Life lesson from Mizzou basketball

Disclaimer: I bleed black & gold. I’ve been a Missouri Tiger fan since I was in elementary school. The words that follow will be incredibly biased to my team and I have no apologies for it. M-I-Z!!!!

One year ago, the Missouri men’s basketball team was preparing for the NCAA tournament. It had been a disappointing year for the Tigers, ending the season on an extensive losing streak. The “Fastest 40 Minutes of Basketball” as coached by Mike Anderson was exhilarating to watch, but equally frustrating as the team was undisciplined and lack unity on the court. It was five individuals playing on a “team”. Heart break ensued as the Tigers lost in the first round and the season came to a close.

During the off season, more turmoil arose as coach Anderson made the decision to leave Missouri to be the head coach at Arkansas. After an extensive search to find a replacement, athletic director Mike Alden landed Frank Haith, head coach of the Miami Hurricanes. The decision was extremely controversial in Tigerland because Haith barely had a winning record in his career. But the Tigers pressed on.

Another blow was dealt to the team in October when team leader Laurence Bowers tore an ACL, causing him to miss the 2011-2012 season. Now the Tigers would only return seven scholarship players, starting only one player taller than 6’6”. In preseason polling, Missouri was ranked 23rd in the nation and expectations were set very low. But not for Haith’s team. Even though they would be outmatched in size, the Tigers decided to play to their strengths, which were in speed and shooting. Starting four guards allowed the court to be spread out all season, creating mis-matches for opposing teams. Fast forward to now, and the Tigers are #3 in the nation and are poised to make it to the Final Four for the first time in school history. Against all odds.

There is an incredible lesson to gather here. No matter what people say you aren’t, remember who you are! We live in a society that for many years has focused on overcoming weakness. But does this really make any sense? If I’m weak in a specific area, how much success am I really going to achieve if that’s all I focus on? I might as well keep running into the wall NEXT to the door and hope that a new door forms.

The Missouri Tigers, however, point to a new, refreshing perspective on life. Focus on strengths. Haith and his boys understood that they wouldn’t be the biggest, most physical team in the country. So they focused on leveraging their speed and shooting ability to beat their opponents. And it has worked tremendously well. Sports commentators have been saying for weeks that the Tigers are one of the most difficult teams to guard because they have so many weapons.

Mizzou did one other thing. They minimized their weaknesses. This is different than overcoming weakness. To minimize means that I’m going to lessen the impact of that weakness as much as possible. So, the team realized that they would have to really fight for rebounds because of their lack of size. The result? The Tigers crashed the boards and in many games came out on top in rebounds. They still struggled against bigger, more physical teams (i.e., Kansas State beat them twice this year), but they still fought to minimize those weaknesses.

Apply this to your life. What would it look like if you focused on your strengths and minimized your weaknesses? Would your perspective change? Would you feel more balanced in life? Another point to add is that the best way to minimize a weakness sometimes is to surround yourself with people that are strong in that area. And then you are freed up to spend time in ways that you are strongest.

Welcome to this brand new day. This day has never been lived before. It’s a blank canvas. If you will it so, it can be your masterpiece. As you wake up this morning think of three things you’re grateful for and then get out there and live this day with all the joy, wonder and enthusiasm you can muster. (Hallerin Hilton Hill)

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