The first time our basketball team played Fort Payne High School was an experience I use today to inspire others to work hard, even when the odds don’t seem to be in our favor.
Plainview High School is a county school, and our team had never played Fort Payne High School since it was a city school. We were excited for the opportunity. The day we showed up at their gymnasium to play, we eyed our opponents. Immediately, the intimidation factor set in. The tallest player on our team was the same size as their shortest player. By appearance, it seemed we were playing kids several years older. Since they were a city school, they had a wider array of students to choose their team from. Being a county school, we had what we had.
At halftime, the scoreboard was ugly. We were behind by twenty points. Twenty. At no time had our team been in such a deficit. Of course, we never were in a David vs. Goliath game, either.
I expected Coach Terry Mitchell to chew us out in the locker room when he faced us. Instead, he was calm and simply asked a question: “Boys, are you afraid of them?”
He didn’t wait for an answer. He said, “They’re just players. You can outplay them.”
Coach Mitchell looked at us a few moments before sharing his heartfelt sentiments. He said, “When I started coaching at Plainview, you boys were in the first grade. I told myself that you boys were the kids I’m taking to state. These are the ones. I’ve watched you grow up. Don’t let their size scare you. They’re players and you can beat them.”
No anger. No verbal promises of sprints and suicides. Openness and honesty. A coach telling us that he believed in us.
The second half of the game was different altogether. We were a different team with a renewed attitude. The vigor with which our top five played stunned Fort Payne’s team. They were chasing us now. They weren’t able to predict our offense, and our defense increased. No longer did we show fear.
We lost the game by one point. One. But, they only scored three points during the second half. How much different would the game have been if we’d started the first half with that confidence? We learned a lot from that game. We learned the importance of teamwork and focusing on our talents and not to focus on the other team’s size. Height and muscle don’t equate ability.
Playing the game comes from the heart. So does living life. Obstacles stand between us and our success. Focus on the goals, not the bumps in the road. Dedication to skill, persistence, and talent can get you to the goal. Don’t be intimidated and don’t give up. Keep pushing forward.
Until next time …