“The greatest victory is not winning against people, but winning against self.” [Tweet this.]
I was at a park last week with a couple of my kids.
Near the playground was a giant field hosting a soccer practice. We watched the players and heard the coach. He’d yell commands at his troops like he was a drill sergeant. We laughed at his intensity and then heard the instruction: “Come on, damn it! If you wanna win you gotta play like it matters!”
Now, there is a time for anger…and there certainly is a time to challenge players to give a little more, to try a little harder.
But it’s important to keep in context that this is the middle of the summer, it’s hot and humid, it’s just a practice…and the players were eight-years-old.
It reminded me of a moment that changed my life, a very different experience with soccer, when I was about that age, and the coach that made it possible.
After being burned it took almost a full year to learn how to walk again. One of the first activities I participated in after relearning to walk was soccer. Since the skin on my legs was so fragile, I wrapped my legs with ace bandages, wore two pairs of sweatpants and my gold shorts on top. I had an awkward gait, could barely run, but was treated like every other player by Coach Steiner.
In my very first game back there was an opportunity for a penalty kick near the end of the game. The score was tied two-to-two. This was our chance. This was the moment for the coach to select his best sharp-shooter, line him up, smash the ball, score the goal, and win. Win.
And I’ll never forget having my name called by Coach Steiner.
“Johnny, come over here.”
I hobbled over, slightly bent over.
“Look at me, you’re taking this for us. I need you to kick that ball as hard as you can. Go get it.”
He patted me on that back. I jogged off with my sweatpants and gold shorts. Stood behind the PK line. Lined up the ball. Looked at the keeper. Waited for the ref. Heard my own breathing. Then the ref’s whistle. And took the shot.
The ball rolled slowly toward the left goal post, the goalie dived to save it, trickled just past his outstretched hands, and into the back of the net.
I scored a goal!
We won the game!
No, I don’t mean we scored more goals than our opponent. I don’t remember what the final score was.
And no, we didn’t win because I scored the goal. We won the game because some coach had the audacity to line up a 10-year-old, burned up, bent over, little kid to show every other player, every other coach, and every parent on the bleachers what real victory looks like.
You see, real success is not the ability to score the goal, but the dogged determination to try; the greatest victory is not winning against others, but winning against yourself.
Today, as you drive your kids to camps, as you race to your next meeting, as you sprint into the next appointment, as you climb the ladder of success, keep in mind what real success looks like, what the real goal is for today, and its profound impact on tomorrow. [Tweet this.]
This is your day to line up, take the risk, and kick the ball with everything you have. This is your day to celebrate with others a real victory. This is your day to wake up, and like Coach Steiner, to Live Inspired.
Recall an experience you had growing up where a coach made a powerful impact on you. For better…or for worse…I want to hear your experience. Share in the comments below!