For the Love of the Game

I admit it. I am a die hard fan of basketball (college specifically), hockey, baseball, and dare I admit to it, even soccer. When I was in España, I had the opportunity to see the stadium in which Real Madrid plays. Some people would call me too much of a tomboy when it comes to sports but I have really gotten into various sports and teams over the years. For me, it’s been about watching others not let anything keep them from performing their best and seeing instant results from the tedious training, formidable mindsets and heart that the players give. It’s difficult to understand that kind of focus when you are in a corporate suite. When you are the athlete on the field, everything around you has to be tuned out. All that matters is achieving the goal that the athletes desire. There’s a hunger in their eyes that con only be attributed to dominance and that dominance is something that is needed in order to achieve the goal of winning.

I fell in love watching soccer because of the USA Women’s soccer team. Hope Solo, Brandi Chastain, Mia Hamm, Alex Morgan, etc.. These were just some of the women who made me take another look at soccer. It takes a lot of endurance to play on the field. Not only can the game tax a player physically, but there’s an emotional angle. When I watched these women play, there was nothing dainty about them. They were beautiful women who played as if there was nothing else in the world they would rather do. That’s why I love sports. Watching people put their heart into the game is like watching a symphony. Every movement is breathtaking because nothing is predictable in this world. I’ve seen games that everyone thought they knew who was going to win only to be completely flabbergasted at the outcome.

Michael Jordan is the reason that I became a Carolina Tarheel Fan. I absolutely loved watching him on the court. Players like Steve Hale, Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, Vince Carter, Sean May, Tyler Hansbrough, James Worthy, Kenny Smith, and so many others over the years have been able to get me pumped for the game of basketball. In college, these players were so hungry for a better life that they continuously played like everything was on the line. In many ways, it was. But when Michael Jordan played, every single time he would dunk the ball, he would stick his tongue out and slam it home. He’d have this mischievous look on his face like he meant business and from that moment on, I was hooked. Watching those men play over the years has brought home so many memorable games and championships. But the one thing that stood out the most to me was the fact that almost all the men who went into the pros from Carolina still obtained their degree. That in and of itself was a wonderful feat.

So why am I into sports? Maybe it’s because in the world of sports, you see in a couple of hours what it’s taken years to achieve. You can see the hard work paying off. You see the hunger, the pride, the satisfaction and the desire to be the best. In the corporate world, you can see the same type of thing but it’s different. It often feels like you have to pull knives out of your back from those who are trying to get to the top without losing a sense of who you are. The difference in sports is that you can see the play by plays in front of your face whereas in the world of business things aren’t always so clear cut.

The downside to the world of sports is that age can be a serious factor. When we are all young, our bodies have the potential to do so much. We train and infuse ourselves with energy and stamina. The problem is that when we work our muscles so hard, that eventually the body complains. A lot does become mind over matter but there are limitations that we all have. Sometimes we have to change what we do for the love of the games but it doesn’t take away our interest in those sports. It just means that we have to change our approaches. In business, we do the same type of things. I really detest age discrimination. It’s a very real issue and the millennials who are emerging don’t think about what will happen to them down the road. We all have to deal with this at one point or another in our lives. What matters is that we don’t allow ourselves to be taken completely out of the game. What I mean by this is that sometimes in our lives, we have to evaluate where we are and where we’re headed. Life isn’t a game but unfortunately so many people treat it as if it is. It’s okay to be passionate about something you enjoy. Try to move that love of the game into everything you do in your life. Imagine that you are in a corporate meeting room and you’re trying to sell an idea. You know that you have competitors. See those competitors as the opposing team. Reach within yourself to present the best package that you can come up with. There’s every reason to believe that competition is an extension of games. You may not be able to play on the field but you are playing to win.

There will be those who will do their best to ensure you fail. Don’t allow that mentality to take over. Focus. Keep your goals in sight. It’s okay to look at others as your mentors and heroes. Be open enough to the changes and conversations around you and soak up everything you can like a sponge. Our mindset can determine what our actions do. If we take an approach that we can’t change things then we won’t but if we take things to a better level mentally, there’s nothing that we can’t achieve. Sure, you may lose on occasion but I can guarantee you that you will learn from those losses if you pay attention to what went wrong.

In every business there are guidelines set. Just like in athletics but most of the time, the guidelines are so strict that if someone dares to challenge them, they are usually met with a dismissal from the job or other serious ramifications. I agree that businesses need rules and regulations but sometimes those rules take away from people being able to do their jobs effectively. Again, in athletics you can see things very clearly when someone breaks the rules but in today’s world of cameras and Big Brother watching all of us, it makes it very uncomfortable when someone tries to create a different course. Creativity isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, being different is what makes people and companies stand out. As a marketing strategy, people are always being told to keep the brand fresh and engaging. Sometimes that means doing things in an unorthodox way. When I watch Simone Biles in gymnastics, she literally takes my breath away. This young woman exudes power, femininity, and a true confident stature that surpasses the height she has. She is literally able to fly through her routines by getting more air, more power, and she continuously sets records in many different venues in her sport. She is redefining the sport. And yet, there are those who have criticized her for various things. Most of what I have heard stems from jealousy and jealousy isn’t immune to athletes. It happens in every facet of the business world. We have to remember to retrain our minds and attitudes to not let the comments and behaviors of others take away from being able to reach the goals we are striving for. I can’t answer for any of you but I can say that when I’ve tried to do things differently, I’ve had fun. I learned a lot. I asked more questions, I took my skill set to a new level and I made new connections. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Aren’t we supposed to be the best athlete or non-athlete that we can? What ever we may do in life for a career, I have one wish. That wish is for everyone to find the thing that they love to do and treat it as if they are the star quarterback on the time. We all have the capability of scoring the high goals and obtaining the touchdowns of our lives. Let’s use this time to show the world we are taking the love of the games that are played and applying them to our own lives. It’s your life. Get in the driver’s seat and enjoy the race. Because every lap that you undertake, is a lap of experience and that my friends, is invaluable. We are all a part of a journey together. Watch the games, enjoy them and use those lessons to make you more focused and able to make positive changes. What have you got to lose? If anything, you might actually gain from the experience.

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