I was recently asked to deliver a *motivational speech to a sophomore football team. This makes complete sense. I did, after all, have that one incredible tackle on special teams when I played for the junior varsity squad at Kearns High School back in the good old days. I also won my fantasy league several years ago and I have a Twitter account, so I’m pretty much a football expert.
After much thought, I decided these 15- and 16-year-old boys needed a lesson about something I’m really great at — failing.
I’ve been especially productive at failing at sports. For example:
FOOTBALL: Yeah, I did have that one amazing tackle. (Who cares if the tackled player jumped up, pushed me and started yelling about how I allegedly grabbed his face mask!?) I was also probably the worst football player in the history of bad football players. I remember one time while playing center — um, not a fun position to be in when the quarterback puts his hands in position to hike the ball, by the way. Anyway, I was looking around not having any clue what to do or who to block when a linebacker from the other team appeared out of nowhere and sent me to the ground with a bone-jarring hit. Blocking fail. I remember trying to get out of practice by claiming I was injured when my coach told me, “Son, my shoulder’s been hurting for 40 years. Get out there!” My short-lived football adventure ended about this time of the fall when my family decided to go on a trip to paradise. I told my coach about the upcoming vacation and he gave me this choice: football or Hawaii. I’d like to think I told him “Aloha!” as I handed him back my pads.
BASKETBALL: In my mind, the most memorable thing I did during my illustrious church ball career was somehow getting a kid on the other team to foul me from the opposite end of the court with time running out in the Kearns South Stake championship game. The game was tied and the foul sent me to the free-throw line with less than a second remaining. I missed the first free throw, of course. But in a made-for-Hollywood moment that will never be forgotten (by me, at least), I calmly didn’t choke on the second attempt. Championship won!
Sadly, when it comes to me on the basketball court, more people will likely remember a few less-than-championship-worthy things — like the time I tried to do a fancy spin move around a TV sportscaster only to end up on my buttocks during the Jazz’s media training camp. Or the recent incident in which I tore my plantar fascia ligament while passing the ball (teaching me that I should shoot instead of pass, of course). Or that moment during a carnival at our church when I tipped over the fishing contraption (meant for little kids, not teenagers) and battery acid melted a big chunk of carpet on the basketball court. (Personally, I think I was doing the church a huge favor. You simply shouldn’t have carpet on gym floors.)
SKIING: There’s a reason they call me “Avalanche.” I’ve gone skiing twice in my life — once fairly unsuccessfully on the bunny hill and another time very unsuccessfully on the Jody-fell-getting-onto-the-ski-lift-and-had-to-be-helped-up-and-then-forgot-to-tighten-up-his-boot-bindings-and-crashed-on-his-first-run-and-had-to-be-taken-to-the-hospital hill. I did get a fun toboggan ride thanks to the ski patrol after my mountain mishap, so that was kind of cool.
WRESTLING: That miserable experiment lasted about one week, which unfortunately was longer than I needed to get painful shin splints and be thrown around like a rag doll by powerful Polynesians on my school’s team.
OK, so you probably get the point. There’s a good reason why I’m paid to write about sports and not play them. That, in fact, was part of my point to the boys. Even though I had plenty of sports fails — along with failures in dating, school, finances and the list goes on — I was able to bounce back and find success.
In my failures, I wasn’t dedicated enough, was lazy, wanted to have the fun and glory without doing the work, didn’t give the proper focus and didn’t persevere.
I did the opposite in my successes.
I told the football players about how I’d gained a ton of weight (failure) but then lost a bunch and did triathlons, even accomplishing an Ironman (Coeur d’Alene) in 2011 after putting in the required effort and work.
I told them about how I took advantage of my skill set to become a sports writer, even getting the chance to cover my favorite team as a kid (the Utah Jazz).
I also let them know that I failed after some successes and explained that I’m in the process of overcoming a demoralizing failure of becoming 210 pounds overweight earlier this year.
Truth be told, I still need to work on not feeling like a failure when I fail. It’s a very important distinction.
I urged them to dream big, make goals, dare to fail, surround themselves with good people, find solutions instead of excuses, to work, work and keep on working, and then to do as the Japanese proverb suggests if (when!) they fall on their faces: “Fall seven times, stand up eight.”
Babies don’t stop trying to get up when they topple over while they’re learning how to walk. Why should you quit when you fail a time or two or ten?
I wanted them to get the point that it’s OK to fail. What matters most is what you do after you fail. If you learn from the mistakes made during the failure, it can be a powerful lesson.
The only time you truly fail is if you fail to try.
I ended with this important directive: “Go kick Pleasant Grove’s butt!”
The Herriman players all loudly cheered, ate cookies, thanked me, posed for a group photo and then proceeded to kick PG’s butt 39-0.
In doing so, they learned another valuable life lesson: It’s great to learn from our failures, but it’s more fun to learn from our successes.
(* I’d love to speak to your group! Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to set something up.)
- Starting weight (March 6): 373.7 pounds
- Last reported weigh-in (Sept. 23): 273.1
- Last week’s weight (Sept. 30): 266.2
- This week’s weight (Oct. 7): 263.1
- This week’s loss: 3.1 pounds
- Total loss: 110.6 pounds