Our football team recently completed their goal of winning a state title. It was a season where the players had to wrestle with being heavily favored almost every week. They entered the state title game a crazy 45 point favorite! The quest for a third straight title was on the line and their is always the concern of apathy and entitlement.
The week of the game, Duke lost to Stephen F. Austin in the upset of the decade. #1 Duke was a 99.8% favorite to win the game according to the oddsmakers. What I shared with our players was Coach Krzyzewski's postgame press conference where he was very open and honest about how and why the loss occurred.
He diagnosed the loss as only the winningest coach in college basketball history could. In a nutshell, it was the Blue Devil's inability to focus on the process of excellence which led to the loss.
It reminded me of one of his quotes from years ago when asked about losing, Coach K stated, "If you don't think you are going to lose, then you will not prepare well enough to win."
Coach K is a mentor to me as he embodies ethical leadership. One of his greatest mantras is that teams who focus on the process of excellence (striving to be excellent in all they do) will be successful because the winning will take care of itself.
He also recognizes as a leader there are two types of people you lead. One is a team where the fundamentals of excellence need to be developed while the other is a team whose players have the skills needed to succeed but must work together to achieve the goals.
In the former, coaches and players dedicate themselves to the betterment of the team through dedication to the processes and procedures of excellence. The path to success is put in place by the coach and everyone must row the boat according to his skills so as to keep it steady and moving in the right direction.
In the other, the players come together already possessing the skills needed for success but must focus on communication. Think of an All Star group or the US Olympic basketball team which Coach K coached to three gold medals. In this scenario, the team needs to focus on communication and this emphasis on communication is how the coach takes a group of skilled players and turns them into a winning team.
"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
God instructs us to likewise focus on excellence in "whatever you do". He reminds us that as his creation we are a reflection of him. We realize we are representing God in all that we do in our earthly endeavors.
This is true in our personal lives, professional lives and holds true in our sporting endeavors. How we treat our teammates and how diligently we tackle the task at hand reflects upon the Lord and even more so when we make it known we are Christians. We are sharpening ourselves so as to increase our skills so that we can be a positive reflection of Christ on earth.
Secondly, we must recognize when possessing a Christian "skill set" we are to use it wherever God places us. He is ultimately the boss and the ultimate "Head Coach". When we find ourselves surrounded by Christian All Stars then our goal is to use this association for furthering the Kingdom of Heaven and not self aggrandizement.
In the end, Coach K's principle of focusing on the process of excellence in all that we do is drawn from the scriptures. It is one which another great coach, Lou Holtz explained as "What's important now." Ask yourself daily (if not hourly) what should I be doing which will better myself and those around me and then do it.
Committing oneself to excellence is a habit and good habits are as easy to form as bad ones. May we all seek to pursue excellence each and every day.