champions > championships
At the top of each week’s newsletter is a simple phrase that drives the mission of Higher Level Sports. It says simply, “Raising Champion Athletes and Men.” That’s the goal here, that we can work together to recognize what’s really important in raising champion sons – sons who reach their full potential on the playing field and in life.
You may notice that tagline doesn’t read, “Raising Athletes and Men Who Win Championships.” Of course all of us love to win, and all of us who are raising athletes in this world hope that our sons get to experience the thrill of winning, too. But there’s a big difference between “becoming a champion” and “winning a championship.” That’s the focus of today’s newsletter.
Becoming a champion is a process that occurs over time. It’s focused on the intentional growth and development of who we are – it doesn’t happen on accident. It’s a never-ending pursuit towards the very best we can be. We work, we learn, we change, we grow. Whatever happens today, we use it to get better for tomorrow. It’s an endless cycle of progress that keeps moving us from who we’ve been to who we can become.
This process is tough because truly focusing on “becoming” means constantly striving to get better. It’s like running a race without a finish line. You may have seen those t-shirts before: THERE IS NO FINISH LINE. It’s a catchy t-shirt slogan, but it’s a really tough lifestyle to live out. I mean, no finish line? Ever? Just keep pursuing the next thing, forever? Yeah, that’s tough. That’s why being a champion is hard, because it takes a lot more than a catchy slogan. It takes a unique level of desire, commitment, and discipline every day.
And it’s why winning a championship is actually easier. Winning a championship is an event that occurs at a specific place and time in our lives – it’s a finish line. Once it’s achieved, you can sit back and say, “I did it. The journey’s done.” Focusing on an outcome like winning a championship isn’t all bad – you’ve accomplished something important you can remember forever. The problem is that when the pursuit is over, there’s no more moving forward – the journey’s done – and it’s tough to live your best life if you spend all your time looking back. When you’re focused on “becoming,” then any event – even a championship – is just another step on the journey towards what’s next.
That’s one reason why becoming a champion is better than winning a championship. It keeps us moving forward. Does that mean that winning a championship doesn’t’ matter? Of course not! In fact, focusing on the process actually gives your son the best chance to win. You may know of Nick Saban. He’s widely considered one of the greatest college football coaches in the history of the game. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more process-oriented coach in any sport than the University of Alabama football coach. He can teach us a few things about focusing on the process in a world focused on the finish line.
Don’t believe me? Take a second and do a Google search for “Nick Saban, process.” It’s literally become part of his identity as a coach. At Alabama, the expectation is a national championship every year. That’s the outcome they’re after. Most of the fan base and radio talk-show hosts spend the majority of their time throughout the year discussing, hoping for, and worrying about winning the national championship – their focus is on the finish line.
Instead of worrying about the finish line, Coach Saban has made it known he chooses to focus on the process. Rather than worrying about whether or not his team is capable of winning a championship game that might be days or weeks or months away, he commits to keeping his horizons much shorter. His focus is on what he and his team do today. He understands the only thing any of us can really control is what we do with today. He knows that if the focus is on getting better today, and getting better on all the todays between now and national championship day, then his football team is going to be as prepared as possible to do what they want when they get there. That’s the formula for winning a championship.
It’s why Nick Saban says what we’ve said here, too. “We don’t talk about winning championships. We talk about becoming champions.” When you focus on the process, you actually give yourself the best chance to achieve the outcome or result you want. Do you want to perform your best when the day comes that you’re standing in the bright lights of the big stage? Then here’s the formula: work as hard as you can every day in the dark, when no one’s watching, so you’re as ready as you can be when your opportunity comes. Then, once you’ve accomplished it, you can move on to something bigger and better.
The same can be said for your son’s success. The best formula for helping him win a championship someday is to help him become a little more like a champion today. If the focus is on getting better today, and getting better on all the todays between now and his championship day, then your son is going to be as prepared as possible to do what he wants when he gets there. We’ve talked in recent weeks here in the newsletter about the talents possessed by the champion athlete:
-He loves the game.
-He gives his best.
-He overcomes adversity.
-He seeks improvement.
-He gets coached.
-He’s a great teammate.
-He takes risks.
-He does it all with a positive attitude.
These are all skills and abilities that can only be developed and cultivated over time. There is no other way for your son to acquire them – they aren’t magically bestowed on anyone in a day. Their development requires what any process requires: using the opportunities we have today to help our boys take a step forward, to get a little better, for tomorrow. If that’s your focus, then you’ll probably help your son keep moving towards his full potential on the athletic field and beyond. And, as a result, he’ll put himself in the best position to win some championships along the way.
So there’s the real challenge for today…not just to raise a champion sons, but to be champions ourselves. To embrace that even for us, it’s all about the journey. As parents, to keep learning and growing and improving each day, to keep working to figure out how to be better. And to give all we have to today, to prepare ourselves for the big opportunities to come, and then when they get here? To have success, and be excited to move on toward something bigger and better. After all…I know it’s not easy, but let’s all say it together…there is no finish line.