Monday, December 26, 2011

Some things to think about on Christmas Day | MIKE JACOBS COLUMN

Courtesy of the Evansville Courier Press, December 25, 2011

With the holidays upon us, it's important to remember what's really important and matters the most.

That reflection can happen at home with family and within your own religious faith, but also within your team, too. Whether you are a member of a team or that team's coach, don't forget why you have signed up for that role in the first place.

-- Sacrifice versus investment: We had the opportunity to bring in sports performance consultant Rob Kehoe to work with our University of Evansville soccer team a couple of winters ago, and he talked to our players about their purpose and perspective for being a part of our program. He discussed how many athletes talk about sacrificing their own efforts, time and energies for the good of their team.

To sacrifice is to give something up, and as a part of a team, a member should look at it less as "giving something up," and more as an investment — having the approach that "I'm putting something in, with the intention of getting something back."

Whether it be getting to learn lessons that transcend sport, being able to represent your school or town, spending quality time with your friends, or just being able to get healthier or fitter, appreciate and be humble about the fact that we get twice as much out of being a part of a team than we put in ourselves.

-- Homework versus a game: Whether it be in school throughout the day or muddling through a tough day at work, attending a practice should never be a chore like homework.

Anytime I get down or overwhelmed about a practice or game that didn't go my way, I try to envision what it was like when I was playing games as a kid with my own friends and teammates. The sheer enjoyment of getting to play sports with friends was always fun, and it keeps things in perspective, that no matter how tough work gets, we understand why we do it in the first place. Any point where being a part of a team seems to feel more like a chore than fun is the time to step back and assess why you're doing it in the first place.

-- Burden versus opportunity: When adversity does strike, I often think back to a great talk that local doctor Mark Logan had given to our Aces team years ago.

He said that dealing with tough times can be looked at as a terrible burden or as a tremendous opportunity to challenge yourself to show resolve in the face of adversity. Lou Holtz once said, "Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it."

Rather than whine and complain when things don't go your way, look at it as a challenge of your own mental strength and commitment.

-- Positive role models show resolve: Growing up in New York it was easy to look at professional athletes with critical eyes. After all, a relentless media every day identified warts just as easily as they highlighted success. As critical as the New York media and sports fans are, they are also quick to identify those who are able to stand up to challenges and adversity.

Icons like Don Mattingly and Patrick Ewing achieved legendary status in New York because they not only found success on the playing field, but primarily because they were able to bounce back and demonstrate their toughness at times when their team might not have been the most successful. Fans associate with those who are able to rise in the face of adversity. As often as "Rocky" will be on television during the holidays, appreciate the fact that we root for him not because he gets knocked down, but because he always gets back up.

The holidays make me reflect upon all of the reasons why I wanted to get involved in sports years ago. My father was a basketball coach, and he really seemed to appreciate helping one of his players find personal success even more than he did his team winning games or championships.

Whether as a coach or a teammate, I hope that we can all reflect during this holiday season on how important it is to be a part of a group in the first place — appreciating those who make us better and assist us as teammates.

The more appreciative and helpful we are of those around us, the more success we'll all have at the end of the day.

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