Monday, September 10, 2007


This weekend, I wrote this (sort of) about a youth sports team:
Primary goal: do your best.

Victory is a secondary goal.
The vision thing:
You accomplish your primary goal if you perform at or near your best possible level of performance.
Or, if best possible performance if not the optimal goal, you can tweak:
Your primary goal can be to exceed your previous best performance. Failing this primary goal, your secondary goal can be to perform at or near your best ever level of performance, and you might still accomplish the secondary goal. Or not. It's challenging to perform at or near your best ever level of performance.
These are moment to moment goals. In football, each play is an opportunity to exceed your best previous performance. Yet, if you miss a tackle, you might still execute your best ever recovery, via chasing a runner down and tackling him on your second try. The goals are about focus, and accomplishment, in the moment.

At 12 years of age - as a Single Wing formation Wingback on my school's 7th grade football team - I executed 4 blocks during our Tailback's winding, 99 yard touchdown run into a stiff wind. The wind turned our jerseys into sails, causing us to run into the wind in super slow motion. Our sublimely named tailback: Tracey Cutright (I'm not making that up), ran about 200 yards on the play. He went off right tackle, swerved sharply to the left sideline, meandered to midfield, went all the way back to the left sideline, then covered the final 40 yards on a diagonal towards the right flag, during which he back and forth slow-motion dodged opponents at about 10 yard intervals. They slow motion fell to the ground during their final grasps at him. The entire play went on for maybe 30 seconds +. I'm quite certain it was both high excitement and high comedy for the parents.

During the play, I would make a block, maybe fall down, then get up and run downfield. Sure enough, Tracey Cutright would soon be meandering his way towards me, so I would look around and target someone else. I made 4 blocks on the play. I want to claim 5 blocks, but maybe my memory is overenthusiastic. An oddity is that I missed my initial opportunity to block someone. I looked for someone on the LB level, and no one was there. Everyone was already blocked. Then Tracey zoomed right by me, and I began my long run up the field, blocking, sometimes falling down, then running up the field and doing it again. I moved up field mostly on the outside of the left hash marks, and loosely parallel with them.

About 6 McLean tacklers chased Tracey down the field. About 3 blockers chased the tacklers. Tracey evaded various of those 6 tacklers again and again - all the way down the field. Tracey evaded approx. 10 individual attempts at tackling him - and that estimate might be low. Tracey benefited from at least 8 to 10 downfield blocks. Those poor, dogged McLean defenders. Their unrewarded efforts remind of my long ago efforts to get my own 7th grade son to do his homework.

At the end of the play, because I gave playcalls in the huddle, I had to jog near our sideline (on the left side) to get the extra point play from our coach. On the way, I took a look at the field: players were scattered over 60-70 yards. A few were trudging towards one sideline; a few towards the other. Most were slooooowly jog-walking towards the goal line, for the extra point play. Everyone was too winded, and too hot, to be moving very fast. The opposing coach was sending in fresh players, and they were yelling at their counterparts to get to the sideline.

I recall this play because - during it - had I been thinking in a "best possible performance" fashion: I would've recognized four opportunities to make "best possible" blocks. Our opponents - McLean Middle School players - might've each had 4 or 5 opportunities to make "best possible" tackles.

"Best" ought be an expansive concept. My best blocks might encompass a large variety of situation-specific blocks. In open field, as Tracey Cutright approached, I might've gotten in only a forearm shove on an opponent. It might've been exactly what Tracey Cutright needed from me at that moment. It might've been my best forearm shove while shifting balance in open field in a stiff wind. The athletic maneuver might've been an outstanding accomplishment, of which I could justifiably be proud.

If a McClean Middle School tackler had lightly grazed a hand across part of Tracey Cutright's shoe, thus tripping Tracey to the ground and ending the play, it might've been that tackler's best tackle in that type of desperate, open field situation.

The point is: "best" is an expansive concept. It helps us focus on the moment. It helps us recognize we are achieving and accomplishing. If we limit the concept to only our most violent block, or only our most perfect form tackle, we are missing the point. We are also missing God's point - which is that our lives are filled with a multitude of unique opportunities for accomplishment. The particular circumstances and challenges of those moments will never be replicated.

We often, maybe even usually, do not recognize challenges God presents us. We believe our challenges are A & B; we do not recognize our challenges are also X & Y. We believe our lives are boring repetition; we do not recognize we are experiencing moments of unique circumstance and challenge, i.e. moments of unique opportunity.

This is what I love about "do your best": not only does it focus on the moment; not only does it inspire a sense of achievement/accomplishment/victory; it opens eyes to a multitude of interesting and fun challenges.

This is my best possible blogpost about this subject (given everything I understand at this moment in time). I am infused with a sense of accomplishment! And victory. And wonder.

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