what’s your excuse?


If you’re a serious football fan, then you’re probably familiar with the story of Shaquem Griffin, the rookie linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks. If you’re not familiar with his story, then in many ways it’s mostly the kind of story you’d probably expect from a pro athlete. A high school and college star, Griffin impressed pro scouts with his combination of talent and toughness, and in doing so achieved his lifelong dream of playing in the NFL. There is one twist to Shaquem Griffin’s story, though, that you might not expect: he’s done all of it with only one hand.

Griffin was born with Amniotic Band Syndrome, which occurs when “an unborn baby becomes entangled in fibrous string-like amniotic bands in the womb, restricting blood flow and affecting the baby’s development.” He had surgery to remove the dysfunctional fingers on his misshapen left hand as a four year-old, Frank Bruni writes in his New York Times article “ The Amputee Who Showed Everyone .” "The surgeon cut near the wrist," Bruni writes, "amputating everything below, and soon the boy returned home to figure out the rest of his life. He did that by changing exactly nothing about his dreams.”

Shaquem Griffin’s story is the story of a young athlete who simply wouldn’t accept that life without a left hand was enough to keep him from achieving his goal of playing pro football. It’s a powerful story partly because the odds of anyone making it to the NFL are so slim, let alone someone missing an appendage so critical to success in the game. But it’s even more powerful because in this day and age, where excuses are more prevalent than ever, seeing someone forget the excuses, ignore the critics, and succeed anyway is so inspiring.

I have to admit that as I read this story, I found one recurring question kept working its way to the forefront of my mind. “What’s your excuse?” it kept asking. When it came to doing the big, important things in his life, Shaquem Griffin refused to accept any excuse – even the ones that seemed easily justifiable – as reason enough to keep him from getting the job done. So when it comes to doing the big, important things in my life, why am I accepting any excuse – especially the ones that are sometimes so hard to justify – as reason enough to keep me from doing the same?

The truth is, every day each one of us – our kids included – can come up with a long list of excuses that keep us from being our best. As a champion sports parent, you are responsible for helping your child reach their full potential. That means you play an important role in helping them develop the kind of “No Excuses” attitude possessed by the champion athlete – the kind possessed by Shaquem Griffin. Here are three simple ways you can help your young athlete lose the excuses and live like a champion:

Every day each one of us – our kids included – can come up with a long list of excuses that keep us from being our best. 

1) Use the example of others. Does your child know the story of Shaquem Griffin? Sometimes using the powerful example of others can help clarify for your child who it is they’re capable of becoming themselves, and what kind of attitude it takes to get there. No matter what sport your child plays, what team they cheer for, or who they admire, there are always examples out there of athletes who’ve refused to accept that challenging circumstances or a bad break could keep them from success. If you’re willing to do the work, you can find those examples and use them to encourage that same mindset in the life of your child.

2) Support and encourage. When it comes to pursuing their very best, your child will always have excuses available. Making choices they can be proud of – choices they won’t end up regretting later – isn't always easy, and in those moments they’ll need every ounce of support and encouragement they can get. Be aware and perceptive enough to anticipate the excuses that may be standing between your child and their full potential, and help them see clearly the reality of where embracing excuses will lead. Every day, feed your child words of positivity and affirmation. When they move beyond their excuses and pursue something big and important, celebrate it like crazy. After all, as a champion sports parent, you should see clearly that what you emphasize, what you support, and what you encourage is what your child will learn to value.

3) Model the mindset. The most powerful way for you to teach your child what it looks like to live and work like a champion is for you to live and work like a champion yourself. After all, champions breed champions. That means that if you want your child to be mentally tough enough to develop a “No Excuses” mindset like Shaquem Griffin, then you’ve got to be willing to develop that mindset, too. Every time you choose to ignore excuses in your own life, you demonstrate what a champion looks like, right there up close for your child to see. At the same time, every time you give in to those excuses and stop short of your goal, you help justify that same behavior for them as well.

I don’t know exactly what big, important work you’ve got to do in your life, but I do know that – like everyone – you’ve got excuses available if you choose to embrace them. I hope today you can be encouraged and inspired by Shaquem Griffin’s powerful example. And maybe next time you consider the long list of excuses trying to keep you from being your best, you’ll think of him and discover you have no good answer for that simple question…“What’s your excuse?”


Subscribe to The LENS Newsletter here.