to receive the key, they were all surprised to find out that NFL great Warrick Dunn’s foundation had provided the funds for furniture and food to get them going. Deshaun and his siblings grew up in that Habitat house, giving him a new neighborhood and a better opportunity. He says, “that house became our home, and gave hope to us all.” Before his name was a household word he was already leading the team in volunteer days. Additionally, he told the Habitat leadership that he would like to speak to all the Habitat young people about taking advantage of the opportunities before them, and avoiding the bad choices that are all around: 300 people showed up the first time! Deshaun has become the face and a major advocate for Habitat in the Greenville/Clemson area of South Carolina. Winning More Than The Game! What can you learn from him? How/what difference can you make?
In case you haven’t heard, Mariah Carey’s live television appearance on New Year’s Eve fell completely apart because her earpiece apparently didn’t work. Interestingly, we read by chance that one of Prince Harry’s favorite quotes is from Stevie Wonder: “It takes teamwork to make the dream work.” Whether we’re on a musical team, a sports team, or a family team, it takes teamwork to make the dream work. There are two sides to this coin: first, we have to “develop our skills to the best of our ability” – we have to do our part – but the other side is that we can’t succeed on our own. We are always dependent on others. Those who think otherwise are doomed to failure. You’d think Prince Harry could get pretty much anything done he’d want to – but he knows differently. So we are all players and teammates – players trying to do the best we can to do our part, and teammates, trying to help each other in any way we can. What do you need to do more of to make the dream work?
There is nothing more important than setting goals for ourselves. John Wooden said, “Nothing will work unless you do.” Most of us do not take goal setting seriously enough. We say “I would like to be the best…” Having a goal is easy! But how do we get there? To set a goal is to look at the big picture – but to get there requires lots of little pictures. What will you do each day? How much time will you spend doing it? How will you know if you are improving? Will you keep working and trying even if progress is slow? No matter what sport we play, or what class we are taking in school, success will come from having a detailed plan for getting to our goal. My father always said, “If you want to succeed spend five minutes more every day after you think you’re finished.” The Code says, “I will develop my skills to the best of my ability…” Many of us set new goals on New Year’s. Will you work out a plan in detail for how you will achieve the next goal you set for yourself? Nothing will work unless you do.
Christian McCaffrey has announced he is dropping off the Stanford football team so he can prepare for the NFL draft. What does the Code say about this? “I will place team goals ahead of personal goals.” This is not the first time a football player has quit the team, in order to prepare for the NFL combine. We all know the argument: if he quits now, he may be able to increase his value, and also, he does not risk an injury that could be serious and possibly even end his career. But does self-interest trump commitment to the team? We think that when you commit to playing on a team, you commit to playing on a team. Let us expand the subject: should a person work to improve his or her statistics as a high school player at the expense of the team in order to win an athletic scholarship? What do you think? Has this happened to you or your team?
What does the “holiday spirit” mean to you? For some it means family, for others a spirit of giving, for others a time of faith, for others still other things. For many people it is also a sad time, for it brings back past happy memories that are now gone; for those out of work or suffering financially it surely brings increased anxiety. What does the Code have to say about these days? The Code does not address these things directly, but it does call on us to be a positive influence on those around us, and to care about our community and world. We see Santa Claus everywhere! The main job that these “Santas” have is to listen – to listen to what the children are saying to them, and to encourage them to be good little boys and girls. We do not know what emotions are going on inside all those around us, but a good model for all of us might be that of Santa: listening with caring ears, encouraging those around us, and making a difference in the ways we can. How can you and your team be a Santa?
Tom Herman has recently resigned as the Houston Cougars football coach to go to the Texas Longhorns – before the season was over. Herman has been one of the most successful coaches in recent years, and has been admired for the values he has espoused for his team: honesty, integrity, etc. Unfortunately, he has shown those values to be empty words, as he was talking to Texas while saying he wasn’t, and by preaching loyalty while abandoning the team at the very moment it is supposed to be preparing for a bowl game. Not only is he abandoning the team, but he is taking six assistant coaches with him! How is the team to prepare? It is hard to imagine a more shameless and reprehensible departure. It turns out, as we research him, that his middle name is Judas, a name synonymous with betrayal. Texas would have gladly waited until after the bowl game to get Herman, so this is not about money or anything else: this is about honor and integrity, or the lack thereof. The Code says, “I will display caring and honorable behavior off the field…” What other leaders have disappointed you? What would you have done?
We’re not sure who invented the idea of “Giving Tuesday,” but it was probably a response to all the money that was being spent on “Black Friday,” and more recently, “Cyber Monday.” Does the Code have anything to say about this? The Code says, “I will give of my time, skills and money as I am able for the betterment of my community and world.” Giving money is important, because money is so important to us. Most of us think donating $10 or $100 is a lot of money, unless we’re spending it to go to a movie or buying new clothes for ourselves! “Giving Tuesday” provides us an opportunity not just to donate to some charities of our choice, but to step back and ask ourselves how we can also give our “time and our skills” for the betterment of our community and world. We all want to be “Athletes for a Better World!”
In the Sprint Championship on Sunday Carl Edwards was leading with ten laps to go. Joey Logano was behind him and about to pass him on the inside. Edwards moved over to block Logano (a normal move) but the result was a wreck in which Edwards car was eliminated. Here’s the description from USA Today:
“What Edwards did next will be replayed for years — decades, maybe. And it should get the attention of the sports world beyond just NASCAR.
Instead of storming off or starting a fight or hiding or blaming someone else or pouting about what was undoubtedly one of the most disappointing moments of his life, Edwards responded with pure class.
He walked down pit road, climbed up on Logano’s pit box and shook hands with Logano crew chief Todd Gordon.”
The Code says, “I will display caring and honorable behavior both on and off the field and be a positive influence…” What are the best examples of good sportsmanship you’ve seen in the games you’ve played?
There are numerous forest fires in North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee burning and will continue to burn for the foreseeable future because of the severe drought. Yesterday, we went over to volunteer at a fire department (not to fight fires but to support those who are). While unloading supplies with a fireman from another district, he said that every morning when he gets up to drive over there are a “bunch of drinks, food, and stuff” on his porch or beside his garage that have been left anonymously by friends “who know I’m coming over here.” Why did he share that story? We think that the most important message is not the actual gifts, although that is important, but the encouragement that those gifts gave, and the support that they symbolized for him as he went about this job. We may not be literally fighting fires, but we all know people who are struggling with something in their lives. How can we “be a positive influence in the relationships” (as the Code says) we have? There is no greater gift than support and encouragement.