But even though I was not a standout player (how much can you really stand out as an offensive lineman?) I took away five key lessons that have continued to have an impact in my life and career.
1. You need a coach
As much as athletes think it's all about them, a coach is important not only to preparing a team for each game, but also managing the team on game day. You need someone to put the right players on the field, know when to call time outs, know when to "go for it" on fourth down.
Find someone you look up to and would like to emulate. See if they're open to at least an informal relationship where you can glean some of their wisdom. Other "coaches" in life are your spouse, a close friend or an accountability or mastermind group.
2. You play like you practice
I hated practice. It was too long, too hot (especially in August) and too tiring. And yet, I knew that it was necessary to playing well on the weekends. There were weeks when I went through the motions, did as little as possible and I could tell. There were other times when I knew I was better prepared, and it showed.
The equivalent in life is hard work. You really can't get away from it. Henry J. Kaiser said, "Problems are only opportunities in work clothes."
3. You can always do just a little bit more
One of the great things about football and sports in general is that you get to see how much you're capable of pushing your body to perform. In high school, we finished every practice with 1,000 yards of sprints. Yep, 20 50-yard sprints. Sometimes, I don't know how I made it. But that's the point. I did.
It's why sportscasters make a big deal when a player scores a lot of points in the 4th quarter. That's when everyone is pretty much exhausted, and the great players find a way to get just a little bit more out of themselves.
4. Teamwork is essential
Because you need a lot of players for football, you have large teams. It's almost like a small company. Each position is necessary, though some are obviously more significant.
Good teams have good teamwork. They learn to grow and work together. They learn to support each other, even when someone blows an assignment or misses a tackle.
5. Play to win
As current Wheaton College Head Coach Mike Swider puts it, if winning's not important, why do they turn on the scoreboard? That pretty much sums it up. Competition means you try to win the game. The Apostle Paul even said as much: "Run in such a way as to get the prize." And that brings out the best in each of us.
You owe it to yourself to play your best at work and in life; do your best on the job, in your marriage, as a parent. There isn't a scoreboard in the literal sense, but there are plenty of indications of whether you're "winning" the battles of life.
5 Keys to a Winner's Mindset
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