The Kansas City Chiefs lineman Jeff Allen was stuck in the snow on his way to the playoff game. Fortunately, in case you haven’t read this story, a homeless man named Dave was ready to help him, and was able to get Jeff out of his trouble and on his way to the game. Dave had no idea who Jeff was, but Jeff wanted to thank him and so after the game he used social media to find Dave and to invite him to this week’s championship game. It’s a feel good story – but it also reminds us that we have opportunities all the time to give a helping hand to someone not expecting it. We should not just feel good about Dave (who’s still homeless), or Jeff for responding, but should instead use this as a model for ourselves. Here’s a challenge: see if you can find one opportunity to do something unexpected – a random act of kindness – once a day for a week. The Code says that, “I will give of my time, skills, and money as I am able for the betterment of my community and world.”
We were happy to learn that the team that won the college football championship, Clemson, also had the highest graduation rate among the final four schools, with a team graduation rate of 87%. The Code for Living has that name because it has values that apply to all of life. “I will develop my skills to the best of my ability…” applies to the classroom as well as the athletic field. Just as we work on individual skills in sports, so we also have to focus on particular subjects when they need improvement. Recently, we talked about setting goals. These should include academic goals and social goals too. One of the biggest traps athletes fall into is in becoming over-committed. If we are over-committed then we cannot give our best effort. As a part of the new year, what are some of the academic goals you need to set for yourself? Are there some extra things you should drop from your schedule?
It’s always fun to try to start the New Year with some resolutions, but we all know most of them are broken very soon after they are made. Can we do better? The Code says “I will develop my skills to the best of my ability…” This year we would like to make some suggestions. First, decide honestly what you would like to work on – and it doesn’t have to be skill development; it can be the way you act, or one aspect of the kind of character you’re developing. Secondly, decide how much time you can easily spend on it each day; you want to choose a small amount so you can always be successful! Thirdly, decide how many days you are going to do this; why not try for only one week, or two – you can always re-up! When you’re ready, tell your plans to a special friend so that they will know and so they can encourage you – and also, because it will help you stay on track. It’s important that you pick a goal and then steps along the way that will be easy to achieve. Most people give up on their good intentions because they set their goals too high, and so when they are discouraged; it’s easy to quit. The longer you can stick with your plan, the more likely it is that you will be successful. What is something you’d like to work on?
While we are thinking holiday thoughts and football playoffs two men are vying to become the first person to walk all the way across Antarctica unassisted in any way. Colin O’Brady, an American adventure athlete, and Louis Rudd, a captain in the British Army are both attempting this ultimate challenge against the most unforgiving forces of nature. They are each pulling a 300 pound toboggan with supplies as they trudge their way. Here is part of a news report: “After that 4 a.m. wake-up call, with the roaring polar winds rattling his tent, Rudd emerged into another total whiteout. He plowed ahead for 11 hours covering 18 miles…”
The Code says, “I will give my best effort…” The will to win, the will to persevere, the will to “give our best effort” is much easier said than done. There is a difference between making a good, solid, effort and doing our best. Even when we want to do our best, it is sometimes difficult to summon that effort. How can you think about this? Can you develop your will, strengthen your will? Like all things, we think it takes constant effort, it takes a daily commitment to doing our best. These men are doing what they are doing because they have trained in difficult conditions for a long time. We have to train and develop our will on a daily basis in order to find that “something extra” when it matters most. Do you realize that the daily effort you make to develop your skills will also reap the rewards of a more determined will?
In case you missed it, the Jalen Hurts story is one of those things you can’t make up. The Alabama quarterback was benched last year in the national championship game for poor play, and replaced by a freshman, Tua Tagovailoa, who inspired a great comeback victory against Georgia. Many thought Jalen would go to another school when it became clear that Tua would be this year’s starter. Instead, Jalen decided to stay at Alabama, compete for the position, get his degree, accept back-up status if he did not win the starting role, and be a positive member of the team. Then the roles reversed: in the SEC championship game Tua was injured with Alabama again behind Georgia in the second half. Now it was Jalen who came off the bench to spark an improbable victory. How is this like the Code? What lessons can you learn from this story?
President Bush was remembered for many great reasons this week. We heard an interview in which he was asked what his “legacy” would be. His answer was that this was a question for others to decide, but then he went on to say, “I made some mistakes and we did some good things.” Notice how he said “I” made some mistakes but “we” did some good things. That is a reflection of true leadership, of a person who takes responsibility for his or her mistakes, but always gives credit to the team for success. Coach Wooden said, “It’s amazing how much you can get done when no one cares who gets the credit.” Take a few minutes to reflect on the qualities of President Bush you most admired. How did his life reflect the Code?
The Thanksgiving college football games reminded us that most schools have a “bitter rival,” and these games have historically been the final game of the season. Often the rivalry becomes blown out of proportion – with members of one school vilifying the members of the other school, regarding them as some sub-human form of life. It is too bad when this happens. There is nothing more exciting than a game between two opponents with each giving their all to win. Equally, there is nothing more heartwarming than to see the players from each team embracing the other after a long and hard fought contest. The privilege of being a part of such a contest is its own reward; the honor of playing with teammates is one of life’s richest treasures; the fact that you are supported by alumni no matter the outcome is as it should be. Rivalries are wonderful, but the goal should always be to win more than the game.
I ordered some eyeglasses online recently and a few days later received an email that assured me that “soon you will look even more fabulous!” After laughing to myself at this (I was not aware that I looked fabulous,) it reminded me of some experiences I have had. I have known people who were so positive in everything they said that they made everyone feel more positive than they otherwise would have. These people were nots blind pollyannas, but were what I would describe as “encouragers.” We can all be encouragers; we can find something positive in our teammates in every practice, and comment to them about it then, or just as good, later. So, this week look for opportunities to say something positive to each teammate when you normally would have been silent. You can do it! Yes, you can!
The Code says, “I will give of my time, skills and money as I am able…” We all recognize the importance of giving back to make our schools, communities and world a better place. We believe that a great way to do this is as a team. It allows us to get to know our teammates better, and it give us another way to “be a team.” When we act as a team it makes a statement to others about the kind of athletes and citizens we are trying to become, and encourages others to do the same. Is there a project that your team can come together to support? Can you take leadership to make it happen? Can you invite another team to join you? Could you encourage all school captains to champion “a school-wide day of service?”