I recently heard a story about Kobe Bryant told by Jay Williams. He shared how he arrived at the gym a few hours before they were scheduled to arrive so he could get some extra practice in before that night's game. To his amazement he found Kobe already in the gym getting up shots. It wasn't just a casual shooting session, Kobe was getting after it. Needless to say it inspired Jay to put in work as well. Long story short, that night Kobe put 40 on them that night and afterwards Jay asked why and Kobe's answer was simple "I saw you coming in and figured that I had better put in the work if I expect to play well enough to beat you" Kobe arguably was one of the greatest players to play the game, so why would he feel the need to outwork a young player? What Kobe understood was that he couldn't rest on what he's already accomplished to get the win. He knows that you are only as good as your last game and even though you may have dominated, there's a bigger goal ahead and that's holding the championship trophy at the end of the season. For him and for all of us who can see the bigger picture, we have to learn how to put the last game behind us and push towards that next win. That means that you have to put in the work. The old expression "play like you're in first, train like you're in second" comes in play. Being driven to be the best can have it's benefits. The reward goes well beyond winning. Becoming a success is not completely about you, it's about the opportunity to use your success to inspire others. How does that work? When you become successful, all eyes are on you. Watching every move you make. Hanging on every word you say. You never know who's watching you. One of my mentors Sharm Scheuerman describes it in the chapter "You Are Somebody's Hero" in his book "Stepping Up Your Game". He talks about being a sixth grader watching the local high school team practicing. He watched with the hope that he could be as good as them someday. He described them as "Kids who made me want to grow up and play a great game too". He later goes on to say "I wonder if those high school players realized what an impact, what an influence, they had on this wide-eyed sixth grader who idolized them." The gifts that we have been blessed to have weren't given to us just for our benefit, but ultimately were meant to glorify the one who gave the gift. It comes with a responsibility to use it well, with humility. What does that mean? Being talented with humility is walking with the understanding that your gift has to be maintained. It means out working those you compete against no matter who they are. For Kobe, all it took was seeing Jay Williams coming in to practice to motivate him to put in more work. Kobe could easily believe the press clippings about himself and just dismiss seeing a young player coming in to do work. But his competitive side wouldn't allow it. I'm pretty sure he was aware of his own greatness but he refused to let that keep him from working hard. He had the bigger picture in mind which was his mission to be the greatest basketball player he could be and ultimately the best person he could be. Beyond sports, there is a greater mission that we have been called to. Sports is just a tool that can get us there. I mentioned one of my mentors Sharm Scheuerman. He understood that God's call on the life of an athlete is not just to win games, but to use their position as a platform to help bring about lasting change in the lives of others. That's the motivation behind the organization he and his wife Kathy founded BCI (Basketball Club International).
When Sharm and I first met, his call to mentor athletes who mentor others was one of the things that sparked the connection we made at that camp we worked together over a decade ago. Although Sharm went to be with the Lord he taught about and loved back in 2010, his legacy lives on through his organization, and the people he personally touched with his father like personality, charm and passion. Those of us who had the pleasure of spending time with him were infected with his passion for making others better through faith and sports. It's a work that never stops. A work that demands a constant effort to improve whether we see the success or not. The apostle Paul gave us the key to maintaining this drive in his letter to the church at Philippi when he urged them to follow his example.... “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” Philippians 3:12-17 ESV For Jay Williams, he had Kobe. For me and hundreds of others, we had Sharm Scheuerman. For Paul, he had Jesus Christ. Who is that one for you that inspires you to put in the work to reach that goal that transcends your sport, craft, profession? Stay forever strong!