As football season gets closer to its big game, the Super Bowl, it has me thinking about my time as a running back on our high school football team. One of the most valuable lessons of my life came from those years, but it was also one of the most difficult.
As I was growing up, I learned a bad habit that took me a long time to change. Like most kids, I found it easy to brag about what I could or would do, and that tended to get me into trouble. You see, when you boast about what you are going to do before you do it, people expect that you will follow through. When you don’t follow through, people have trouble trusting you the next time. Like most kids, I had to learn this the hard way.
Let me give you an example: When I was in middle school, I tried out for the football team. It was the first time I remember ever touching a football! But, I was one of the fastest runners in my school, so the coach said he wanted me to try out as a running back. I was excited because I knew that in the game of football, running backs get to run, catch, and sometimes pass the ball. I thought I was well on my way to being a star player on the team. For the next few days, I was so proud of myself, and I bragged to my friends about being selected as one of the running backs.
Being new to the sport, what I hadn’t figured out was that sooner or later, ALL the players on the team are assigned the responsibility of blocking for running backs. Blocking is hard work! Blockers clear the path so the runner can move the ball down the field to the goal. Without blockers, running backs get caught and tackled quickly. Without blockers, it’s possible a running back could get clobbered by all 11 opponents at once. Trust me, I know. Basically, without blockers, running backs are pretty much useless.
I soon learned that when someone else was had the ball, it as my turn to be a blocker. The coach expected me to do my share and do it well. My friends and coaches were happy about having a fast running back, but I was of little use to the team if I didn’t learn to be a good blocker. As my coaches quickly and forcefully explained, “Good teammates block for each other, no ifs, ands, or buts.” I had to learn how to be a good blocker and prove to my coaches that I was willing and able to block for others before they were willing to trust me with the ball in my hands. I had to do for others what I wanted them to do for me. I learned that lesson on the football field over and over again. I became a good football player only after I learned to play as hard for others as I was willing to play for my own glory.
Of course, this is also true in life.
Do for others what you would like for them to do for you.
Treat other people the way you want to be treated.
Show them you can be trusted; don’t just tell them.
Personal success often comes at the same time you are learning to be a good teammate. Ask yourself, “Who am I blocking for today so they can move toward their goal?” When you do this, even when things aren’t going the way you want them to, you might be surprised to find that someone will step up and block for you. Together, you reach the goal.