Run With The Ball!


royals footballDid you play competitive team sports when you were younger?

Maybe you still do.

My years in competitive team sports ended over 3 decades ago.  My team sports “career” ended rather abruptly during university when I shattered my leg playing soccer.  It was a nasty experience that took 3 years to heal.

Prior to that I played football in high school, ran track and wrestled.  My most intense team sports experience was playing football.  We actually won the provincial championships in grade 12.  I was recruited to play university football but declined.  I liked playing the game, but not that much.

I learned a lot about myself playing football.  I was never a big guy.  I was fast and athletic, but was never one of intimidating size.  I was a running back and a corner back.  I was fairly comfortable playing corner back (a defensive position), but I was very uncomfortable being the running back.

The running back is the player who gets handed the ball by the quarterback and runs as far as he can get before the defensive team tackles him.  The running back with the football is the focus of everyone’s attention on the field:  the defense is hunting you down to stop you, and the offense is blocking the defense so they don’t stop you.

I was actually not too bad at running the ball.  I averaged 6.2 yards per carry, and ended up winning an MVP award in the Championship game as the most outstanding running back.

However, I was always insecure at this position.  I believed that I wasn’t very good and there were other guys who could do a much better job.  My coaches disagreed, but I could never shake this insecurity.

We had a 2 man running back program where the coach would send plays in with one running back who would tag out the other running back.  When it was my turn to be on the sidelines waiting for the coach to send me in with the play I would actually try to slink away from the coach’s side to blend in to the rest of the team.  I was hoping that somehow he would forget about me and not send me back in.

Crazy, right?

I know, it’s embarrassing to write, even over 35 years later.

Once in practice during a scrimmage I asked the coach to take me off the running back team.  He looked at me incredulously like I just muttered something in Chinese and simply said emphatically, “What?!?!  No, you’re a running back – get back in the huddle.”

The next play was an outside pitch to me which I broke to run the entire length of the field for a touchdown.  Running back to the huddle the coach confronted me.  He grabbed me by the face mask, got right in my face and said,

“You’re a running back!  Run with the ball!”

My problem was that I really didn’t believe I was a running back.  I didn’t own the position.  I didn’t own my ability.  I owned my insecurity instead.  I was half-hearted, I wasn’t whole-hearted.  And, in spite of that I was not too bad.  I wonder what I could have accomplished if I had really owned the position?

I’ve met leaders who lead the same way I played football.  They don’t own their position.  They’ve owned their insecurities and are half-hearted.  They need to actually look in the mirror and say to themselves,

“You’re a leader!  Run with the ball!”

It doesn’t do anyone any good for you to own your insecurity.  Your playing small doesn’t serve anyone well!

Own the fact that you’re a leader.  Own your ability.  Own the position you play.  Get your heart and your head in the game.  You may even be pretty good at what you do in the midst of your insecurity.

Image what you can do if you really owned your position and owned the game?!  What could you accomplish if you were whole-hearted and not half-hearted?

You’re capable of far more than you realize.  Believe it!  Own it!

Look in the mirror and tell yourself,

“You’re a leader!  Run with the ball!”

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Leading and Living on Purpose.